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Johannesburg - Tuesday was the sixth time that Arrigo Ferri and his tenants were appearing at the Germiston Magistrate’s Court.
The landlord, who has indicated he is at his wits’ end, said he has had to resort to the courts to have his non-paying tenants evicted.
Ferri, 55, said he was trying to get his tenants to pay him the four months’ rent they owe him.
He said he had received a call from the police on his return from court that his tenants had obtained a protection order against him, barring him from entering his own property to ask them to pay rent.
Ferri said he could not believe that his Ethiopian tenants were staying at his Bedfordview duplex rent-free.
“They owe R37 000 in rent and utilities. I don’t have a problem with losing the money; I just want them out because I want the house back to me (sic).”
Ferri said he had rented out his three-bedroom townhouse for a year - from June 2010 to May 2011 - to Etsegenet Haile and her partner, Daniel Belay, and their two children at R6 000 a month.
They had to pay for their own water, lights, electricity, other levies and services. When the contract ended, the couple asked to stay longer.
“I told them that they could stay, but that I would not renew the contract. I had realised they were problem tenants.
“Later, they started paying late or in bits and pieces. I served a notice for them to move, but they blatantly refused and stopped paying rent in January this year,” he said.
Ferri said he had disconnected electricity two months ago, hoping that would drive out his tenants. They are still at the house, though, and allegedly use candles.
On Tuesday morning, Ferri disconnected the water.
“I wanted to remove the doors and all, but I was advised that I could get into trouble.
“I was also told that if I change the locks, that would be seen as forceful eviction and I would be breaking the law.”
Speaking outside court, Ferri said it was not as if his tenants could not afford to pay him - they had bought a car last year, and had businesses and a domestic worker.
A senior public prosecutor said landlords must never make verbal agreements and should also be careful how they structure their lease agreements with their tenants.
“Consequences of non-payment should be clearly spelt out in the agreement.
“Locking the tenant out of the house is more effective because the other person has no claim of ownership, and if they break into the house, you call the police because that is a criminal offence,” he said.
The couple refused to talk and fled when a team from The Star approached them.