Constitutional Court judgment on leases will hit Gauteng government hard

Paul Willemburg, DA MPL

DA Gauteng Infrastructure Development spokesman

The recent judgment by the Constitutional Court, concerning the rights of tenants and landlords, could be profoundly important for Gauteng.

The majority judgement found that offering tenants of a Braamfontein building a choice between sharply increased rents or eviction could possibly constitute an “unfair practice”, a matter that the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal would be able to judge. A similar situation is brewing with regards to rental housing owned by the Department of Infrastructure Development.

They have also been allowed to decay, to the point of being well-nigh uninhabitable (a reversal, incidentally, of the situation in the court case, where it was common cause that the building had been refurbished). Despite this, the department is in the process of hiking the rents and aligning them with market related rentals.

Scant consultation appears to have been undertaken, and there is in any event no justice in expecting people who can ill afford it to meet a massively escalated rental obligation for a structure that is falling apart. I have warned the provincial Government that this it is on a disastrous course. The judgment suggests that its actions are not only flying in the face of justice, but are risking a well-supported legal rebuke.

In the judgment, the point is made that the “right of access to adequate housing ripples out to private rights is when the state itself takes measures to fulfil the right.” In the coming months, I suspect that those ripples will make for some difficult navigation for the Gauteng Provincial Government.

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