Manor debt sitting at R31 million

Manor residents’ rental debt has run into the millions. At a media briefing last Thursday, Mayor Themba Njilo said the debt is currently sitting at a whopping R31 million. Njilo together with the Acting Senior Manager Pumlan Gumede from the Department of Human Settlements said their doors are open to assist residents in making the necessary arrangement to pay-off their debt.
Earlier this month, Manor residents were left in the dark after the municipality disconnected their electricity. Residents took to the streets burning tyres and rubbish on the road in a bid to get the attention of municipal officials, vowing to continue with their protests until their demands were met.
The residents, who live in the Willow Gardens flats, had insisted that Njilo and Radha Gounden, the general manager for sustainable development and city enterprises, address them.
Residents said their latest gripe began when the municipality cut-off their electricity demanding they pay 10% of their utility bill that is in arrears and sign a new lease agreement. Residents also wanted ownership of their flats claiming that many of them have been occupants of the property for more than 20 years.
According to Gumede, the rental stock issue had cropped up in 2000. He said, “We saw loopholes in how the stock was managed and took steps to rectify the matter. In 2014/15 municipality appointed a service provider to undertake an audit and verification of existing occupancy to assist in addressing the current debt and signing of new leases with qualifying tenants. The rental stock was then divided into three categories: deceased, unconfirmed tenancies and pensioners, employed, unemployed, self-employed and grantees and unlisted.”
Thus far, municipality has written-off debt for deceased and unconfirmed tenancies in 2015. Gumede said, “The issue of the rental debt and, new lease agreements and title deeds have been addressed on numerous occasions with tenants. At no point in time did the municipality indicate that residents who have lived in the flats for more than 20 years would receive title deeds. The municipality established tenant committees to address tenant concerns. Eight meetings were held but no tenants attended. In February 2017, those residents who hadn’t verified their occupancy and hadn’t paid their rent had their electricity disconnected. This did attract residents’ attention who came to us and verified their occupancy and signed new lease agreements. To date, some 70 residents have verified and signed new leases. The municipality allocated rental accommodation for 12 municipal employees since 2016 and they are currently paying their rent.”
Tenants raised their disputes with the Rental Housing Tribunal on three occasions and the matter was dismissed. Unhappy tenants were advised to take the municipality to the High Court or comply with the resolutions. Tenants raised concerns in August 2017 with MEC Ravi Pillay and a decision was taken that Mr Radha Gounden would meet again with tenants as they claimed they were unaware of the revised rental for poor households. Gounden met residents in January 2018.
The way forward for tenants according to municipality:
The payment arrangement can be done in two ways. Firstly, they can pay 10% and the balance over a 60 month period. In this instance, for every paid an equal amount will be written-off. The second option is for defaulters who can’t meet the criteria. They can offer to pay a reasonable amount towards their debt. The finance unit will then write-off the interest and leave a fixed amount that could be paid monthly.
Tenants with incomes below R3500 will pay a rent of R500.
Tenants earning between R3500-R7500 will pay 25% of their income as rent.
Tenants earning above R7500 will pay the normal rent.
Gumede said, “All those tenants who refuse to comply with the resolutions will be dealt with in terms of the law. Defaulting tenants will be handed over to council attorneys. The first group of 32 tenants have been handed over for tampering with electricity. To date, two notices have been served and the final notice issued by court. Thirteen cases have been heard by the Magistrate’s Court and adjourned.”

  AUTHOR
Keroshini Paltu

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