ConCourt hears Johannesburg lease case
Johannesburg - Cancelling the rental leases of people in a privately-owned building in Johannesburg that is destined for rejuvenation, violated the tenants’ rights, the Constitutional Court heard on Thursday.
"These tenants have been living there between four, eight and 17 years," said the tenants' lawyer Daniel Berger SC.
"They have accrued a right of access to adequate housing and by cancelling that right, that right is impaired."
At least seven people living in the building Lowliebenhof, Braamfontein, would be homeless if they had to move out, he said.
The court was hearing argument on behalf of Ntombizodwa Maphango and 14 others who are contesting the cancellation of their leases on the grounds of their right to adequate housing.
The building's owner, Aengus Lifestyle Properties, specialise in buying old Johannesburg buildings and refurbishing the apartments.
Their portfolio includes Tribeca and Fashion Lofts in the inner city.
The judges wanted to know to what extent social costs should impact on regenerative housing projects. They wanted to know to what extent a landlord was responsible for social costs, and whether it was wrong to be motivated by profit when terminating a lease for the purposes of increasing the rental.
They would also have to decide whether Constitutional rights supersede contractual rights.
Before the purchase of the building, tenants received a government subsidy but this was terminated several years ago.
In papers submitted by Aengus, the tenants were given three months notice of lease cancellation and were offered cheaper alternatives in their property portfolio.
The tenants said the other units were not in a good condition and that they did not want to move out of Braamfontein.
"[We need to] balance the interests of landlords and the interests of tenants," said Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke."