Western Cape Cape Town tourism Skyline tenant Pol osei gabriella johnson load shedding

The City of Cape Town said its water and sanitation services could be impacted by load shedding. Photo: Pixabay

Tenant rejects estate agent’s apology, intends to approach equality court after racial discrimination by landlord

A Cape Town real estate agent apologised for complying with a landlord’s demand to not accept black tenants. The tenant, however, said the agent did not apologise to him directly.

Western Cape Cape Town tourism Skyline tenant Pol osei gabriella johnson load shedding

The City of Cape Town said its water and sanitation services could be impacted by load shedding. Photo: Pixabay

A pair of Cape Town real estate companies cut ties with a property owner on Tuesday, 19 October, after a prospective tenant exposed the individual’s discriminatory preferences. The real estate agent, who told the tenant that the client would not allow him to live in their property because of his race, has been suspended by her current employer.

TENANT REJECTED BECAUSE OF RACE

Pol Osei, 26, contacted an estate agent named Gabriella Johnson on Monday afternoon, 18 October, and enquired about a rental property in the Cape Town CBD.

As previously reported by The South African, the fully furnished two-bedroom apartment was listed for R17 000 per month and was available for a 12 month period.

On Tuesday, Osei sent follow-up messages to Johnson and asked if he could view the property. She replied, “The client is race specific. I would love for you to rent but she’s very tricky.”

Osei pointed out that the landlord was being racist and their preferences were unconstitutional.

Johnson blithely dismissed the concerns the tenant raised and told him to find another apartment to lease.

“I decided to publish the conversation when I’d shared the screenshots on a group chat with my friends where we were all horrified by the blatant violation of the Constitution and Rental Housing Act and Johnson’s deliberate disregard,” said Osei to The South African.

ESTATE AGENCIES RESPOND

Since Osei publicised the conversation between himself and Johnson, her current employer Live Real Estate, and former employer,  Tyson Properties have both issued statements.

Live Real Estate initially said they terminated the contract with the property owner in question and Johnson was suspended with immediate effect pending an internal investigation.“…we strongly do not condone this behaviour as this goes against what we stand for, not only as a company but as South Africans,” said the estate agency in a statement on Tuesday, which has since been deleted from Instagram.

On Wednesday afternoon, the estate agency issued another statement and said that they did not have a contract with the landlord as the property was listed with Johnson’s previous employer. The company’s CEO Brendan Miller said Johnson joined the agency 48 hours before the incident took place and was yet to complete in house training.

“She will most likely be dismissed at the earliest opportunity, pending her internal hearing,” said Miller. “We are guided by the relevant labour laws.”

Miller added that his real estate agency is working “on guidelines for other agencies to help guide them on how to deal with landlords that are race specific” – using the same euphemism that Johnson did in her correspondence with Osei.

Tyson Properties, the real estate company that was handling the listing of the property at the time when Osei contacted Johnson, confirmed that they have cut ties with the property owner.

“We refuse to work with racist landlords and after being made aware of this situation, we immediately removed this property from our listings,” said the directors of Tyson Properties in a statement on Wednesday, 20 October.

According to Tyson Properties, Gabriella Johnson resigned from the group and left Tyson Properties a week ago, following a disciplinary hearing. “She was allegedly in process of handing over all of her property listings to the new team allocated in the area.”

The property group said Johnson was meant to send any new enquiries about properties to the team taking over her duties and that she falsely responded to Osei as though she was still employed by Tyson Properties.

The property group said they are engaging with their legal team on the matter.

APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED

Gabriella Johnson said that she should not have accepted the landlord’s demand to not accept black tenants and apologised unreservedly.

“It was my duty to call it out which I neglected to do. It was my oversight for which I take full responsibility and accountability. I trust that you will accept my sincere apology. I promise this is not who I am. I should have known better and pledge to do better,” said Johnson in an apology directed to Osei.

I wish to apologise unreservedly for acceding to my clients demand not to accept black tenants to rent their property.

In hindsight, I should have objected to this request as it goes against my own values, the principles of the company I represent and our constitution.

It is non other than crude racism which I detest. It was my duty to call it out which I neglected to do. It was my oversight for which I take full responsibility and accountability.

I trust that you will accept my sincere apology. I promise this is not who I am. I should have known better and pledge to do better.

Gabriella Johnson, Facebook

The tenant, however, said he received no direct communication from Johnson and found her apology wanting.

“After personally receiving no apology or statement from Gabriella, I read it in the news like everybody and I have wholly and swiftly rejected it, like she did me when I asked to arrange a viewing,” said Osei to The South African.

“The text messages she wrote me and the statement she issued to the media are like the two poles of the Earth: Cold, devoid of emotion and total opposites to each other.”

Osei said he intends to approach the Western Cape Housing Tribunal, the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EABB) and the Equality Court.