City of Cape Town clamps down on illegal extensions to houses

More than 100 property entrepreneurs in Dunoon face prosecution

Photo of double storey house

Dunoon property entrepreneurs are extending RDP houses for rental income. Photo: Peter Luhanga

By Peter Luhanga

8 May 2018

More than 100 owners of RDP houses in Dunoon face hefty fines or imprisonment after building on rooms to rent out without permission from city authorities.

The City of Cape Town has sent notices to the owners warning them they have breached the Municipal Planning By-law.

Several property entrepreneurs breached the by-laws by unlawfully carrying out extensive renovations to RDP houses, building several rooms off a single corridor with tenants sharing a bathroom, toilet and kitchen.

Building plans of these extended RDP houses, which have magnificent views of Table Mountain, were not submitted to the City’s sub-council in the area for approval.

Some of the renovated RDP houses overflow onto the pavement.

The wall of one house which was undergoing upgrades collapsed last year and a child was buried under broken cement bricks. Neighbours dug into the rubble with their bare hands and managed to pull out the child alive.

A 20-room extended RDP house can make as much as R40,000 a month for the owner.

Small rooms are rented out for between R1,800 and R2,000 per month.

Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Development Brett Herron said that after the collapse of the wall the Dunoon community and local councillors had asked the City to take action against property owners whose properties did not comply with the Municipal Planning By-law. “The City intensified its efforts in this area,” said Herron.

He said the City had identified 107 structures which posed a safety risk, to people living in the buildings, to neighbours or to people using the pavement or road.

“We have issued the notices to the owners of these buildings to remedy the situation.”

Herron said that the by-law and the zoning regulations made provision for the City to serve the owners with notices and instruct them to take the necessary action to remedy any public safety risk.

“We will, and must, in the interest of public safety, take action against those owners whose properties pose a safety risk,” he said.

Herron said the City had noticed an increase in the number of double-storey structures in Dunoon in the past 12 months.

Because of the demand for housing across Cape Town, entrepreneurs were increasingly converting buildings into rental units, Herron said. Those who wanted to do so should submit building plans to the City first.

One township entrepreneur, who did not want to be named, showed GroundUp the notice he was served by the City. He said his RDP house in Usasadza Street was extended before the by-law was promulgated in 2015.

According to the notice he was sent, in terms of the by-law he can be fined up to R800,000 or imprisoned for up to 20 years, or both.