‘I don’t know where I am going to live’

The property in Park Road, Woodstock.

A pensioner who has rented a Woodstock property for 17 years feels “let down” by her landlord whom she claims did not give her enough time to find somewhere else to stay before selling the house.

Ann Roberts, who lives at the home in Park Road with several other tenants, claims she had been assured that she could rent the property for “as long as I like”, but was shocked to be told in May that she would have to move out by the end of September.

However, Trevor Cloete, who co-owns the property with his daughter, said he was “quite disappointed” that Ms Roberts was now making a “big issue” about the matter as she had already signed a letter of understanding that she would have to find alternative accommodation.

Ms Roberts said she had decided to approach the Tatler after reading our report last week about evictions in Woodstock (“Future unclear for Bromwell residents,” Tatler, August 11).

“I have lived here for 17 years. The landlords first told me they wanted to meet with me in May, but they said I should not stress. However, when they did meet with me, they told me they were selling the house because they needed the money. About a week later, they served notice on me and told me that I had to be out by the end of September,” she said.

“I think if they had told me of their plans last year that would have been alright, but now I can’t find a place to move into. It is expensive, and I keep looking but there’s nowhere. I don’t know where I am going to live.”

She described her situation as “cruel”. “I’ve had people coming in and out of the house coming to look at the property. It’s embarrassing, because I’m still living here.”

“I pay R4 000 a month to live year, and the rent keeps going up, and now this has happened. I feel the landlords have been very disrespectful to me. I feel like I am being rushed. And because I am a senior citizen I am not in good health. I have so much stress. What happens if I have a stroke?”

However, Mr Cloete said he had followed the necessary steps and ensured there was a proper “paper trail”.

“She signed an agreement accepting our decision. My late wife had a stake in the property as well, so we wanted to sell so that family members could receive a share of the money made from the sale. My daughter is also a landlord,” he said.

Jared Rossouw, deputy director of activist organisation and law centre, Ndifuna Ukwazi, said no eviction was simply procedural.

“The court needs to always consider the relevant circumstances when granting the eviction and that would change depending on each case. In this case, as long as they are not breaking the lease or evicting her unfairly the court would need to consider her long tenure, her income and personal circumstances, and whether she has alternative accommodation,” he said.

“All of this should have been discussed between the landlord and the tenant before moving to evict, as the landlord has an obligations, clearly established in the law, to engage meaningfully before resorting to evictions.They might stay the eviction for a while to give her more time. Now if she is very vulnerable or would be made homeless, the City must provide alternative accommodation.”

He said the City had no plan to accommodate evictees and “Blikkiesdorp is now full”.

“So she could argue that the eviction should be stopped until the City makes a suitable plan. But none of this happens routinely and would depend on the quality of her attorney (if she has one). I’m afraid without opposing the order on these grounds, it’s likely the court will grant the eviction as is, which would be an injustice. Most tenants are simply unaware.”