CAPE TOWN - In less than a week on the job, estate agent Gabriella Johnson has been suspended after she allegedly racially discriminated against a potential tenant who showed interest in a CBD-located Fountain Suites apartment.
Live Real Estate, the company for which Johnson started working this week, also terminated their contract with the landlord of the apartment, who was described as being “race specific” with the leasing of the apartment.
Potential tenant Pol Osei had taken to social media after a WhatsApp exchange with Johnson in which he enquired about the CBD property, which leases for R17 000 per month.
After confirming with Johnson that the apartment was available for a 12-month lease period, Osei asked to arrange a viewing and get a lease application form.
After not getting a response, Osei followed up with Johnson, who then replied: “The client is race specific. I would love for you to rent it, but she’s very tricky,” Johnson said.
After Osei confronted her about the illegality of this type of practice, Johnson said: “It’s not illegal how a landlord chooses their tenant. It’s not our fault.”
Osei responded: “It’s literally in the Constitution Gabriella, section 9(4).”
Johnson replied: “Find another lease or apartment.”
Attempts to get comment from Johnson were unsuccessful by deadline.
Johnson, who started her new job at Live Real Estate after resigning from her previous employer a week ago following a disciplinary hearing, has had all her property listings removed from at least two online property sale and rental sites.
In a statement, Live Real Estate, said: “We are aware of a current situation developing between one of our landlords and their tenant, who has been refused on the basis of race. We strongly do not condone this behaviour as this goes against what we stand for, not only as a company but as South Africans.
“We have already terminated the contract with the landlord and been in contact with the tenant to assist them in whichever way we can. I would like to again stress the fact that we as a real estate company have since our inception been recognised as a market leader who deals with a diverse clientele that can vouch for our high level of professionalism and code of ethics. We have also suspended the agent involved with immediate effect, pending the outcome of an internal investigation,” the statement read.
Further enquiries were not answered by deadline.
Tyson Properties said they would be taking legal action against Johnson as it appeared she had tried to conclude the deal for the specific listing, of her own accord, under their banner.
“Tyson Properties does not condone or tolerate any form of racism among our partners, colleagues and clients. We are horrified to learn of the actions of an ex-employee, Gabriella Johnson. We refuse to work with racist landlords and after being made aware of this situation, we immediately removed this property from our listings.
“Following a disciplinary hearing, Johnson resigned from the group a week ago. We understand that she then joined another real estate brand as a franchisee. She was instructed to send any enquiries to the new team (in the area). The tenant advised that she falsely acted this week – responding to him as though she was still in the employment of Tyson Properties – and we are engaging with our legal team on this matter,” a spokesperson said.