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Monday Dec 09, 2013

New property booklets help guide rental process

A new initiative to improve inner city landlord-tenant relationships and sectional title management has produced user-friendly information booklets explaining aspects of South African rental housing and sectional title legislation.

Illegal evictions, utilities disconnections and withholding of rent are common practices in low-income areas in particular, and tend to take place in a vacuum of information about the rights of tenants, landlords and sectional title owners.

In response, and arising out of research by students in Yeoville-Bellevue in 2010 and 2011, the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (Cubes) at Wits University's School of Architecture and Planning has worked with partners to produce three information booklets.

Two of these have been produced in collaboration with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) of South Africa, namely the booklets for tenants and for sectional title owners. The third booklet is a guide for landlords.

Cubes researcher Margot Rubin said the project was born out of the centre's long interest in housing.

'We realised there were many rumours concerning landlord-tenant relationships, and no clear information on what was actually legal.

'When landlords get upset with tenants, they'll cut off their water or their power, either as a form of eviction or as a way to curtail unwanted behaviour.

'Sometimes they'll evict without a court order, which is totally illegal,' she said.

'Tenants tend to stop paying rent when something goes wrong, which is a breach of contract. However, they are allowed to remit by deducting a certain amount of rent, depending on the problem, but not enough people are aware of the consequences of their behaviour.'

Sectional title buildings are also complex to administer, with a lack of clarity about the responsibilities of trustees, body corporates and owners.

The booklets reflect the change in South African housing law from a common law basis to a constitutional and legislative basis.

Cubes will engage with their partners and human rights and legal aid organisations to distribute the booklets. They will also be available on the Cubes and SERI websites.

Call Margot Rubin on 011 717 7710 or e-mail her at rubinmargot-AT-gmail-DOT-com

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