Panic for buyer in Richwood development

The housing NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi often objects to planned housing projects, not necessarily to stop them, but to make the
point that the City of Cape Town is not providing affordable housing quickly enough.

Sometimes, though, their objections can have unintended consequences.

Graham McCulloch of Royal Ascot was buying a R1.56 million two-bedroom apartment in De Zicht, Richwood, from Balwin Properties and he paid a R20 000 deposit in March this year to secure the unit in Phase 3 which was still under construction.

“The occupation date as indicated in writing was August 31. But there were a few delays and one of the sales agents informally told me that the development was being challenged by Ndifuna Ukwazi and that construction had been stopped until the matter was resolved,” Mr McCulloch said.

“Other than that I have been repeatedly ignored by Balwin, who have refused to communicate with me about my investment. The agent is the only person who engaged me verbally, ‘that management have refused to put anything in writing’,” said Mr McCulloch who wrote to four people, including the managing director, Steven Brookes, without acknowledgement.

Although Carina Rodrigues, development liaison, did confirm, apparently after consulting with Balwin’s legal advisers, that the occupation date would be November 30.

Mr McCulloch sold his home and was planning to stay with a friend for a month before moving to De Zicht on August 31.

He feared being left “homeless”.

“The proceeds from the sale of my property will be locked into an attorney’s trust account, leaving me without funds to secure a rental property for an unspecified time, and I will have to pay storage for my household possessions as well.

“Despite every attempt nobody has acknowledge my communications even though I have informed Balwin that I wish to cancel the sale and get my deposit back. I am 63, retired and I have never in my life been treated with such disdain, disrespect and poor communication by any organisation. I hope you can give me some advice or assistance,” Mr McCulloch said.

Mr Brookes ignored my email. But he did get it because a few minutes later Mr McCulloch, who was in Johannesburg, told me that Western Cape regional manager, Armand Botes, wanted to set up a meeting.

Mr McCulloch said he had a fruitful discussion with Mr Botes.

“Balwin were prepared to make me a suitable settlement offer to indicate their acceptance of their responsibility for putting me in the predicament I am currently in and promised to put it in writing”.

A day later Mr McCulloch said: “I have now accepted and signed the final outstanding arrangement between myself and Balwin Properties following my dissatisfaction and dispute with them. At the very least, I have now been assured of suitable and fairly-priced rental accommodation in a unit at De Zicht for a fixed period of six months, which started on August 1 ending on January 31 next year. However, I have informed Balwin Properties in writing that I reserve my right to cancel my original purchase of a unit at De Zicht, should it not be ready for occupation by latest February 28.”

Mr Botes confirmed that Mr McCulloch bought the property while the appeal was ongoing.

“Ndifuna Ukwazi had lodged 28 objections against developers in the city. It was not against De Zicht but to make the point that the municipality was not providing affordable housing quickly enough,” said Mr Botes, who confirmed that Mr McCulloch was not informed of the handover date as Balwin Properties did not know if the approvals would come through in time. The development was approved by mayor Patricia de Lille on July 31.

“The process took a while because she was busy with her personal issues and her disputes with the DA approvals didn’t happen timeously,” Mr Botes explained.

“I met Mr McCulloch and we offered him accommodation at De Zicht, in a unit owned by Mr Brookes, at a massively reduced rate. Mr McCulloch was given a solution immediately after the problem came to my attention. We will provide him with accommodation until we are ready to hand over his unit to him,” said Mr Botes.

In the sale agreement Balwin Properties have a 30-day notice period before occupation date to notify them of any changes. All the clients were formally notified in phase 3 where the handover date was supposed to be August 31.

The 168 buyers in Phase 3 and 4 who were affected have been notified of any changes in the occupation date.

Said Mr McCulloch: “Once again, my deep and grateful thanks for your swift intervention in this most distressing matter for me, without which I doubt whether I would ever have received fair and due process, acknowledgement, respect and satisfaction from Balwin Properties. I am greatly indebted to you for your most effective efforts on my, and, I dare say, many others’ behalf.”