‘Ghost house’ haunts suburb

Junk-collecting homeowner has yet another ramshackle property in same plush neighbourhood

A Summerstrand homeowner who has infuriated his neighbours with his shabby house, has caused equal angst elsewhere in the plush suburb with a second property that is just as decrepit and junk-filled as the first.
This second property – which like the one in Avonmouth Crescent has been deteriorating for years – has even earned the moniker of spookhuis (ghost house) from neighbours because of its ramshackle appearance.
And its part-time tenant – who admits it is jam-packed with clutter, bar the two rooms he occupies – takes a certain delight in being known as the resident spook, scaring off curious onlookers who tend to get too close to the eerie house at night.
Pensioner John Sponneck made Weekend Post headlines last week after neighbours – fed up with the decaying and messy state of his Avonmouth Crescent residence – reported the shoddy home to ward 2 councillor Dean Biddulph and the municipality.
It prompted a flurry of letters from readers about their own experiences with Sponneck’s properties.
Now it has emerged that Sponneck’s second Summerstrand home is also cluttered and in a state of disrepair.
On the corner of Maritz Street and Bulbring Road, the Spanish-style house – like the Avonmouth Crescent property – is scarred with faded paint, broken windows and chipped door frames which are hidden behind a 1.5m mountain of junk.
Neighbouring residents here have also raised concerns about stagnating property prices in the area, fire hazards and their security fears as they say the neglected residence is attracting criminal elements.
Maritz Street resident Leon van Rensburg, who has been living diagonally across the house since 2015, said he had sent several e-mails to Biddulph’s office since 2016.
And while Van Rensburg said Sponneck was fined, no effort was made from his side to improve the situation.
Both double-storey homes are littered with everything from tables and chairs to pallets and pots scattered in and around the properties.
The polite young Gelvandale-born shoemaker – who occasionally resides in the Maritz Street home and preferred to remain anonymous – said he has been renting sporadically from Sponneck for the past five years.
The 25-year-old said people regularly came to the Maritz Street house, particularly at night, to inspect the premises which, he said, are filled to the roof with objects, aside from the two rooms upstairs where he lives.
“People come to the house at all hours, most of them just curious. Others think there is a spook. Sometimes I hear them at night as they come into the property. Then, as I’m walking to confront them because it is a private property, they run off screaming,” he said.
“You can actually hear the cars speeding down Maritz Street. But sometimes there are also vandals and criminals who break in because there is a lot of stuff in that house. The whole bottom floor is full, so they take what they want.”
The tenant said while Sponneck was a good man who often helped him with a place to stay in the house at a cheap rate, he understood the neighbours’ grievances.
Another Maritz Street resident, Dr Lucas Claasen, 85, said he had been pleading with Sponneck to maintain the property since he moved into his own home across the road three decades ago.
“It’s been 30 years – my property value has been severely affected. Who is going to want to move in across the road from that house?
“I spoke to John about it, but he always has an excuse or promises to do it another time,” Claasen said.
“I am at my wits’ end and more recently we have been experiencing crime as a result of the house attracting vagrants and criminals interested in what they could possibly find of value among the junk. And if they don’t find anything, they hit our houses.
“It is the security issue which is the most pertinent at the moment. And it is such a pity because it is a beautiful home with four bedrooms upstairs and the entire bottom floor for entertainment.
“But instead of improving the value of the surrounding properties, it’s depreciating everything. Particularly the value of my house, which I will have revalued in 2019 for 20% less.”
Sponneck, who last week promised his Avonmouth Crescent home would be cleared of all the junk this week and invited Weekend Post to inspect the property, had failed to do so by Friday.
This was despite Bay resident Tommy Kapp offering to purchase several of the cars on the property following last week’s article.
“I called him about buying the cars, but he was not interested. He said, ‘no, nothing in my yard is for sale’,” Kapp said.
Asked if Weekend Post was still welcome to inspect the Avonmouth Crescent property, Sponneck said: “The invite was only offered on the basis that you postponed the article to give me time to clean.”
Asked about the Maritz Street home, he said: “You have no idea what we have been through. You just go ahead and do what you want to do. I understand people are upset, but if I’m given two weeks, I will try to sort out both properties – but definitely the [Maritz Street] one.
“I am in the process of clearing the front stoep which should be done by tonight [Friday]. And the grass will be cut tomorrow [Saturday].”
Van Rensburg said Sponneck continuously vowed to clean the Maritz Street property, but to no avail.
He said his concern was primarily safety.
“My daughter’s window faces the house and she tells me that people come and go often, particularly at night. I don’t know whether it is criminal or drug-related activity – or maybe people coming for a thrill at the spookhuis.
“But all of the activity would be avoided if he would just clean up the house. With John bringing more and more things to the second house, it is presenting an increasing risk for all of us living in the vicinity.”
Biddulph said Sponneck had a history of neglect of his properties. He added that despite his best efforts, the municipality had “displayed a remarkable lack of appetite to deal strongly with these issues”.
“I have tried for several years to get the Maritz Street matter resolved, right down to requests for a demolition order.”
Biddulph said other than requests for compliance inspections by municipal fire and safety officials, the building inspectorate and public health, little else could be done from the ward office side.
“Affected residents are not prevented from pursuing civil action against a private property owner if they feel their property values have been negatively affected,” Biddulph said.
Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki failed to respond to questions by the time of going to print.

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