Residents of council flats in Hangberg are refusing to pay their rent because they say the flats are in a mess and the City is neglecting their upkeep.
The Seaview community residential units, or CRUs, which offer rental accommodation for low-income households, are three years old, but residents say they are already in a poor state and the City seems deaf to their pleas for maintenance.
They have complained to their ward councillor, Roberto Quintas, but feel the City is not following through.
The say the flats are mouldy, there is no running water, paint is peeling off the walls and there are cracks in the walls.
There are 71 residents in the complex “Everybody is complaining about the state of the units,” said Michelle Yon, the representative of Seaview’s Block C. “When I moved in a year ago and was given the lease contract, I was told that I would be paying R509 a month. But the rent didn’t stay at this price. Only two months later, I was told that the rent would be going up, and now people are paying between R600 and R1 000 a month to stay here.”
She said A, B and C blocks all had the same problems.
“The electricity goes off, there are cracks in the walls, our doors don’t open properly and the hinges on the windows are broken. The water in the bathrooms also doesn’t run properly. You can’t put taps on at the same time, so you are forced to put the kettle on to get hot water to bath.”
A further issue was that when residents flushed their toilets, water came pouring out the cisterns, she said.
Block A representative, Theresa Thomas, said it had fallen to residents to keep the complex clean, so they had formed block committees to keep the hallways clear of rubbish.
Ms Yon said the flats had been built by Edel Construction on behalf of the City. “The first residents moved into Seaview three years ago, but these problems were even here then.
“I think that cheap labour was used to build the units. We also have problems with street lights that don’t work properly.
“When we have complained to the City, they say that these problems are because of Edel, but Edel says once they handed the complex over to the City maintenance became the City’s problem. Each is playing the blame game.”
Residents say they will not pay any rent until the problems are fixed.
“We want to pay our rent, but we believe we cannot do so if our houses are not fixed. Our councillor is giving 100% of his efforts to help us, but it seems that the problem is with the maintenance department,” Ms Yon said. “When I moved in a year ago, I thought that I would have a better life. But actually it was even better when I lived in an informal bungalow. There were qualified people in Hangberg who could help me with my maintenance issues. Now no one helps me.”
Stuart Diamond, the City’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, said all the tenants had signed two-year fixed leases, which were reviewed and renewed should there be no contraventions.
“There is no agreement in place with the residents which states that the rental would not be increased for two years. Rentals were increased along with all the rest of the tenants with effect from August 2017. Correspondence to this effect was sent to all the tenants with their invoice in June 2017,” Mr Diamond said.
He said mildew was not a maintenance issue since tenants were responsible for housekeeping and keeping all internal walls in a good condition, which included painting or washing walls as and when required.
“The ventilation provided complies with building standards. Adequate ventilation must be managed by the occupants with respect to opening of windows and doors. All cracks that were reported through the protocol for lodging maintenance issues were fixed.”
He said the City had assessed the complex recently and the housing office was logging service requests for problems that had been spotted. He said maintenance was done “as and when required” but the maintenance team responded to notifications lodged with the housing office.
“The housing office can be contacted on 021 444 1214. Tenants are also aware that they can lodge their service request at the temporary housing office at the multi-purpose centre on a Tuesday between 8.30am and 1pm.”
The Sentinel sent Edel questions on Monday, but they did not respond by the time this edition went to print.