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Fleeing a landlord

The latest thrilling installment in the epic landlord saga. This bit is entitled "Fleeing a landlord" or "How I went to fetch my stuff".

First, to whet your appetite, here is the letter he sent me detailing how I owe him R24000. Click to enlarge, and if you want to see the really large ones, click here and here.

debt notice debt notice

On Sunday night, after getting back from Cape Agulhas, Shannon and James and I went around to the house to get my valuables and whatnot out of there, in case George took it into his head to have a garage sale or something. We rocked up at the house in two cars, with some suitcases, and went inside. Shannon and James went upstairs and I stopped to tell George that I would be depositing an extra R3000 in his account the next day and that I was taking my stuff now. (The reason for the extra R3000 was to pay off the part (c) penalty clause - I am going to claim it straight back at the end of the month, when he owes me R3000 deposit plus interest.) He started going on about how much I owed him once again, at which stage I just gave up. At that point, however, James came and stood behind me, wanting to ask which room was mine, and George told him to, and I quote, "fuck off". George clearly did not want any witnesses to our conversation, and he repeatedly told James to get out of the room, loudly and profanely. James and I went upstairs and joined Shannon, and we went to my room to begin to pack.

When I opened my room up, it was quite a sight. My bed was gone, the chest of drawers was gone, the two chairs were gone, and the desk was turned on its side in a clear "this is not going to be used" gesture. All of my belongings were unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the room in a large pile, including my computer and camera. In addition, there was a notice saying:

Mr J. Hitchcock
This is to advise that the parking fee for your car on my property 12 Silverhill Crescent is R25/day payable in advance. Wheelclamps may be used if outstanding fee is not paid.
George Hegarty
Aort Trust

parking notice Large version

Was he not listening when the magistrate informed him that changing the terms of the agreement we had about my parking arrangements was flat out illegal?

I took some boxes down from the shelves, and we started to pick through my stuff, deciding how to pack it. At that point, George entered the room. He pointed at Shannon and James and said (and once more, I quote directly), "You two: fuck off. Get the fuck off my property or I will phone the police and have you removed. You have no right to be in my house without my permission, and I want you off the premises right now." I told him that they were just there to help me pack, and he said he did not care, they had not asked for permission from him. I said, "well, can I ask for permission now - can they stay and help me pack?" and he said "no, I want them gone now". I was almost apopleptic with rage, and I don't know what I would have done, but James and Shannon just left, and I went with them, since I didn't know what else to do. Once we got outside the gate, I was on the verge of phoning the police myself, but James, ever the model of rationality and diplomacy, simply took my phone and phoned George himself. "Hi George, it's Jonathan's friend James. I'm really sorry for coming onto your property without permission, and I'd like to request that we be allowed to come on and help Jonathan pack." George agreed, and we returned to the house.

Basically, George needs people to grovel and beg him for permission, and then he's happy. What a guy.

Did I mention the large notice that he had stuck up over the gate button saying "DO NOT OPEN GATE"? That had appeared since I was last at the house (read: since George claimed that I had access to the property because if I rang the bell, somebody would open the gate).

Anyway, we returned to my room, and basically packed up every last jot of my stuff, crammed it into boxes and bags, and carried it to the car. While we were doing this, George came into the room again, and asked to speak to James downstairs. By this time, James was morbidly curious about what more George could possibly come up with, so he went along, and George asked him to please "reason with" me. He asked James to get me to sit down with George and basically make him an offer, to which he, George, would make a counter-offer, and we'd "bargain it out like gentlemen". In other words, he wants to make an informal agreement with me whereby he only rips me off for R10000 instead of the R24000 he is threatening me with. James told him that he, James, thought that I was quite happy with the way I was handling things. George's reply to that was that I was irrational, and he asked James whether he was aware that I was an alcoholic who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. James said that he was not aware of this, and George pretended to be much abashed that he had let a dreadful secret slip. "I just assumed that as his friend, you would know about this, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

Did George think that by completely fabricating lies and calumny about me, he would get my friend to turn on me? What possible purpose could he have in his mind to make up stuff like this?

James and Shannon and I finished packing up my belongings, and moved them to the car. I hoovered the room, and gave some surfaces a wipe-down, and we left. The only thing left on the premises is my bed (or, to be more accurate, Adeline's mother's bed), which I will fetch this evening, with a bakkie.

I'm wondering whether I should give any (more?) commentary or editorial. George is clearly used to bullying and intimidating people into giving him money, and threatening them with court cases and legalities if they don't comply. I don't want to sound all proud of myself and stuff, but... Well, bugger that, I don't respond well to threats! The first thing I did when he started this was to read the Rental Housing Act of 1999 - has nobody ever done this before when he's demanded money from them? I can't believe he actually thinks he can act this way and get away with it.

I am absolutely exhausted, and my work and life in general have suffered quite badly, but I'm kind of enjoying the fight in the back of my mind. If he takes me to court, then so be it, I don't think he has a leg to stand on. He's broken the law several times already - going into my room and taking my bed and dumping my stuff on the floor and removing furniture is a clear violation of the lease, and probably amounts to an illegal eviction, so I think I might have a case to claim back not only my deposit, but the rent for this month, August, too, since he made it impossible for me to use the house during August.

I have yet to decide what I'm going to do about that, but in the meantime, I'm well clear of that house. I have signed the lease for a lovely house in Bell Road, with two really cool people named Naz and Chris, and I'm looking forward to moving in there and having an actual home.