Tenants dodging rent bills

2012-07-23 00:00

SOME tenants of the Msunduzi Municipality’s Manor flats have allegedly not been paying rent or for services for the past five years, racking up a combined bill of between R12 million and R15 million, according to municipal insiders.

“No action has been taken against them,” said an employee at the Msunduzi housing department, which administers the flats.

She said some tenants were not indigent and should pay full rent. “Some tenants drive luxury cars,” she said on condition of anonymity.

Tenants who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted if the municipality takes action confirmed they had not paid rent for up to seven years.

Said one: “We have pensioners, unemployed, average people and those working for government renting here, and those who can afford [rent] realised that there are people who do not pay rent and decided to stop paying for their services as well.”

Naleni Atwaru, Ward 33 councillor, said the municipal debt collection department did not seem to have effective control mechanisms.

“Many of the old Manor residents received accommodation at the Manor flats from the municipality under sub-economic conditions, whereby they were accepted as tenants only if they earned below a certain threshold and could not meet the sudden increase to market-related rental,” she said.

Atwaru said some tenants who could afford the rent and services were abusing the system and taking advantage of the situation by blatantly not paying.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the council was owed a huge debt by tenants of the flats.

But he denied that no action had been taken against the tenants, whose rent has increased to R1 551 per flat.

He said the municipality was recovering its debt through a process of consolidated billing.

“The tenants have since been co-operative, coming forward to make arrangements to pay, which has resulted in the debt decreasing, albeit slowly,” said Zuma.

He said tenants had objected to rent increases and lodged complaints with the KZN Rental Housing Tribunal in 2005, which had failed to resolve their complaints.

Some tenants had continued to get away with not paying rent until last year.

“However, on April 18, 2011, the complainants chose to close their file, which left the council with no option but to pursue recovering the debt owed in terms of the law,” said Zuma.

He said the strategic finance committee resolved that the tenants’ rent and services accounts be consolidated and this was done by the finance business unit in January.

“Tenants were warned to make arrangements to settle their debts or their services would be disconnected and interest charged on overdue accounts,” said Zuma.

Letters of demand were delivered to all the affected tenants.

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