Mowbray residents have they say

Dr Elizabeth Baldwin, Dianne Beatty, Francois du Plessis, Lisa Espi, Pedro Espi-Sanchis, Paula Fitzhenry, Lionell Horn, Barbara James, Associate Professor Anthony Leiman, Dr Moira Niehaus, Provester 9cc, Cesar Soldenhoff, Dr Suthanada Sunassee, Lee-Ann Swanepoel, Dr Dale Taylor, Catherine Ward, and Dr Gina Ziervogel, Mowbray

With reference to the cover article in last week’s Tatler titled “Students parties are too loud” (June 16), we would like to take issue with the statements made by Mike Pelteret of A-M Squared which misrepresent our group, the Upper Mowbray Residents’ Group (UMRG), and distort the truth.

In their statements to the Tatler, A-M Squared attempts to paint a picture in which they are running their boarding houses in a law-abiding fashion while the residents are making unreasonable and irrational demands. The truth is that we have good relationships with a number of student households in our midst which are responsibly managed by their landlords with due respect for the law. Our objections (clearly stated in the article) are to infringements of the law and irresponsible management on the part of A-M Squared, to which we can provide substantive evidence.

A-M Squared claims that they abide by the zoning regulations in all their properties in this SR1 zone and further that they had plans approved before they embarked on building works on 9 Glencaird Road and 6 Salford Road to convert them into boarding houses.

However, available evidence shows that officials in both the Land Use and Building Inspectorates of the City of Cape Town judged their practices to be unlawful and served them with notices accordingly in the course of 2015. UCT did not withdraw their support because they were “pressurised” by our group but because they were advised to do so by their legal department.

A-M Squared are only now applying for permission to re-zone 9 Glencaird after having altered the house and run it as a boarding house; this is an example of their disregard for the regulations whereby they apply to legalise their operation after the fact and only when forced to do so.

Their claim that “the students do not even occupy the houses for more than three months a year” must be corrected. A new round of tenants is in occupation throughout each semester and the houses are occupied all year except for the weeks of the winter and summer vacations. We also refute the claim that the student tenants have been supervised, as this is not so. Their statement that, “The residents are always entitled to address concerns with the students directly or the SAPS to enforce bylaws” is a polite version of the treatment that they have been meting out to this neighbourhood for the three years that they have owned property here: illegal over-crowding of their properties leading to unbearable noise disturbance and other serious social disturbances, and denial of responsibility for the impact it has on the neighbours.

To A-M Squared’s claim that, “several neighbours immediately adjacent or opposite to these properties have no … complaints”, we would like to point out that this letter is signed by the occupants of 14 houses in this small enclave, all of whom have been directly affected by these illegal business operations, and there are more who have expressed support. Moreover, as objections to A-M Squared’s re-zoning application will show, we have the support of several organisations concerned for the threat to the area in terms of its status as a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone.

Elijah Moholola, UCT Communication and Marketing Department

The article titled “Student parties too loud” (Tatler, June 16) refers. The University of Cape Town was approached by a group of people residing in the area where the three privately-owned properties in question are situated.

They raised concerns over an alleged breach of regulations at the three properties and appealed to UCT to not facilitate the use of the accommodation in ways that contravene the zoning regulations.

UCT notes these concerns. UCT does not recommend accommodation to students when we are aware that such accommodation does not comply with regulations. This would include zoning regulations. No students have been placed in any of the houses in question for the forthcoming semester.

UCT issues a Code of Conduct to all students placed at the off-campus accommodation at the outset of their registration for the semester. The Policy of Conduct in Privately-Owned Accommodation states, among others, that a “student shall not make such noise that disturbs another person, be it a fellow housemate or a neighbour” and that “music and/or loud conversations should be toned down after 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends, out of consideration for neighbours and fellow housemates”.

The policy also states that a student “shall not organise or help to organise any gathering, function or party in any student house for financial benefit. Parties may not be held at the houses.”

The three houses in question have not been placed on UCT’s list of accommodation for Semester Study Abroad (SSA) students for the next semester. This was, however, due to the fact that the university has piloted the SSA booking portal for the first time in the current admission cycle. This portal seeks to provide accommodation for SSA students joining UCT for the second semester in 2016. Decisions around the continued use of the booking portal and the listing of properties in the future will be taken at a later stage. UCT is not the only institution to place SSA students in accommodation. The houses themselves are advertised online by the owners and SSA students may place themselves there – and UCT has no control over that. With the growing number of UCT students needing housing, it is possible that the houses would be used by students even if the university does not recommend them.