Owner locked in battle to remove tenants

A City of Cape Town notice confirms that 61 Essex Street has been declared a problem building by the Citys Problem Buildings Unit.

A Woodstock home has been slammed by the City of Cape Town’s Problem Buildings Unit, as “unhealthy, unsanitary and unsightly”.

Several notices have been served on the owner of the problem building telling him to clean up his act, but the City says he has ignored them.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the Problem Building Unit had inspected the property following complaints.

“The City received complaints that the property was derelict in appearance, showing signs of becoming unhealthy, unsanitary, unsightly or objectionable,” he said.

Locals fear the Essex Street house has become an overcrowded slum and a haven for crime.

Dilshaad Adams from Woodstock said the house has been in an “appalling state” for years, with a stench hanging over the place.

“Whenever you pass this house, it smells like rubbish and rotting food. There is dirt littered in front of house and that is even before you get inside the house. The house just looks like a mess and then you add concerns about overcrowding on top of it appearance,” she added.

“This used to be a beautiful house in the past and a really nice family was living in it. I can’t understand why it has been left to rot like this.”

She claimed a drug den had been located in the lane between Shoprite and the house.

“It just seems dodgy right now and not safe. This is not the kind of thing you want in your community, something that attracts the wrong sort of attention to your neighbourhood,” Ms Adams said.

Resident Roderick Lawson is also alarmed at the derelict state of the house.

“It never looked this ghastly before. It was once a beautiful family home,” he said.

Mr Smith said the owner of the house would now have to get a court order to evict the occupants.

As the owner has failed to comply with City notices, the problem building’s monthly tarriff of R5000 will now be added to the owner’s monthly rates and taxes.

The City could fix the property at the owner’s costs if he failed to comply with notices ordering him to take remedial action, said Mr Smith.

Sulaiman Harris looks after the house which is in his father’s name. He denied that he failed to complied with City notices.

“I have been doing everything I can. I have served these tenants with a notice, but they refuse to leave. The City can’t say I am not complying, “ he said.

The tenants had been offered the chance to leave the house without having to pay the rent they still owed. They should have been out of the house in July.

Mr Harris agreed that the house deserved to be declared a problem building as it had “become a risk”, but it wasn’t true that he wasn’t doing anything about it.

“I am battling. I don’t even live in the area, but I constantly get calls from people telling me what the problems are. That house is very unsightly and unhealthy, I can’t dispute that, because I agree,” Mr Harris said, adding that the occupants were “causing chaos” and making his life a misery.

“We will continue to make efforts to remove these people. We want them cleared out and we hope the necessary law enforcements departments will assist us.”

According to the Problem Buildings By-Law, an offence is being committed when a notice is not complied with or contravened. The owner can be fined up to R300 000 or jailed for up to three years or receive both a fine and jail time. For further fines or imprisonment can be imposed for a continuing offence.

Ward councillor, Dave Bryant said several problem buildings in the Woodstock and Salt River areas were havens for crime.

“We have already addressed many notorious buildings in the CBD which has led to a significant reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour in these areas.

“We will not allow absentee property owners and slumlords to degrade our neighbourhoods,” Mr Bryant said.

South African Board for Sheriffs executive manager Sharon Snell said a court had to consider a tenant’s personal circumstances and the merits of the landlord’s application before granting an eviction order.

“Once a court order is obtained, this is given to the sheriff of the court, where the property is situated and the sheriff will evict the tenant. Normally a court order will not provide for the storage of the tenants’ goods and the sheriff will leave the goods on the pavement. If there is provision in the court order that the sheriff stores goods, then she will create an inventory and transport the goods to her storage facility,” she said.