When the University of the Free State student, Tshepo Makhosane, was handed a pamphlet on accommodation while on campus, the last thing he expected was to get swindled out of his money.
“I had seen their pamphlets around campus before, so I thought that they were a legit agency. So I took a chance on them because when you are not from Bloemfontein and you are struggling to find accommodation, you get desperate,” Makhosane said.
He said he and his parents read the contract and it was fairly standard. They signed it and he was given accommodation. “I’m still living at the place, however, the agency had a squabble with the landlord and the landlord then took back the place. He was never told that some students had paid ahead, so he only received our deposits.”
According to Makhosane this came to his attention when the landlord sold the house to another person. “I approached the new owner to inform him that my parents had paid one month’s rent in advance. The new landlord did not know anything about and I contacted the previous landlord, who also said he knew nothing about it and told me I should speak to Mangaung Student Accommodation about getting my money back.”
The following day he went to their offices, only to find that the agency had disappeared. “I went to their offices to look for Miss Lauren Tobias to ask for a reimbursement so that I could pay my landlord and prevent my possible eviction but upon arrival, I was told she and her partner had left and the company was allegedly bankrupt and owed a lot of people money,” he added.
Bloemfontein Courant went looking for Lauren Tobias, who has opened a new accommodation agency called Mangaung Metro Student Accommodation, without her previous partner. She declined to comment on the matter saying that only the Director of Mangaung Student Accommodation could comment. She added that she had no way of contacting him, nor did she know where he was.
Makhosane tried to open a case with the police, but was advised to rather approach the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT). He hopes that this will raise awareness and prevent other students from getting duped by them. – Seithati Semenokane