Municipality makes plans to curb illegal communes

Municipal by-laws stipulate not more than two people may live in a room.

BARRY HERTZOG PARK – Despite ultimatums served on owners of communal homes in Barry Hertzog Park, they continue operating.

However, Director of Town Planning, Ntsiki Khathide, said the municipality was not going to ignore the issue and would find a resolution.

“Town Planning officials are doing random site inspections in the area, to identify more illegal conversions of dwelling houses to student residents.”

She said any person who used land for purposes not zoned for, and without municipal authorisation, was guilty of an offence.

“If convicted by the court, a property owner is liable to a fine not exceeding R1 000 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or to both such a fine and such imprisonment,” she said.

Municipal bylaws are apparently in the process of being amended, with the possibility of spot fines.

“That is how serious matters of land use transgressions are. It is a pity people are not taking it up seriously. But they will face the full might of the law!” Ms Khathide exclaimed.

She said caution had to be exercised when dealing with the problem of communal homes.

“The municipality is not evicting tenants or students. Our obligation is towards the owner of the property who holds the full title to the property and receives municipal services for dwelling purposes only. Therefore, it is no intention of this municipality to evict people or students. We want the owner of the property to comply with the law.”

The municipality has begun serving contravention notices to those who do not adhere to the town planning scheme.

“Once the municipality is satisfied that it has gathered all the evidence to present to court, it will approach the High Court for the conviction of people, who may not only be liable for fines or spend time in jail, but may also have a criminal record listed against their names,” she continued.

Presently, a maximum of 12 tenants may live in a communal home zoned for dwelling purposes, but when the legal notices were handed out in January, there were 37 occupants in one of the houses.

Property owners who wish to accommodate more than 12 people, need to apply to the municipality for rezoning. Also, property owners who wish to have communal homes are encouraged to visit the Town Planning Directorate located in the new municipal tower block on the fourth floor, room number 419.

Currently, no more than two tenants may be accommodated in a room, which room shall have a minimum floor space of 12 square metres.

“First and foremost, when you consider doing alterations to your house or for the matter of using the premises other than accommodating your family, you need to consult with the town planners to get advice whether your intentions are permissible for that purpose,” Ms Khathide concluded.

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