The ANC Youth League branch in the student-populated Braamfontein area in Johannesburg is lobbying for rental property owners to “freeze rental payments for April 2020” to ease the financial burden on economically inactive tenants during the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Ward 60 of Johannesburg, which includes Braamfontein and surrounding areas, has a population of up to 40 000 residents in terms of the 2011 Census, of which 43% are young people aged 20-29 years and 87% are renting accommodation.
The league’s Pixley ka Isaka Seme branch chairperson Yanga Tamela told City Press on Tuesday that the organisation had already approached City Property, which he described as “dominant” in the area, “but the engagement did not start well and we intend to go back to them”.
The league also approached Urban Task Force properties with the same request and feedback was pending.
Other property owners in the area include Afhco Properties, Masingita Property Investment Holdings, Trafalgar, South Point and Brickfields Housing Company, Tamela said.
League branch secretary, Athenkosi Gcisa, said in a statement that “we are reaching out to the managers or owners of rental properties in the city of Johannesburg to humble yourself in addressing the rental concerns of your tenants”.
Gcisa said that “although it is still a couple of weeks before April rents are due, we would request that you consider ways on how you can help or ease burdens for tenants who will have difficulties paying April rent due to the unprecedented environment we find ourselves in as a country”.
She said the league’s request was in line with government’s indications that Covid-19 would have an impact on social and economic issues.
“In logical principles this means there will be disruptions and closures of companies or business, which will have a financial impact on the tenants due to illness, loss of employment or reduced hours. There will be financial hardship and distress for tenants,” she said.
The league proposed that property companies freeze rent for April but “tenants who are able to pay for April 2020 can do so”.
They also asked for written payment arrangements where tenants are unable to pay, as well as a moratorium on evictions for April.
“[There should be] no eviction or court actions in case of severe financial hardship due to Covid-19 or any reason,” Gcisa said.
In return, she suggested that tenants be allowed to submit a relief request letter in which they described their hardships or household situation, accompanied by an employers’ letter, and an “instalment plan for those who seek relief to pay the April 2020 amount in the next 12 months with no penalties or fees”.
The league also proposed a partial payment arrangement for those who could pay a certain amount.
“Rental properties should engage government or banks on how to address these financial issues.
"We urge management to also engage tenants in developing a plan on how to assist each other. Please understand that we are all in this together as we assist the government to address this health crisis,” Gcisa said.