The entrance to the luxury Blyde Riverwalk Estate in the east of Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
The entrance to the luxury Blyde Riverwalk Estate in the east of Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Lease owners unhappy with Blyde Riverwalk Estate’s new rules

By Goitsemang Tlhabye Time of article published Oct 4, 2021

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Pretoria - The Community Schemes Ombud Service is intervening in the case of short-term leaseholders who are unhappy with alleged unilateral changes controlling access to the Blyde Riverwalk Estate and Lagoon in Pretoria East.

The short-term lease owners last week protested outside the estate, claiming that the property management was coming up with new rules without consulting the residents.

They claimed that management was hiding behind alleged complaints it had received from some residents, while ignoring the underlying issues causing problems.

The residents said management claimed that short-term owners were causing overcrowding in the estate, but had gone on to convert the aquatic centre into a hotel in a bid to do away with the short-term letting.

Resident and Air BnB owner Thabo Mtsweni said without any notice or consultation, they were informed that their guests would have to fork out R250 to access the estate’s lagoon.

Mtsweni said the owners were taken aback by this demand because a month prior to that they had been instructed that moving forward they’d have to pay a R2 500 holding fee for possible damages by their guests.

In addition, they would have to pay double the levy to cover extra security, cleaning and administration services for their guests’ visits.

“We tried to raise this issue with Balwin Properties but got no response. We then tried to speak to the estate management about the unfairness of this, given the additional costs we were incurring – to no avail. Hence the decision to protest.

“All they are telling us is that they want to curb the traffic in the estate but we hardly bring over 1 000 guests into the area even though the lagoon has a capacity of 3 000.”

As it stands, he said, the area had just about 1 400 units with a plan for 3 500 and only 200 Air BnBs.

Mtsweni said even though the management had opted to waive the lagoon fee for Air BnB owners following a meeting on Monday, they still persisted in demanding that residents’ guests fork out the R250 fee to gain entry into the lagoon.

“There are a lot of restrictions in the estate. It feels like a prison because they even decide on the number of guests one can have in their own home.”

Balwin Properties declined to comment, saying engagements with the owners of short-term rental apartments were still ongoing.

The property company did however say that its position remained as explained in a communique sent out to residents.

The letter, dated September 22, on behalf of the Blyde Riverwalk Homeowners Association and Balwin Properties, detailed that there were about 200 short-term rental apartments at The Blyde and over 900 owner-occupied or long-term rented apartments.

The statement further reads that following numerous complaints from permanent residents dating back to 2018 regarding short-term letting within The Blyde and the unruly conduct that had become the norm, they (the residents) sought to do away with the short term letting.

“Balwin has been inundated with complaints from residents regarding overcrowding of the lagoon area by guests from short-term letting apartments as well as the fact that residents do not feel safe and secure within the development which is of great concern for all stakeholders.”

The Homeowners Association also rubbished allegations of short term residents not being consulted on the changes and claimed they had engaged with them on several occasions.

“The engagements failed to reach common middle ground and new rules pertaining to short-term letting were put in place in July 2021.

“Thereafter, the home owners association and Balwin investigated the matter further and found a gross systemic abuse of the access code system, and instances of illegal short-term letting of apartments as well as the illegal sale of visitor access codes,” the statement said.

The homeowners association and Balwin Properties indicated that despite this, a special general meeting had been organised for October 11 to address the residents’ concerns.

Also, to vote on the prohibition of short-term letting within the development.

Following the uproar caused by the protest, the ombud indicated that the concerns raised by the residents were being looked into and going through a review processes for compliance with the legislative framework and practice directives.

Chief ombud advocate Boyce Mkhize said the parties would be invited to a conciliation process to try to resolve the matter amicably.

He said should the independently facilitated conciliation not resolve the matter, the body would proceed to allocate the matter for adjudication.

“Given the urgency of the matter, we intend to handle it in a way so that the conciliation effort is conducted on the same day with the adjudication kicking in should there be a failure by the parties to reach consensus.”

Mkhize said although he could not comment on the case’s merits as it was sub judice, the rules of estate properties could not be amended without members’ consent.

Pretoria News

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