25 Umbilo families given one week notice to move out of their flats
Twenty-five families who have been residents of Windsor Court in Umbilo – some for more than 13 years – may be left stranded come tomorrow after they were served with a one-week notice to vacate the premises.
The tenants said the landlord was planning to convert the block of flats into student accommodation, but according to the notice to vacate letter served on July 23, the 50-year-old building was in “despair and deteriorating and has impacted negatively on the insurance”.“Due to the above factors, I am forced to undertake some remedial measures and hereby notify you to vacate the premises within one month. This is in keeping with the oral monthly tenancy agreement,” stated the letter signed by Richard Mirza.
Although the letter said tenants would have one month to vacate, they said they were given one week from July 23, when the letters were served.
Mirza denied the tenants were served with vacation notices, despite his name being on the letter.
“How can I evict people who have lived there for as long as 13 years? That place is their home. They are my friends and have families. All I said to them was that since they were not paying rent, because most of them lost their jobs, the building had accumulated a high utility bill and that the services were about to be cut. I said I did not know when the services would be cut but in the meantime they should get alternative accommodation.”
Mirza denied planning to turn the block into student accommodation.
“I explained to them that the reason I was advising them to find a place to stay was because they are soon going to be without services, and since some of them are now unable to pay rent, where am I supposed to get the money from to pay the utility bill?”
However, the tenants’ spokesperson denied they had not paid rent.
“Although some tenants lost their jobs, tenants made sure they paid their rent. There are tenants who are struggling, but they are paying something towards rent.
“We were given only one week to find alternative accommodation. What makes us angry is the way we have been treated. This is no way to treat a human being. This place is our home,” the woman said.
The Durban Magistrate’s Court had referred them to the KZN Rental Housing Tribunal for assistance.
A mother of two who has lived there for the past 13 years said she and her daughter had nowhere to go.
“We have to be out of here by Friday. Most of us are women with children who go to school in this area. Does that mean our children would have to be taken out of school too?”
The chairperson of the Organisation of Civic Rights and KZN Rental Housing Tribunal deputy chairperson, Sayed Iqbal Mohamed, said the matter had come to their attention.
“The letter does not seem to be a valid notice. We are going to challenge it. Eviction of tenants is a long legal process. In this case the owner of the building would have to make an application in court. The tenants must stay put, as they cannot be evicted just yet. Those who have alternative accommodation and want to move out can do so, but those who need to stay because they have nowhere to go should stay,” Mohamed said.