In 2018, Johanna Mamaila’s story made headlines across South Africa: the 50-year-old, who was living in an informal settlement in Mamelodi, was excited to move into her new RDP house. However, her dream soon turned into a nightmare when she discovered the house had also been bought by two other people. It soon came to light that Mamaila was scammed by a fraudulent property company, and it cost her R185 000.

Sadly, RDP housing scams are a growing trend in South Africa, and Mamaila is just one of thousands of innocent people who are being taken advantage of.

The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was launched to better the lives of previously disadvantaged people by allocating tax money for housing development projects. It’s an initiative that seeks to help South Africans who were displaced during apartheid and force to live in townships on the outskirts of towns and cities. According to The Department of Housing, three million RDP houses have been built and delivered benefitting about 20 million people.

Of course, there is still a long road ahead and the scams together with logistical issues faced by the Government means more people are vulnerable to being conned. In Gauteng alone, it’s reported that there are over 500 000 units on the housing backlog and 30 000 cases of illegally sold RDP houses (the MEC for Housing also maintained that these figures are growing every year).

Essentially, scammers and criminals take advantage of the people desperate for houses and post fake internet advertisements selling RDP houses. What’s more, because those who receive RDP houses do not obtain title deeds immediately (this can take years), they are at risk of falling for a title deed scam. In 2018, the City of Ekurhuleni had to warn residents about an ongoing title deeds scam, which saw victims paying around R1600 for fake documents.

What to know about buying an RDP house:

  • In the event that you are offered an RDP house without the seller having the necessary documentation (title deed & permission), you should also report them to their local Housing Department and the Police.
  • Remember, someone wanting to sell their RDP home cannot do so in the first 8 years of occupancy, after which it must be offered to the State first
  • The seller must have written consent from the Department of Housing
  • Once a house is sold, a letter of authority from the deeds office must be attached to the sale agreement
  • There is no charge for title deeds.

If you suspect you are being scammed, you can contact the Department of Human Settlements:

  • Housing enquiries – toll free Customer service hotline – 0800 146 873 / 012 421 1915
  • Fraud hotline – 0800 204401

Of course, you can also approach the police, and open a criminal case.

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