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My landlord cut off my water: What do I do?

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Q

Hi, I need urgent advice. I live in a rented granny flat in Bellville, Cape Town. The property is a single dwelling erf that has been subdivided into 7 rental units, but never rezoned. With the present water restrictions the landlord received a municipal fine for excessive water use. Obviously, because there are 10 people living here. He subsequently cut all running water to all the flats: kitchen, toilet, shower, everything. Each evening at 6pm a tap on the far perimeter of the property is opened and the tenants may collect water in buckets or containers. Besides the obvious inconvenience, this is a huge health risk and infringes on my dignity and basic rights.

I subsequently contacted the Rental Housing Tribunal and was informed that I had to lodge a complaint, which I did. I was informed that under spoliation I was entitled to not pay rent. I, therefore, only paid pro-rata rent for the period that I had running water.

I subsequently received two weeks’ notice to vacate my flat for which I also lodged an illegal eviction complaint with the Tribunal. I have now been threatened verbally by my landlady on two occasions. Yesterday she entered my exclusive-use courtyard without my consent and while I was not present. Since then I have had contractors in my yard constantly; my courtyard door has been removed completely, a part of the vibacrete wall in the courtyard has been removed, the contractor pitched a tent outside my bedroom window and cameras have been erected facing my courtyard and windows. This is blatant harassment.

The inspector from the Rental Housing Tribunal has tried to intervene to no avail. This is now going to court.

I desperately need advice on the following:

  1. Am I within my rights to withhold rent under spoliation because I have no running water?
  2. What legal notice am I entitled to?
  3. What recourse do I have to have my privacy being restored?
  4. Am I entitled to claim damages in respect of the deprivation of municipal services?
  5. Am I entitled to have my deposit with accrued interest refunded?

I have agreed to move out on 30 October as I do not wish to live this way. Please help. I am at my wits end. This is causing me huge stress, not to mention loss of income trying to deal with all this. – Mary

A

Good day Mary, below are my formal responses:

  1. The landlord’s actions definitely amount to spoliation. Water is incidental to rental. The landlord will be liable for the penalties levied by the municipality as he decided not to rezone and/or update that there is more than one residence on the property and therefore will be using more water.
  2. As a tenant you will be successful with a legal claim to have your privacy restored. The owner and the construction workers are not allowed to enter the property. You can get the landlord and all the construction workers arrested for trespassing.

  3. With regards to the damages claim regarding the water it will be more difficult to prove.
  4. If the lease agreement was within the fixed-term period, your landlord can only forward a letter of demand to remedy the breach, which will refer to 20 business days. If you then respond and in return place the owner on terms to restore the water, the landlord will have difficulties to prove he was entitled to cancel should he proceed with an eviction. If the lease is on a month-to-month term, the owner is entitled to give one month’s notice. The time for demand will then be determined by the lease agreement. But again, should the demand be met with a counter demand the owner will have difficulty to proceed with the eviction application. Your landlord cancelled the lease which you accepted, so then you are entitled to a refund of your deposit. I would definitely suggest that should the landlord fail to repay it the matter be referred to the Rental Housing Tribunal.

The landlord is definitely in the wrong and the tenant should be successful.


Got a burning question? Email mariette@hometimes.co.za an we’ll be sure to assist you


Answered by Elize Le Roux, managing director at Xpello, which offers eviction process and other property investment management.

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ungerermariette@gmail.com

Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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