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The Problem Building Unit, tasked with enforcing the City’s Problem Building By-law, has spent more than R150 000 in the last year securing problem properties. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Problem Building Unit has spent just shy of R158 000 in the last year to secure, clean and erect problem building sign boards at 42 properties across the city.

Section 7 of the Problem Building By-law allows the unit to repair, renovate, repaint, alter, close, demolish and remove all refuse or secure any problem building, at the cost of the owner, should the owner fail to comply with instructions to do so themselves within a specific period.

The Unit has been implementing this section of the by-law since the budget became available to do so in mid-2015. It is also finalising plans for its first demolition of a private property in Somerset West that has been on the Problem Building list for a number of years.‘Problem buildings present a special kind of hell for the City, but also the neighbours. They drag down the overall tone of a neighbourhood and are very often associated with all manner of social ills, which no one wants in their backyard. Getting owners to do the right thing is a time-consuming and frustrating process, but we have to operate within the boundaries of the law.

‘This pending demolition is a milestone, but it has also been a while in the making. Hopefully we can use this experience as a ‘how-to’ to expedite future cases,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

In addition, the City is charging 45 property owners a monthly Problem Building Tariff, amounting to just over R400 000 a month which will be recovered by instituting debt collection proceedings in terms of the City’s Credit Control and Debt Collection By-law of 2006.

The City charges a step tariff, which means the amount increases the longer a property remains on the list of problem buildings, as outlined below:

· R5 000 per month for the first 1 – 6 months

· R10 000 per month for months 6 – 12

· R20 000 per month for months 12 – 18

· R25 000 per month for months 18 – 24

‘The step tariff is designed to encourage property owners to comply with notices issued and save themselves additional financial headaches. The monthly tariff is in addition to any costs incurred by us cleaning up after property owners,’ added Alderman Smith.

In the last financial year, the Unit was able to remove 421 properties from its list after the owners complied with notices issued. This accounts for about 15% of the unit’s total caseload.

The Unit is currently investigating nearly 2 400 cases, the majority of which are residential properties. Some of the biggest challenges include being unable to track down the owners of properties and deceased estates without an executor or where the owner did not leave a will.

‘We’re also seeing an increase in cases where an individual sub-lets a property to three or four families and keeps the rent without the owner’s consent or knowledge. In fact, many owners only cotton on to what’s happening when the problem building team approaches them. I encourage owners who do not reside at their properties to be aware of what’s happening and to visit their properties at least once a month, because in the end they are the ones who will have to deal with the fallout,’ said Alderman Smith.

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