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Thursday Aug 30, 2012

Cape Town hauls property transgressors to court

Cape Town property owners who renovate their homes without securing permission are being hauled before the city's municipal courts and ordered to fork out thousands of rands in fines.

There were more than 100 planning cases before the municipal court in the past three months.

In some cases, property owners are paying R5 000 for failing to follow regulations.

And soon they will have no place to hide. The city is developing a plan, which includes aerial photography, which will make it almost impossible to build illegally.

During a recent mayoral committee meeting, JP Smith, maycommember for safety and security, said the city had "restored a degree of control" in bringing errant property owners to book.

It has long been an issue in several city suburbs, with several residents complaining their neighbours were going ahead with major renovations without submitting building plans.

Smith told the Cape Argus that more could be done to clamp down on this. New systems would start soon.

"The new systems which the city is putting in place, including the Integrated Planning Operational System with its aerial photography facility and the electronic plan submission, will make it easier for the city to monitor and manage contraventions.

"Applications will be able to be processed easily and quickly."

In other cases, residents had started operating businesses from their homes in the middle of a residential area. This was done even though their properties were not zoned for business use.

Smith said that in previous years "the public had been quite scathing" because of the large numbers of seemingly uncontrolled renovations. The increasing cases before the municipal court was a "positive indicator".

Penalties range from R200 for building without approved plans to R5 000.

Smith said the fines were set by the magistrate and the resident's financial situation was taken into account.

Offenders are fined if they ignore a city notice urging them to submit plans and then wait for approval. If they fail to do so, they are fined. If they still do not submit plans, property owners face criminal or civil action.

In Fresnaye, a property owner was fined R5 000 for conducting business from their home.

Another steep penalty was issued to a property owner in Table View. The resident, living along Raats Drive, was fined R5 000 for the same offence.

A similar case was finalised involing a Claremont property inLee Road.

In Tafelsig, a Mitchells Plain homeowner was fined R200 for unapproved renovations. For the same offence, a Strand resident, in Petunia Avenue, faced a R4 500 fine or three months imprisonment. The sentence was suspended for three years on condition the accused was not convicted of the same offence.

In Acre Road, Kensington, the joint owners of a home were fined R1 500, plus R300 for contempt of court.

All these cases were finalised in the municipal court between April and June this year.

Cape Argus


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