Little aid for granny as council house burns down

Living in an informal structure, even on someone’s property, can have unintended consequences.

Gadigha Takay of Primrose Park asked if I could do anything to help her “nanny” Maureen Nel whose council house she was renting in Elsieskraal, Manenberg, burnt down on February 29, after cable theft. “Ms Nel is a single mum with five grandchildren and a daughter who is sleeping on the lounge floor after the wendy house was damaged in the fire. They have been to the City’s Athlone office to have this matter resolved and to date no assistance is forthcoming,” Ms Takay said.

“Then Ms Nel went to the civic centre and they gave her telephone numbers to contact but no one answers the phone,” Ms Takay said.

“I find this treatment unfair as she has to live on hand-outs and is struggling to make ends meet. In addition, her daughter’s ID was also burnt which will result in a delayed Allpay payment. They cannot continue to live under these circumstances and the dwelling is so badly burnt that there are no windows. My nanny is 61 years old and she is going through such a tough time with the municipality to have it repaired. I would like to ask the council if they would allow this to happen to their granny or grandchildren. We are humans and should be treated with dignity and respect. Don’t they want to help her because she lives in Elsies Kraal and not a posh area like Claremont?” Ms Takay wanted to know.

Ms Takay said two council officials, supervisor Ms B Tambeksie and Mr T Willis, came to see Ms Nel and indicated they could not help her as the dwelling is an extension and not part of the building.

“The council said the house is now a two-bedroom building: initially it was a one-bedroom building. Why would the plans be approved to allow the owners to renovate and at the time of a fire use a flimsy excuse as ‘not part of the initial house’.

“This is placing a big financial burden on Ms Nel as she cannot afford to repair the dwelling or to live under such circumstances with seven people,” Ms Takay said.

Benedicta van Minnen, Mayco member for human settlements, confirmed that the wendy house was damaged by fire, and though they have given the family a starter kit, there is not much they can do.

“The original tenant, the late Walter Collis, applied for permission to build an addition to his dwelling using temporary materials. At the time, the City engineer said the temporary structure was in a dilapidated condition and did not conform with standards acceptable to the department.

“The plans for a permanent structure were never submitted. After Mr Collis’s death, the tenancy was transferred to his daughter, Maureen Nel and her tenancy started on May 4,1998,” Ms Van Minnen said.

“The tenant, Ms Nel’s daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy, reported that her wendy house was damaged due to fire and after she produced an affidavit, the human settlements maintenance department conducted an inspection of the fire-damaged property and to list the repairs. They found that the only damage was to the temporary structure, which is not insured by the City of Cape Town.

“Unfortunately, the City could not assist further as the fire damage is not to the City dwelling but to the informal structure which is not insured,” Ms Van Minnen said.

“This was fully explained to the tenant who understood, but asked if the City could assist her as she is an old-age pensioner and sole breadwinner. She was advised that the City could assist her daughter with material for the temporary structure and we have issued them with a starter kit.”

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Interesting question

A Sea Point reader asked if an estate agent was obliged to show their bank statements with the interest earned on the deposit you put down when you buy a house (“The thorny question of interest on rental deposits”, Off My Trolley, March 9/10).

Michelle Dickens of Tenant Profile Network said estate agents and conveyancers are not required to show buyers the actual bank statements but they are required to account for the amounts received and to show a breakdown of the interest generated on the deposit.

“The interest that is earned on the amount and to whom such interest is payable is determined by the terms of the contract signed between the parties,” she said.

Attorney Marlon Shevelew of Marlon Shevelew and Associates Inc agreed. “In my opinion, it would satisfy Section 4 of the Estate Agents Code of Conduct if the agent showed the amount of the deposit held, the accrued interest, and the interest rate, and not necessary the proof (actual bank statements),” Mr Shevelew said.

“The code of conduct obliges the agent to convey all facts which are or could be material. Interpreted literally, this obligation is fulfilled when the agent discloses the amount of the deposit and interest earned to the prospective purchaser. It would be unreasonable for an agent to be compelled to provide a detailed statement of their entire trust account, especially to a prospective purchaser.”

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