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Monday Jan 14, 2013

Judge says Pretoria pensioner can't be forced to sell her property

A Sunnyside pensioner has scored a temporary reprieve against the body corporate of the block of flats where she has lived for many years.

Maria Theresia Peter, 77, turned to the Pretoria High Court to stop the body corporate of Sectional Scheme Indwe and property developers Comocap (Pty) Ltd from continuing refurbishing the block in Reddy Street which has been sold and is being converted into student accommodation.

The decision to sell was taken after debt on outstanding levies and interest had spiralled to R2.9 million by the middle of last year.

At a meeting of residents at the end of November, Peter was given an offer for the purchase of her unit.

But, she declined, saying she did not want to sell or leave the flat she calls home.

She stated that her physical infirmities were among the reasons she didn't want to move. Her flat is close to the lift which is convenient. "I have established my home and do not believe that for the paltry sum that is being offered - R117 000 - I will be able to find other suitable accommodation," she said, adding that it was "impossible to find accommodation at the drop of a hat". Because of her infirmities, she did not cook for herself and had an arrangement with a taxi service to fetch her at noon daily and take her to a restaurant in Groenkloof where she has lunch.

Peter told the Pretoria News yesterday that she bought the flat for R150 000 and had owned it for almost seven years.

Peter Geach, SC, argued in court that the body corporate and the developer were "bulldozing" the pensioner and forcing her to sell her unit. She didn't want to sell or leave the flat. But, said Geach, they wanted her out and what they were actually doing was that they were "hijacking the building".

Judge Ephraim Makgoba ruled yesterday that Peter had made a case against the developers and the body corporate.

Jacobus Viljoen, for the body corporate, argued that it had been minuted that the majority of owners of Indwe supported the sale of the building and the refurbishment of the flats. "She (Peter) was represented by proxy at the meeting," he

Asaid. "As a humane gesture, the body corporate offered her alternative accommodation while the refurbishments were proceeding," said Viljoen. He argued that to stop the building work in its tracks when it was supported by 39 owners would be ludicrous, and would cost millions of rand.

Judge Makgoba said nobody could force Peter to consent to the sale of her unit. "An order is granted against the body corporate (which) must properly air the issue among all the tenants. The tenants need to know what is in it for them and how they stand to benefit (from the refurbishment)," said Judge Makgoba.

Peter stated in her affidavit that the manager of the body corporate, Bessie de Jager, had sent out a letter in which she announced the possibility of a sale to Comocap.

De Jager also brought a copy of a letter dated November 5, 2012, suggesting the sale of the building by auction and requesting power of attorney. "I refused to respond to or accede to that request," she said.

Peter said she had always been up to date with her levies despite the body corporate being on the verge of bankruptcy due to other owners' failure to pay. "Never in my life did I sign anything or agree to sell. I pay my levies every month," she said.

Peter said she was told that it would be in her best interest to sell because the block would be converted into student accommodation and the noise would be too much for her to bear. "I told them they must be joking, because no one will tell me what I should do with my flat. I am not going to move out, I don't care what happens. That is my flat, end of story," she said.

She said the renovations, which had now started, were causing her problems. She said there was constant pounding and electrical tools operating.

"I want those works stopped. The banging hurts my ears," she said.

Pretoria News Weekend

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