Manor Flats residents face eviction as municipality toughens stance

2016-06-15 13:01
Residents living in Manor Flats hold up the council resolution that indicates they have 90 days to vacate their flats should they not sign the new leases and pay off their arrears.

Residents living in Manor Flats hold up the council resolution that indicates they have 90 days to vacate their flats should they not sign the new leases and pay off their arrears. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Low income earners living in flats in Manor are claiming they are “mistreated” by the Msunduzi Municipality after high rentals there have pushed their accounts into arrears.

They say the municipality has introduced new rules that will force most residents out of their homes in three months.

The residents were served with a letter from the municipality dated March 30, which said the council resolved in a confidential meeting that all tenants’ current leases would be terminated and their accounts would be handed over to attorneys for possible debt recovery.

However, the letter also said that if the tenants could not qualify for new leases, then they would be served notice to vacate their flats in three months. Those residents would have to seek their own alternate accommodation.

When contacted, Msunduzi Municipal acting spokesperson Nqobile ­Madonda was unable to pinpoint what the conditions were that tenants had to meet to be able to sign the new leases and avoid being evicted.

The tenants said some of them were told that they had to earn at least R10 700 per month to qualify to sign the new leases.

“We were placed here to live as this was low-cost housing. We used to pay R350 in 1994 but with all the increases through the years since 2004, we pay more than R2 300 every month,” said resident Banu Vally.

“Council is holding a rope to our necks and asking us to hang ourselves with it. They just don’t care about us. Is this the government we want to vote for?” asked Vally.

Following a front page article on a similar situation in Nerina and Erica flats in Pelham, Manor residents said their plight has been ignored by the city. “Our bathrooms are leaking. Our flats are in a complete shambles and most of us do not have electricity, yet the municipality still want us to pay high rentals,” said another resident, Wilma Bester.

Bester, who has been living in Sable Flats in Manor for 25 years, said maintenance was meant to be done by the municipality.

Another resident, who asked not be named, said she and her brother will soon be kicked out of their home after their municipal account reached more than R100 000 in debt.

“My parents died and my brother and I both depend on our disability grants. We cannot pay our late parents’ debt but we received a letter saying we will be evicted in three months and have to find our own alternate accommodation if we do not qualify for the new lease,” she said.

The residents said they have no idea what their future holds and if they are kicked out, they have nowhere to go.

“We moved in here when we were in our 20s and 30s. Now we are almost in our 60s. Is the municipality going to kick elderly, poor and disabled people to the streets?” asked another resident, Gonaseelan Perumal.

The municipality has acknowledged the condition of the flats, but said that rent defaulters reduced the funding available for maintenance.

“Residents need to appreciate that they need to pay rent like the rest of the tenants,” said Madonda. She said funding for maintenance was balanced against rental income. The council could resolve to write off debts for pensioners and deceased households, and other instances where debt is not recoverable. However, where debt is recoverable, tenants must seek alternative accommodation if they cannot meet the requirements for signing new leases and acknowledgments of debt.

DA mayoral candidate Mergan Chetty said the blame lay with the ANC-led municipality who adopted a report on housing that is now negatively impacting on residents. “The DA robustly opposed the report, however the inflexible ANC rejected our proposal,” Chetty said, adding the DA proposed that rental be set at 25% of the tenants’ income and that a portion of the rent be ring-fenced for maintenance.

“The DA emphasised that these flats were originally built for low income earners and as such this must remain the priority,” he added.


Read more on:    evictions

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