Lease row: business owner and landlord go to court

2015-04-20 00:00

A ROW between an Umhlanga Rocks businessman and his landlord has escalated to the point where each has launched high court ­actions for damages.

The case involving businessman Pravesh Maharaj and Jacqharl ­Premises, CC (owner of the flat he rents, 1-2 Pearl Tides in Lagoon Drive) is set down on the opposed roll in the Pietermaritzburg high court on November 23.

On that day the court will deal with an application by the CC to have the claims against it by Maharaj struck out.

Maharaj alleges in court papers that manager of the CC, Werner Vorster, “wrongfully or unlawfully” entered his apartment at Pearl Tides in November 2013 and removed R135 000 cash, jewellery and other goods to the value of R2 million.

He is demanding the return of his property or to be paid out for it.

In addition he is suing Jacqharl Premises CC for R700 000 for alleged defamation, and is demanding R37 000 for repairs to property that was allegedly damaged, as well as R9 600 for four nights his family ­allegedly stayed in a hotel after being denied access to their home.

He also alleges that when he arrived at the property on November 4, 2013, armed with an urgent interdict — and accompanied by the sheriff and SAPS — he was “shocked” to find Vorster in his apartment and some of his goods “strewn across the driveway”.

He later established that a list of property — allegedly including the cash and jewellery — was missing.

Some eyewitnesses allegedly claimed Vorster ordered four “van loads” of goods to be removed.

Maharaj said he had instituted a criminal investigation against ­Vorster.

The claims by Maharaj were lodged in response to an initial R500 000 law suit launched by Jacqharl Premises CC for defamation arising from letters sent by Maharaj’s attorneys, demanding the return of the businessman’s goods.

It was alleged on the CC’s behalf that the letters were defamatory for making out it is “dishonest and a thief”, and maintained the theft ­allegation was false.

The CC also argues that Maharaj’s claims ought to be struck out on the basis the allegations are “vague and embarrassing”.

The CC says, as a “juristic entity” that has no natural personality, it cannot “speak in order to defame [Maharaj]”.

It also says there is no allegation it was liable for the actions of ­Vorster.

The row developed after Maharaj entered into a lease agreement to rent the flat at Pearl Tides from Jacqharl Premises CC on May 6, 2013. The family moved in the next day.

According to Maharaj, an ­addendum to the lease stipulated the property was for sale but that he, as the tenant, would have first option to buy.

Alternatively if another buyer was found, they’d be given three months written notice.

He alleged that in July 2013 Vorster phoned him, “annoyed and agitated” as he’d been told Maharaj had “without care” removed and thrown around some of Vorster’s property, which was stored in the garage.

Maharaj said he and his wife sent Vorster photographs of his belongings “safely stacked in the cupboard in the garage”.

He believed, however, Vorster “wasn’t completely pacified” because whenever he spoke to him afterwards he seemed antagonistic.

Maharaj was “eager” to buy the flat but said when he and his wife met Vorster to discuss this on October 9, 2013, Vorster was “curt” and said the property was already sold. He told them to vacate by the end of the month, but also said they had to pay rent until the end of May 2014 in terms of their lease.

Maharaj said he’d objected to this “absurd state of affairs”. ­Subsequently on October 11, 2013 he got an e-mail stating his lease was cancelled.

On November 1, 2013, when he and his family arrived home their access cards would not work, and guards said they were not allowed on the property.

According to Maharaj, he and his family were allowed in to “pick up bare essentials” but guards ­accompanied them even to their bedrooms. This was “humiliating”, he said.

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