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Apartment owner in court battle with illegal tenants

13 Nov 2017

The alleged hijacking of buildings in the declining area of Joburg's Windsor East is being encouraged by the courts which are supporting alleged illegal tenants.

So said a spokesperson for a property development company which owns 36 blocks of flats in the area.

Upgrading security at the building in Windsor East following the reinstatement by the Joburg High Court of non-paying tenants.

The developer, who refused to be named for fear of intimidation by the alleged hijackers, says that following a legal eviction carried out last Friday, the Joburg High court, in response to an urgent application by the Windsor Community Recovery Movement, reinstated the tenants.

"We, as investors in the Windsor area, are spending millions on upgrading buildings in this area only to find the courts now acting against us," he said.

The property developer said four tenants, out of 10, in one of their buildings, stopped paying rent in July when they were approached by the Windsor Action Recovery Group and told they were not paying rental to the rightful owners and they should be paying them instead.

"We had a meeting with members of the 'recovery' group to try to engage with them and to hear their grievances. We showed them our title deeds proving ownership. They said the building was not being maintained and was over crowded. We spent R250 000 in maintenance and even dropped the rents from R4 500 a month to R3 500, taking a huge financial knock, but this did not help - the tenants continued refusing to pay rent," he said.

The owners then went the "legal route", he said, applying for, and being granted, an eviction order which was carried out "peacefully" on Friday night by the Randburg sheriff, SAPS, a private security company and locksmiths, he said.

However, that same night, the recovery group applied for an urgent interdict for the tenants to be reinstated, which was granted.

The scene of the eviction.

Judge J Wright, in his order, stated that the 30 evicted tenants said they had not received the eviction notice. He found there were "no persuasive" arguments why the matter should not be postponed until tomorrow.

The owners said they had spent over R300 000 on legal fees with more to come because of the postponement. Besides receiving no rent, they were also paying for municipal services which had never been interrupted.

They claim that the reinstated tenants then proceeded to trash the building, breaking windows and pipes.

"We, and our tenants, as well as tenants from other buildings, have been intimidated and threatened. We even got a court interdict to keep them out of the building, but this too, has been ignored and they keep on coming in to intimidate the tenants. These people are collecting rent illegally. The judge's ruling is devastating and is setting a precedent as we had a legal, court-issued, eviction order," he said. "We were all there to uplift this area and provide decent affordable accommodation, but this is clearly not going to happen," he said.

Esau Mudau, a member of the residents-led Windsor Recovery Movement, said property hijackings in the area were so bad that even water bills were tampered with. "Where you used to pay R300 for water they make you pay R2 500. These people are making life difficult for the people of Windsor East. Very soon they will be locked up," said Mudau.

Mudau added that fed-up residents have formed a "powerful movement".

"Windsor East must go back to its people," he said.

In a statement issued in August, the recovery group had also accused owners of charging R10 000 a month for badly-maintained blocks of flats which had sewage running through them.

Said Mashiteletje Ntsoane, at the time: "We are tired of living in and around such insulting conditions."

The group said it had "opened the community's eyes" to the realisation that they are paying thousands of rand in the pockets of criminals acting as "managing agents".

They also said the "trick" used was that some registered estate and managing agents acquired few units in the block of flats and identified buildings and units whose owners could not be traced.

The group claimed it was offered R50 000 by the bogus owners to stop their actions.

The bogus owners, said the group, then "tricked" the registered managing agents into believing that the organisation was a "group of thugs and violent mob gone crazy whose aim is to hijack all buildings in Windsor and they bought their faked story".

The movement has a meeting tomorrow at 10am.

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