Ward 66 Clr Carlos Da Rocha said he is concerned about the increasing number of hijacked houses in Ward 66.
He expressed concern after a house in Millbourn Street in Bertrams recently burnt to the ground and two people died in the fire.
Da Rocha said the house had been a problem for years.
“There were almost 20 shacks in the yard. This house was hijacked by tenants and the owner has been trying to address the matter with no luck. This house was unsafe because the yard was overcrowded. The fire started in one of the shacks and spread and the house also caught fire,” said Da Rocha.
Da Rocha arranged temporary accommodation after the fire but, he said, the tenants are back in the house.
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“They refused the free accommodation that was provided for them because they say it is out of their area. They would rather live in the house which has no services. We are not even sure if the house is safe for occupation,” said Da Rocha.
He said it concerns him how the law is protecting the tenants and not the owners.
“Tenants hijack houses and do not pay rent and the owner continues to pay services. When they report the matter, law enforcement fails them,” said Da Rocha.
He said the owner has been dealing with this problems for years, but tenants had taken over and refuse to move.
The EXPRESS spoke to the owner of the house who wished to remain anonymous.
According to him, he rented the house in 2007 and that is when things went wrong.
“I rented out the house to a family and when the man died his brother moved in and took over the property. That is where the problem started. People just started moving in and were not paying rent,” explained the owner.
“I tried to get assistance, but with no luck. I went to open a case at the police station but I was told it was not a police matter. When I went to the house to try and speak to the tenants, I was not allowed into the yard. I was chased away. I just continued paying for services but not receiving any rent money,” said the owner.
The owner is currently waiting for insurance to evaluate the damage and to give a way forward.
“People have moved back into the house and when I went to check the damage I was chased away again,” said the owner.
Advocate Victora Rammala from the City of Joburg Group Forensics and Investigation Service said if a house has been hijacked by tenants, the owner must report the matter to them.
“The owner of the house needs to report the hijacked house to the City’s Group Forensics and Investigation Services. The city’s revenue department needs to be notified by the owner as well in order to consider the fact that consumption of services is by illegal occupiers without the owner’s consent,” explained Rammala.
She said there are legal ways of dealing with the matter, and property owners need to follow them.
“Property owners need to follow the relevant and available legal prescripts in addressing issues of unlawful occupation of their property. That is where they will be guided on what to do about the matter,” said Rammala.