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Residential rental units' capacity now being stretched to their limits

Estate agents throughout the Rawson Property Group, especially those working in the high density urbanised areas, are finding that they are getting more and more requests from home owners to find tenants for a certain portion of their homes to supplement or earn extra income. These can be a flat in the garden or just one or two of the bedrooms in the home.

In some cases, said Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, they even try to rent out inadequate living spaces like semi-converted garages and storerooms under stairwells which were not officially designed for residential occupation and are definitely contravening the law.

“All this,” said Clarke, “reflects the tough economic conditions that prevail today and the need many people feel to supplement their incomes. However, it also reflects the greatly increased demand for this type of accommodation especially in the academic belts where student accommodation is in very short supply. Many landlords have cottoned on to this desperate need and are willing to squeeze sometimes double the amount of people legally allowed to reside on the property simply to make as much money as possible. Sometimes, we are told, rentals as high as R4,500 per month for a single bed are asked for and many students are forced to pay these exorbitant prices because they simply have no other option.”

Landlords, not necessarily Rawson clients, contact the Rawson Property Group’s agents and franchisees throughout South Africa and complain about tenants who break municipal regulations and allow far too many people to occupy a unit.

“We have assisted with cases where tenants,” says Clarke, “have sublet rooms in their apartment (without their landlord’s permission) allowing nine or ten people to live in three bedroom apartments. We have even come across cases where tenants rent out beds for a night or on an hourly basis to people in distressed conditions, e.g. those from rural areas or neighbouring countries who are new to the city and looking for work.”

Landlords, he said, need to be especially aware of this situation and to prevent it, but in the long run it is up to the government, the universities and the private sector to get together to find solutions.

“Steps have been taken to make affordable accommodation in formerly low income areas like Woodstock and Salt River in Cape Town, Berea in Durban and Bez Valley in Johannesburg, but in most cases the costs are still far too high and the supply continues to fall well below demand.”

One of the challenges facing the Human Settlements Ministry, added Clarke, will be to provide inexpensive accommodation closer to work areas. One of the problems South Africa has inherited from the past has been that our least affluent areas are generally sited on the outskirts of the urban fringe, making it necessary for those who live there to pay very high travel costs. This situation, he said, has, in fact, been perpetuated by many of the RDP housing schemes, which were designed specifically to help the poor but were still located very far out of the city centres.

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