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Property Owners Sue City of Johannesburg over Illegal Occupations

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

An ongoing court case against the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) and several others, sheds light on the uphill battle waged by property owners struggling to reclaim possession of their buildings overtaken by illegal occupants.

The suit has been lodged by property-owning companies, 22 Fricker Road and Snowy Owl Properties 149, who have not received rent for over three years from their Joburg residential buildings in Berea. Believed to be housing over 100 tenants across 28 residences, these buildings are at the center of what started as a rent boycott and now extends to issues of homelessness and failure of the city to meet its obligations.

Accusing the CoJ of wrongful failure to provide temporary emergency accommodation, both 22 Fricker Road and Snowy Owl Properties 149 are seeking the court’s intervention. If successful, their claims could pave the way for thousands of other property owners in a similar situation across the country to claim damages against the city and potentially the state.

The property owners are also asking for the court to order an assessment of occupiers’ personal circumstances and their compliance with Immigration Act requirements. Simultaneously, they desire the court to compel the city to provide emergency accommodation to qualifying occupants. The companies argue that their properties' rights have effectively been wiped out due to a rent boycott that began in 2018.

The city responded in court filings, stating it had suspended its obligations to provide emergency accommodation during the Covid-19 state of emergency. The city discloses that its 11 emergency accommodation facilities are all full and in need of an additional 1,500 beds. They argue that the provision of emergency accommodation will be realistically available only in the future.

In summary, eviction-related challenges revolving around immigration status and rent boycotts highlight systemic gaps in housing management and resource allocation. If the court case proves successful for the property owners, it could be a game-changer for similarly afflicted property owners in South Africa, triggering significant recalibration of public responsibilities towards housing issues.

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