‘Upgrade’ leaves tenants feeling down

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

A Heideveld couple claim their upgraded City-owned flat has actually been “downgraded”, and that they have experienced endless problems since they moved back in April 2014.

Maurice and Karin Cornelius from Fiona Court said with their lounge floor slanting the wrong way, and their front door being too high from the floor, water seeped into their lounge every time it rained. They also complained about mould in their bathroom – something they said had never happened before the upgrade.

Mr Cornelius also demonstrated how their bathroom and kitchen taps could not be opened at the same time – again, they said, that had not happened before the upgrade.

They have never used the washing machine pipe the City installed, and yet it collects dirty water, which the couple suspect comes from their upstairs neighbours’ sinks. Ms Cornelius also said their electricity consumption had shot up from R400 a month to R1 700 a month (without switching on their geyser).

“We have complained so much over these almost two years, but we have found no joy anywhere. I am stressing about this, and I even got sick from the stress. The electricity charges are the worst. Every day, I must worry about getting money for electricity,” Ms Cornelius said.

They say they have complained to the City’s local housing office as well as the electricity department many times without success.

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said, however, that the City’s records showed that the tenants had only reported their electrical concerns, “which was investigated and has been responded to”.

After the Athlone News’ enquiry about the condition of the flat, Ms Van Minnen said a weather board had since been installed to stop water seeping into the flat, and that the City’s housing maintenance department was looking into the changing of floor levels, as that had not been part of the project’s scope of work.

She added: “Mould has been a constant problem with rental units, as tenants fail to adequately ventilate their units. The renovation of the flats included the replacement of doors and servicing of the windows, which has resulted in the units being better ‘sealed’ since the upgrades. Generally, tenants are encouraged to allow for sufficient ventilation by opening windows and doors when possible.”

Ms Van Minnen said there was a P-trap (which has a water seal) in the washing machine drain pipe.

“If this pipe is seldom used, (as confirmed by the tenant), the water in the seal could evaporate, providing a passage for odours from the gulley to enter. It is also possible that stagnant water in the P-trap could harbour unpleasant odours. The quick solution is to flush the P-trap by pouring fresh water into the washing machine drain pipe. Capping the drain pipe is an easy option if the tenant has no immediate intention of connecting to a washing machine.”

Referring to the concerns about the high electricity consumption, Ms Van Minnen said: “The City’s maintenance electricians and the electricity services department have previously inspected this unit due to their complaints about high electrical consumption. No fault could be attributed to the new electrical installation. This tenant has backyarders who ‘tap’ electricity from their unit, which could be a reason why their electrical consumption is so high.”

Ms Van Minnen said tenants should report all their complaints to the local housing office.

* Queries related to high consumption must be directed to Electricity Services on 021 506 3976.