Abandoned properties attract criminal elements

The house in Oberreuter Road, New Germany has been deserted for years and resident, Matthews Buthelezi said patrollers can not even gain access to it because of the dense bush surrounding it.

ABANDONED houses are not only an eyesore but have become havens for criminals and according to the municipality, it not always easy to intervene as those houses are private property.

There have been many reports of deserted houses in the Highway area with the latest complaint being a house in Oberreuter Road, New Germany which according to the residents has been deserted for years.

Resident and Pinetown CPF chairman, Matthews Buthelezi, said he was not aware of this house until late last year.

“As patrollers, we know houses like these are a problem as they draw bad elements into the community.

“This house has been stripped and now we cannot even gain access inside as there is dense bush surrounding it.”

ALSO READ: Escombe: Abandoned houses are havens for criminals

Buthelezi said besides the issue of criminals, the place is a health hazard and the neighbours will now have to deal with snakes and rats. “I am sure there are lots of them inside that bush,” said Buthelezi.

eThekwini head of communications, Tozi Mthethwa, said because the house is a private property, the onus lies with the property owner to protect the property or surrender it to council should they find it difficult to maintain and/or protect it.

“The municipality therefore does not have the power to act in the absence of an official letter, preferably endorsed by the court of law asking for the City to intervene.”

She said the complaints, generally reported to the municipality by members of the public with regards to abandoned properties are unhygienic conditions, overgrown grass, rodents, buildings in a state of disrepair, theft of water and electricity, offensive smell due to urine and human waste deposit, crime in the neighbourhood, sale of alcohol and drugs, unsightly building, and public disturbance.

“Closing down a building is the last resort once all legal avenues have been exhausted. From an economic and City regeneration point of view, buildings must contribute to the rates base of the City.

Mthethwa explained it is important to understand that each derelict building poses its own set of unique problems therefore different strategies are applied to address each case.

ALSO READ: Historic Kloof building is an eyesore

“Some derelict buildings are owned by people who live abroad, some are leased or sub-let to a number of tenants, some have been ‘hijacked’ and some are owned by people who are deceased. Therefore, the City cannot apply a blanket approach in dealing with some of these complex cases,” she said.

The municipality appealed to property owners to ensure their properties are well maintained as derelict buildings impact negatively on the surrounding neighbourhood.

Residents can also report any illegal activity to the South African Police Service and Metro Police. The 24-hour call centre number that they can contact is 031 361 0000 (Emergency Services, Metro Police, Fire and Disaster Management).

She added that in regards to environmental contraventions, the relevant unit has been tasked to investigate the matter further and serve the necessary notices.

 

 

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  AUTHOR
Sanelisiwe Tsinde
Journalist/Photographer

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