8 FEBRUARY 2015


 City’s Problem Building Unit cements its role, despite challenges


The City’s Problem Building Unit closed 277 cases and racked up tariffs of more than R700 000 against errant property owners in 2014, boasting better statistics in all categories compared with 2013. Read more below:

City Problem Buildings Media Release Pic 1 - 9Feb15City Problem Buildings Media Release Pic 2 - 9Feb15


The City of Cape Town’s Problem Building Unit is making steady progress in its efforts to tackle errant property owners, in spite of an ever growing case load.

The unit was established in 2010 to enforce the City’s Problem Building By-law ( which was enacted in the same year.

A problem building is defined as a building:

  • that appears to have been abandoned by the owner with or without the consequence that rates or other service charges are not being paid
  • that is derelict in appearance, overcrowded or is showing signs of becoming unhealthy, unsanitary, unsightly or objectionable
  • that is the subject of written complaints in respect of criminal activities, including drug dealing and prostitution
  • that is illegally occupied
  • where refuse or waste material is accumulated, dumped, stored or deposited with the exception of licensed waste disposal facilities
  • that is partially completed or structurally unsound and is a threat or danger to the safety of the general public

In 2014, the Problem Building Unit investigated more than 1 700 complaints received from members of the public. Below is a snapshot of year-on-year comparative statistics:


Category                            2014 2013
Complaints investigated 1 727 564
Compliance notices issued 593 111
Declared problem buildings 162 140
Cases closed 277 172
Declared problem buildings removed 129 0


‘There was a sharp increase in the number of complaints investigated because our staff have become more experienced in interpreting and enforcing the by-law and are also better equipped to trace property owners, which is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks in our efforts to enforce the by-law. We are required to first engage with a property owner and provide them an opportunity to comply before we can take further action, which is very difficult when you cannot track them down. Some also obtain legal representation, which just frustrates our efforts even more,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

The unit has also made great strides in improving its working relationship with other relevant City departments where their intervention is required. A number of property owners have been prosecuted to date in terms of the Environmental Health By-law, Fire and Life Safety By-law, the Credit Control and Debt Collection By-law, and for contravention of regulations relating to zoning and the Land Use Planning Ordinance. In 2014, the first prosecutions in terms of the Problem Building By-law were secured.

‘Going to court for the first time was very satisfying, but I am still concerned that the courts are too lenient on these offenders in spite of the misery that they pile on their neighbours and communities. Another thorn in our side is the lack of public knowledge about what constitutes a problem building. If your neighbour’s grass is unkempt, that hardly warrants a call to us, but probably just a friendly chat over the fence. We are duty-bound to investigate every complaint and with the case load the unit has to manage, we really do want to minimise unnecessary site visits,’ added Alderman Smith.

The by-law makes provision for offenders to fined up to R300 000 or imprisoned for up to three years, or both. They are also liable for the costs of rehabilitating their property. Furthermore, once a building or property has been declared in terms of the by-law, a monthly tariff of R5 000 is added to the rates and services account for the property in terms of Section 74 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act No. 32 of 2000. These tariffs amounted to R710 000 in 2014.

Issued by: Integrated Strategic Communication, Branding and Marketing Department, City of Cape Town

Media enquiries: Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 1311 or Cell: 083 675 3780, E-mail: (please always copy


The Muizenberg Improvement District have reported a number of bad buildings, including City owned properties, to Councillor Dave D’Alton and the City of Cape Town’s Problem Building Unit.