Officials of the Court of First Instance inspecting a rental property of St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) on Sugar Mill Estate Road on Monday afternoon.
PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance paid a working visit to some ten rental properties across St. Maarten on Monday afternoon. The rental homes are among those rented by a group of 64 tenants of St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) who are seeking permission from the Court to withhold a maximum amount of 75 per cent of rent payments from their landlord to repair the hurricane damage to their dwellings.
In these summary proceedings, the tenants follow in the footsteps of 18 tenants of 14 SMHDF rental properties in Belvedere who, in September 2018, obtained the Court’s permission to use the maximum amount of 75 per cent of the arrears in rent or of current lease periods to repair damage to their dwellings.
The Judge attached to this ruling the condition that tenants first pay 25 per cent of the arrears or 25 per cent of the current lease period to their landlord, within 14 days. SMHDF was ordered to allow the scheme and had to pay the legal fees attached to the procedure.
Similar to the Belvedere tenants’ complaint, the litigants in the injunction, which was heard by the Court on July 26, claim that their landlord failed to repair their homes since the passing of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
The Judge had initially set the date for a ruling on August 16, but decided to inspect the state of disrepair of some of the homes with his own eyes during a viewing, which took place Monday.
Represented by attorney-at-law Azaria de Groot, the tenants claim their homes are hardly suitable for habitation. The houses have holes in their roofs, windows and doors are broken, walls and ceilings are torn, doors are missing or are rickety, electrical wiring does not function properly, ceilings are partly missing, and so on.
As a result of these very serious defects, there is considerable water damage that continues to worsen when it rains, which causes mould formation.
De Groot had called on the Judge to set a deadline for the Housing Foundation to fix the problems and reduce the rent.
SMHDF’s lawyer Caroline van Hees had said the claims should be rejected. She said last year’s case, in which the Foundation filed for appeal, is “deadlocked,” as the dwellings have not yet been repaired and the tenants do not give the Foundation permission to enter their homes.
“SMHDF fears the same deadlock in this case. We want to arrive at a solution, but the damage and backlog in rent payments need to be established in each individual case. The Foundation fears increasing financial difficulties when the rent is to be reduced,” she explained to the Court during the July hearing.
SMHDF, which manages 747 social housing units in St. Maarten, is contesting that all 64 homes are so severely damaged that this would justify a further reduction of the already reduced rent amount for social housing, which would lead to a loss of NAf. 270,000 in six months’ time. It is not yet known when the Court will present a decision in this case.
LINK ORIGINAL: The Daily Herald