Despite raking in millions of rands monthly, property management and rental agencies were deliberately neglecting their Pretoria central apartments, occupied mainly by thousands of black families, and had diverted their focus to properties in affluent suburbs where white people predominantly resided, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in Tshwane charged on Tuesday.
“The ANCYL can today state that the maintenance of the properties is prioritised along the location of the property and racial profile of its residents/tenants,” ANCYL Greater Tshwane regional spokesperson Ezra Letsoalo told the African News Agency (ANA).
Singling out the Huurkor property management group, which rents out a large portfolio of properties in Pretoria, Letsoalo said the endemic non-maintenance of the properties around the city centre was deliberate.
“For that reason [the racial profiling of tenants] Huurkor properties in Montana, Hermanstad, Sinoville and other affluent white suburbs give a probable impression that the failures to maintain the properties [in the city centre] is both deliberate and due to the utter disregard of the health concerns of the black residents who constitute the majority of the dwellers of the decaying buildings, the majority of whom are low-income students of various institutions across the spread of the city.”
Letsoalo said for years now, the ANCYL had been seeking an engagement with property management companies doing business in the capital city, including Huurkor and City Property, hoping to highlight the dilapidation of buildings.
“To this day, the status quo has worsened despite the rising rental costs which are incommensurate with the security and maintenance provision related to the management of the properties. Despite the several calls by the ANCYL to address the perilous state of the properties by the leading rental agencies, there has been no positive feedback, but rather a hardening of attitudes by the owners of the two leading rental agencies, i.e. Huurkor and City Property,” said Letsoalo.
“Of utmost concern, is the flimsy excuse by Huurkor that they are not responsible for the maintenance of the properties, but are rather mandated by the owners of the properties only to collect rent, whereas in another instance they claim to maintain the properties through their dysfunctional maintenance department.”
The ANCYL said while City Property had “heeded its calls” and well maintained its buildings across the city, the “hefty” rentals it charges tenants had ensured that the majority of city dwellers had no option but to stay in shoddy, congested structures run by unscrupulous property agencies.
“One of the salient points mostly ignored by the rental agencies and owners of the city’s properties is that they brazenly overlook the fact that deteriorated buildings often produce an array of social malice and such deterioration breeds crime, disease and other undesirable social conditions which impact on the attractiveness of the city,” said Letsoalo.
“The decaying buildings have become dungeons and hide-outs for drug dealers and various criminals, but of course, entities such as Huurkor and City Property have demonstrated that they care less as their priority portfolio of buildings that are well maintained are on the outskirts of the city centre.”
City Property, however, took issue with the ANCYL assertions on the state of their Pretoria central buildings and the rental charges thereof.
“Because our buildings are so well maintained, we deny in the strongest possible terms any allegations that our buildings are ‘decaying’ or that our maintenance is ‘dysfunctional’ in any way,” City Property spokesperson Lize Nel responded.
“We charge market-related rentals for the safety, convenience and comfort that our buildings offer and dispute assertions that our tenants are ‘low-income earners’, or that our buildings present ‘health hazards’ or ‘danger zones’ to the persons that occupy our properties. The number of students that are tenants in our buildings in the CBD are a very small percentage, as we are not providers of student accommodation.”
City Property manages in excess of 25 residential buildings in the Pretoria CBD.
Nel said her organisation had previously held high level discussions with the ANCYL regarding the tenants’ and the political formation’s complaints. The discussions would continue, she said.
Last week, in a response to the African News Agency, Huurkor placed the blame at the door of the property owners who contracted them to administer the properties, and pocketed the monthly rentals.
“We manage property on behalf of owners, who pay us a commission on the rent received. Huurkor has a maintenance department which handles any and all maintenance issues reported by residents,” said Huurkor director for the rental department, Pieter Smith.
“However, there are individuals [apartment owners] who do not renovate their property when faults are brought under their attention. We notify the property owner of any maintenance issues reported by his/her tenant, and can only act on the owners’ instruction.”
Smith said some property were dilapidated to such an extent that owners had to be notified that their apartments were removed from the rental agency’s “advertising list due to much needed maintenance, as Huurkor found the conditions unacceptable and not up to standard”.
Some of the property owners had not set foot at their properties in decades. Some are based in foreign countries but receive their monthly dues.
Smith did not respond to questions regarding the overcrowding of the apartments due to its tenants sub-letting to other tenants, desperate for a roof over their heads.
Last Thursday, Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga weighed in on the matter, threatened that the municipality would revamp the numerous derelict buildings and pass the hefty bills to the owners.
“We want to attract investment. We want this city to be a place where people can play, live and work. You cannot do that if one building is up to standard but the next building looks like a slum. We are going to have to clean that. What causes to have things like that is having 20 people sharing a two-bedroom flat. We are going to check and correct on that,” said Msimanga.
“We are also going to engage with property owners. We give them a time frame to fix and upgrade their buildings. Failure to do that, the city will do it and they will get the bill. It doesn’t help to have people staying in [plush suburbs] renting out these properties but they don’t even care what is happening.
“We’ve identified a number of buildings owned by people who are no longer in the country, who receive rent at the end of each month, but they don’t care whether there is maintenance or no maintenance of their buildings,” said Msimanga.
African News Agency