By-law to give officials necessary clout

Draft Problem Building By-law expected to change the way officials deal with derelict buildings and landlords.

Nelson Mandela Bay. File picture
Nelson Mandela Bay. File picture
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The Problem Building By-law – soon to be tabled in council – will give municipal officials powers to shut down and even seize properties.

The draft Problem Building By-law, sent out for public comment last year, is expected to change the way officials deal with derelict buildings and landlords.

According to municipal officials, the by-law is expected to be tabled next month.

During a meeting earlier this month, human settlements committee chairman Nqaba Bhanga explained that until now the metro had had no official law that allowed it to force owners to revamp buildings.

Bhanga said for years officials had been using several other building-related laws to hold landlords accountable.

The new law, however, will not only affect derelict buildings, but also overgrown open plots and overcrowded accommodation .

The law will also give police the power to lodge a complaint with the municipal directorate.

Bhanga said an official could give written notices to errant owners of derelict buildings.

The municipality can order the owner to clean, repair, renovate, repaint, alter, close, demolish or secure problem buildings.

The by-law also states that offences and penalties could see the landlord liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.

In addition, the landlord would be liable for all costs incurred by the municipality, including legal costs Property owner Ken Denton said he had not read the bylaw but welcomed any change that would speed up the renovation of buildings.

“Anything to address rundown buildings is a good move. In essence, none of us wants buildings standing empty.

A building can be declared a problem building if:

  • It appears to be abandoned by the owner;
  • Does not comply with existing legislation;
  • Has no or limited use of lifts in the building;
  • Is overcrowded;
  •  Is unhealthy, unsanitary or unsightly;
  • Has illegally connected electricity or watersupply;
  • Has no water, illegal connections to sewermains or has blocked sewer drains;
  • Constitutes a nuisance
  • Is used to dump rubbish;
  • Subject to complaints of criminal activities;
  • Is occupied illegally, structurally unsound orpartially completed.

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