Shape up or face eviction

Beaulah Williams and daughter Marecia at the house in Peter Charles Street.

A 38-year-old Retreat mother is in a tug of war with the City of Cape Town after she was ordered to vacate a house she has been living in for the past two decades.

Beulah Williams has been living at the residence in Peter Charles Street in Retreat since she was 17. Her grandmother had leased the house from the City until she died in 2009.

Ms Williams claims she went to the housing office after her grandmother died to have the rented transferred to her name, as she had been living there for more than a decade, at the time.

She went to the housing office and explained that her grandmother died and claims she was told by housing officials that the lease would be transferred to her name.

“I left it at that with assurance from the person who was helping me that it would be changed to my name,” she said.

Ms Williams continued living in the house, until she received a letter in mid-October saying she needs to be out of the house by October 31.

The letter states that Ms Williams, who lives in the house with her three children, aged between seven and 15, is an unlawful occupant of the premises in Peter Charles Street and that she did not qualify for tenancy in terms of the Council’s Unlawful Occupation Policy.

The single divorced mother, however, refuses to move from the house.

“I understand that processes needs to be followed but the City does not give me a chance to explain my situation. They asked me to show proof that I have been living at the house and I tried to give them proof but they wouldn’t accept it.

“I have young children and I have nowhere else to go. I have documents and even affidavits from nearby neighbours who can attest to me living in the house but the City is still telling me to be out of the house,” said an emotional Ms Williams.

“The other issue I have is that I was not given enough time. I had a week to get my things together because I only got the letter a week before the notice of the eviction date,” she said.

“I don’t know what to do. I lost my job and I have been travelling to and from housing offices and even the Civic Centre to get some clarity and ask them for some leniency but so far all the housing officials are saying is that I need to hand over the key to the house. Where does that leave me and my family?” she asked.

Priya Reddy, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said the reason Ms Williams is being evicted is because she was not part of the original family who first moved into the house under her grandmother’s lease.

She said Ms Williams only moved into the house a couple of years after her grandmother took up occupancy.

“She also failed to produce adequate proof that she was in occupation of the dwelling before the 1 March 2006 cut-off date, in terms of the City’s Unlawful Occupancy Policy. She is therefore being regarded as an unlawful occupant,” said Ms Reddy.

She Ms William was requested on numerous occasions to produce adequate proof that she moved into the dwelling prior to March 2006.

“The proof she produced, which is dated before 1 March 2006, linked her to various other addresses but not 2 Peter Charles Street, Retreat. If she has been in occupation for more than 20 years as she claims, she should be able to produce evidence to that effect, which she has not been able to do,” said Ms Reddy.

She adds that affidavits are not deemed as proof by the City.

Ms Williams said he is unable to produce proof because she listed her mother’s home address in Lavender Hill as hers.

People living with tenants of City-owned houses will be considered, in terms of the City’s allocation policy, to get the lease transferred to their name if they are directly related to the tenant or if he or she is part of the original family housed or born on the property, and has been living there for an unbroken period of two years leading up to the death of the tenant.

“Any occupant, whether family or not, will be considered for regularisation if they can submit evidence of occupancy prior to 1 March 2006. This consideration will be given in terms of the City’s Unlawful Occupation Policy.” said Ms Reddy.

Responding to Ms Williams claims that she did not receive notifications of the eviction prior to October this year, Ms Reddy said numerous requests in writing were made for Ms Williams to call at the Retreat office to discuss the matter and produce the required proof of stay.

“These were done both by ordinary and registered mail. Claims of not receiving notices do not exonerate the occupant from action being taken,” she said.

The City will now proceed with legal action.

“Should Ms Williams not produce the adequate proof of stay as requested and also does not vacate the dwelling as required, the matter will unfortunately be referred to the City’s Legal Services Department to implement legal proceedings for eviction,” said Ms Reddy.

The house will then be offered to the next qualifying applicant on the City’s housing database in terms of their allocation date.

Ward 110 councillor Shanen Rossouw said these type of cases are common in her ward.

“It happens many time when people look after tenants of the council-owned house and when the tenant dies there’s no proof to validate that the other person had been living there,” said Ms Rossouw.

The add-on tenants are then evicted.

“We feel for these people but the City is very strict when it comes to cases like these because of the unlawful tenant policy. In future we hope to change the memorandum or for it to be lifted so that resident who has been living at these council-owned houses can be considered to take up tenancy. after taking things into consideration, but that it is till being discussed,” she said.

She advised people to have documentation of their residence at the council owned-houses so that they would not be considered illegal tenants.