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Rezoning tactics leave flat dwellers feeling the pinch

Quigney tenants are up in arms over increased municipal rates, leaving some with no option but to vacate their flats in search of cheaper accommodation.

In October last year, blocks of flats in East London’s Quigney were rezoned as commercial property by the Buffalo City Municipality (BCM), and now attract a higher municipal rate than residential property.

Building owners have passed the new rates onto tenants, who say they battle to keep up with payments.

Crystal Coetzee, who lived in Seabrow Court for the last four years, said she was forced to downsize and vacate her flat because of the increased rates.

Her rental increased from R2 860 to R3 100 and was due to go up to R3 500 in September, she claimed.

She now lives in a granny flat in Berea. “I couldn’t handle the high cost. I lived there for four years and it was not an easy decision for me to move out,” said Coetzee.

Eric Whitaker, who owns a block of flats affected by the rezoning, raised the issue of increased rates at a recent Dispatch Civic meeting held in the Quigney and said it was the tenants who bore the brunt of the heavy rates laid on by the municipality.

“BCM’s reasoning is that we are making a profit out of these buildings, but we battle to earn money out of the flats,” he said.

Whitaker said he used to pay R490 in municipal rates for his block of eight flats, but after rezoning, he i s charged R1 190 a month.

Tenants are angry they have had to fork out extra for the new rates, saying they do not earn enough to match the new rental prices.

“It’s not fair. Rates shouldn’t come from the tenants,” said Estelle Warneke, who has been living in her flat for almost 16 years.

“The increase is unfair. He (the landlord) is making money out of the property. Why is he increasing the rent? It was increased twice last year.”

Charlotte Gerinder claimed she had to endure a number of increases last year, an annual rental increase, electricity hike, plus the rates and taxes increase.

“I earn a small salary and it doesn’t increase according to the increases that we’ve been getting.”

She said she was forced to bring in two student boarders to live with her to help pay the increased costs.

Whitaker added that he was not the only owner feeling the pinch. He said since speaking out on the matter, other building owners had come to him with the same complaint.

John Carter, who owns four apartment blocks, also said he had passed on increases to those renting his flats. “It (the rate increase) is not affecting me, it’s affecting the tenants.

I’m paying taxes … why should I pay these rates as well?” He added, however, that he did look at individual cases and not all of his tenants were subjected to a double increase.

Buffalo City did not respond to questions.

Source: Daily Dispatch

Article from: www.eprop.co.za