GEORGE NEWS - Is it good business, unethical or just trying to save a penny? This is the question tenants of business premises in Market Street are asking about their landlord after their complaints have been met with seeming indifference.
For months they have been asking owner Bes Bezuidenhout to take action regarding their safety, the safety of the building and that of their clients. No action has been taken to address their complaints and some tenants cannot cope anymore, the George Herald has been told.
Tenants are very unhappy about burglaries, sky-high rent, as well as vandals and drug addicts that are making the area unsafe. The tenants say Bezuidenhout has told them that, according to their contracts, they have to take care of the problems themselves.
The contracts, according to a tenant, state that they are liable for security, insurance and maintenance. If their businesses get burgled they have to pay for damages, but the rent has to be paid on time, regardless.
In recent incidents, vandals threw bricks through the front windows of a bookshop and a tailor shop was burgled. Nothing was stolen at the bookshop but it cost R9 000 to fix the windows.
During a burglary at the tailor, jackets belonging to clients and a warm blanket were stolen, and the criminals almost managed to take the mini fridge. The tenants have to take financial responsibility for such items themselves. But from what George Herald understands, many of these tenants are barely keeping head above water.
On top of this, they have to deal with shady characters on a daily basis and do not know if their businesses are safe at night.
The tenants have a hefty list of complaints that cannot be denied. They tell George Herald that safety lights, safety gates and similar measures they have installed, are stolen and ripped from the building within days. One person said about R5 000 worth of plants were stolen, as well as the floodlights.
Another tenant said they are slowly losing clientele because people do not feel safe to park their cars and walk about in the area. A woman was almost assaulted in the toilet because keys to the safety gates were apparently given out indiscriminately.
"And we cannot complain about it because he will just say that we can replace the locks ourselves. We had to pay to get the keys anyway," said one of the upset tenants.
Bezuidenhout responded as follows, "Unfortunately, this is a problem that must be placed in front of the door of the municipality. Each tenant - no matter where they run their business from - must themselves ensure that burglar bars and an alarm are in place. Most tenants are not willing to pay for that themselves.
"The town is a public area and I cannot vouch for car guards and other people who harrass the businesses. It is also each tenant's duty to have their own insurance against break-ins and even the windows. It is true that windows were broken and I am currently trying to claim the damage from my insurance.
"The tenants refer to high rent. It is unfortunately true that we have had to lower the rent over the past few years to fill all the premises. As for the car guards, everyone knows that there are problems and we have had several meetings with the municipality where we have requested them to urgently address this problem."
The municipality responded as follows: "The onus is on business owners to put security measures in place, including the appointment of security guards. All crime-related matters must be reported to the police as the combating of crime is within their mandate and scope of control."
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