Answer to a question from a reader

Can my daughter, a dependent, be denied the right to live in the RDP house?

The short answer

You could contact the office of the Human Settlements Ombudsman and tell them what has happened. The Ombudsman is the official who must assist to resolve disputes involving housing matters.

The whole question

In 2017, I got an offer to register for RDP but I did not qualify. Therefore, I asked my boyfriend of the time to apply on my behalf and to add my biological daughter as a dependent (he was a stepfather to my daughter). His application was approved and the house was built. When the house was ready, my then-boyfriend signed for it but refused to let me and my daughter live in the house. My daughter is 11 years old. I am renting with her even though she is a dependent on the house.

My ex does not live in the house – he never lived in the house after it was built. He lives in another province and is renting the house out to someone for R1000 per month. My daughter and I don’t have a proper place to stay. I went to the municipality last year but have not received any assistance from them.

Is there a chance for my daughter to live in the RDP house that she is a dependent on even though she is being denied by her stepfather? Can I fight this with lawyers?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if your daughter, who was recognised as your ex-boyfriend’s stepdaughter and was the dependent in your ex-boyfriend’s 2017 RDP house application, can be denied the right to live in the house.

You say that you did not qualify yourself for an RDP house. If you did not qualify because you were earning more than R3 500 a month, or if you and your boyfriend’s joint income was more than R3 500, his application should not have been successful.

But it certainly cannot be right that you and your daughter who made it possible for your ex-boyfriend to successfully apply for the RDP house are now denied access to the house.  

On the issue of being a stepfather: the law recognises that even if a person was not married to the mother of a minor child that was not his biological child, he is still recognised as a parent with responsibilities to that child if they had developed an emotional or psychological connection that was like a family relationship.  

It is illegal to rent out an RDP house, but municipalities often lack the capacity to enforce their own regulations and bylaws. Besides this incapacity, municipalities are often untransparent and unaccountable in the way they deal with the public. And municipal officials may even be corrupt themselves. 

But municipalities are required to take steps to resolve issues brought to them and deliver proper services around housing in terms of section 26 (2) of the Constitution and section 9 of the Housing Act of 1997. This was confirmed by Judge Poyo Dlwati in 2016 in a case brought against the Esidumeni Municipality.

If, as you say, the municipality has been unhelpful, you could contact the office of the Human Settlements Ombudsman and tell them what has happened. The Ombudsman is the official who must assist to resolve disputes involving housing matters.

This is the email address: [email protected]

You could also contact the provincial housing MEC on the grounds that you have not been assisted by the municipality in the matter:

MEC in Mpumalanga: 013 766 6087

You could also contact the following organisations for advice and assistance:

  • Black Sash

For free paralegal advice: 

Email: [email protected]

Helpline: 072 66 33 73

  • The Women’s Legal Centre Trust 

This is an organisation that specifically offers legal assistance to protect and advance women’s human rights.

These are their contact details:

Helpdesk Queries: [email protected]

Telephone: Cape Town: 021 424 5660

Answered on Oct. 27, 2020, 11:30 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.