Athlone tenants give up on paying rent for dilapidated council property
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* This article was first published in the Cape Argus newspaper on October 5, 2021.
Cape Town - An Athlone grandmother said she refuses to pay rent to the City for a home the family has occupied for nearly 70 years, now infested by rats and mice and on the brink of collapsing.
Jamiela Levy, 69, said she hasn't paid the over R3 582 rent for nearly two years for the home on Tancred Street, Athlone.
A veld situated near the house has caused rats and mice to eat through the wood and zinc structure they call home, forcing the family to fill the numerous holes located throughout with steel wool.
No one in the family of 12 is currently employed and they rely on South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants to sustain them.
Levy said the situation had caused her to lose weight, and on top of existing health issues, such as thyroid, osteoporosis and anxiety attacks, she has to contend with daily stress.
Levy’s daughter is epileptic and on medication.
The family has been living on the property for 67 years, said Levy.
Levy said the taps did not work and toilets previously outside were brought in by the family. Doors and windows had been replaced on several occasions due to damages and outbreaks of mold.
Walls had to be thickened with extra sheets of wood due to the mold and dampness caused by the rains. The flooring was also replaced by the family.
“The whole house is full of patches. The mice were eating the walls here,” said Levy.
Levy said the home belonged to her brother and was bought by the City after they indicated the intention to build a road. However, this did not take place.
“There was no electricity in this house – we put it in. Then my brother passed away. They paid out, I can’t really say. They lied to us, they were supposed to maintain the house once a year. They only fixed this house once in 65 years,” said Levy.
Levy claims her brother had died of pneumonia due to the condition of his bedroom, with a severe mold problem.
During winter the rain seeps through. “It looks like a waterfall,” said Levy.
The family has to bring in water from the outside tap, for use.
“Why must I pay rent, there's nobody working and they don’t fix the house so why must I pay rent,” said Levy.
Daughter Sadia Smith said: “My mom’s become so sick. She has never been so sick before. She’s become so thin because of the stress. Living in these conditions with a disabled child.
“Everything with this Covid-19, my mom’s become so sick she has even been to Groote Schuur Hospital a couple of weeks ago, but it's all related to the stress of worrying about the rent, there’s no electricity, ‘where am I going to get food’.”
Four children and six of Levy’s grandchildren reside in the home.
The City confirmed that the property in question was owned by it.
“The property management department is looking into the particulars of this matter and the maintenance requirements and responsibility in terms of the lease agreement will be investigated,” said the City.