Problem Building Unit making strides

28 Jul 2023 in Where We Govern

In the last 12 months, the specialised Law Enforcement unit has had some progress in its fight against problem buildings, with 48 new problem buildings declared, an average of 236 active cases in various stages of investigation, and initiating legal proceedings against 28 property owners. Read more below:

The City’s Problem Building Unit enforces the Problem Property By-law 2020 to identify, react to complaints and manage dilapidated and potential problem buildings.

Staff attached to the unit are guided by the by-law on how to deal with potential problem buildings.

Generally, a compliance notice is issued first and if the owner is non-responsive, further action is taken, including declaring a problem building, instituting a tariff which is charged to the owner’s municipal account or legal action to compel the owner to act.

‘Problem buildings are a challenge, not just in our city, but globally. We first introduced our Problem Building By-law just over a decade ago, and the amendments that were passed in 2020 have given our staff some more room to manoeuvre. Thanks to the amendments,  as well as an increase in the staff complement, and greater public awareness, we are starting to see some encouraging results,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

During the 2021/22 financial year, the PBU tariffed 336 properties, closed 77 cases, had an average caseload of 438 and declared 21 problem buildings.

By comparison, in the 2022/23 financial year, the unit tariffed 334 properties, closed 293 cases and had an average caseload of 236. During this period, they declared 48 problem buildings.

Among the notable successes were the sale in execution of a problem property in Steenberg, and the appointment of an administrator for a property in Hanover Park.

‘Ongoing challenges include properties that have been abandoned by the owners, deceased estates and properties that have become subject to illegal occupation. The amended by-law does however make provision for officers to approach the High Court for a possible evacuation, eviction or administrator order. I do want to remind the public that these matters take time, and that staff have to act in accordance with the by-law. However, the sooner residents report potential problem buildings, the sooner our staff can act to limit the impact on the neighbourhood,’ added Alderman Smith.

Only once a neighbour or affected parties have officially lodged a complaint against the owner of a potential problem building, can Law Enforcement officers act and follow the process as regulated by the Problem Property By-law.

For detail on procedural and legislative rules pertaining to problem buildings, the by-law can be accessed here.

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