Melanie Meuter, her two sons and grandchild stare helplessly at the shell of the house they once called home as the sheriff and his helpers empty the last of its contents on to the front lawn – clothes, furniture and the family’s other belonging lie scattered before them.
The family, who were evicted on Wednesday August 17, say they lived in the Flamingo Vlei house since 2009, paying their rent to the owner without default each month.
Ms Meuter said the owner had phoned her earlier in the month to tell her he planned to evict her.
“No papers were served. There was no court appearance. He told me on the phone he wanted us out, but there was nothing in writing. I have a sick child here, my grandson has bronchitis, and he is a year and two months old. Where am I supposed to go?
“He never ever mentioned that he has issues with us. I have been living here since 2009, and he hasn’t fixed anything in the house since then.
“The bath is broken and hurt the little one when I bathed him. Part of the ceiling fell down onto my furniture and damaged it. We had no electricity for eight months in this room. Luckily no one got hurt, I was at work at the time,” said Ms Meuter.
But the owner, Albert van Niekerk, said Ms Meuter had received several eviction notices and she had also been well aware of a court order for her to vacate the property but had not complied.
“I have been warning her for years to vacate the property, and she just refused. Initially, she had a lease, but it expired years ago, so she was staying on a month-to-month basis. I just could not sustain a crowd of people living there.
“I spent close to R200 000 on that premises over two years on repairs, and they are not allowed to sub-let, but she does. I couldn’t stand it any longer. If the eviction was done illegally, why would the sheriff act on the court order?” said Mr Van Niekerk.
However, Ms Meuter’s attorney, Barbara de Wet, said a court had sanctioned her client’s eviction, but that had been for October last year, and the eviction order had not been executed because Ms Meuter and Mr Van Niekerk had subsequently reached a new agreement which had allowed Ms Meuter to stay on at the property on a month-to-month basis.
“Melanie continued paying rent which changed the situation and the owner negotiated a new situation for her. Subsequentl to the eviction being granted, he kept her on for another year, now he’s gone back onto the old court order.
“It’s unlawful. A new agreement is in place which has gone against the court order whose terms he (the owner) ignored,” said Ms De Wet.
“We agreed that I could stay on if I came up with x amount, and I paid it. We had a written agreement, which his attorney has, I didn’t think it would turn this ugly. He didn’t give me any notice in writing to leave. He just sent me a WhatsApp saying ‘When can I come collect my keys?’
“My grandchild is so weak, and he puts us out on the street. I feel justice has to be served,” said Ms Meuter.
Tabletalk has a copy of the eviction order the sheriff gave to Ms Meuter – it’s the one that was issued last year and refers to a court order on August 25 2015 giving Ms Meuter and all occupants of the home to vacate the premises by October 28 2015.
Mr Van Niekerk, however, was adamant that the eviction was lawful.
He said there had been no new formal agreement between himself and Ms Meuter.
According to Muneera Allie from the Department of Human Settlements, any new agreement replaces or supersedes the court order, or any previous agreement.
“A court order is merely a legal document that a claimant obtains to compel another party to act in a desired manner. In this particular instance, if the owner wants to subsequently alter the way forward through a new agreement, then the owner may do so.
“Consensus of the agreement is important between parties where verbal agreements are concerned. Should the agreement be put in writing, this will nullify the court order and the claimant runs the risk of having to start the process all over again if the relationship breaks down again. The claimant will not be able to use the same court order to obtain relief if the new agreement has failed,” said Ms Allie.
Ms Allie said the owner or tenant could approach the Rental Housing Tribunal to look at the circumstances pertaining to the current agreement.