City of Cape Town issues a R1 million penalty for unauthorised apartment building

The City of Cape Town has announced a record penalty against a housing developer. Picture: screenshot/CoCT

The City of Cape Town has announced a record penalty against a housing developer. Picture: screenshot/CoCT

Published Jun 11, 2024


Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, has announced that he will be upholding the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal’s decision to impose a record R1 million penalty for unauthorised building work.

The City of Cape Town said the penalty relates to a developer building a 22-unit apartment where only a single dwelling is permitted in Oakdale, Bellville.

“In upholding this record penalty, we send a clear message that in Cape Town, we are working to build a society based on the rule of law and that the flagrant disregard of building and planning regulations cannot be tolerated. The law is not only for some, it is for all,” Hill-Lewis said.

The building includes two storeys of apartments, covered parking and a refuse room.

The City said the building encroaches on neighbouring properties and the site is currently zoned for a Single Residential 1 (SR1), which permits only a single residence and related buildings covering not more than 50% of the site.

The City ordered the developer to stop construction in September 2022. However, the developer continued building but has also leased out the apartment block.

“Occupation of such a building poses a safety risk to tenants without the necessary safety and building plan approvals, land use rights, and occupation certification.Following a letter of demand by the City’s lawyers in December 2022, the developer agreed to ensure the vacating of all tenants but by March 2023, it was clear there was no serious intention in this regard,” the City said.

It approached the Western Cape High Court for relief in May 2023 and successfully obtained an order in October 2023 declaring the building and its occupation unlawful.

The developer was ordered to apply for a penalty determination and to comply with all lawful development processes for this site.

“Given the flagrant non-compliance and scope of unauthorised building work, the Municipal Planning Tribunal handed down a R1 million admin penalty. The developer’s appeal was considered by the Planning Appeals Advisory Panel, with the Mayor accepting the panel’s recommendation to uphold the penalty amount in his capacity as final appeal authority.

“In his appeal outcome report, Mayor Hill-Lewis stated he was satisfied that the administrative penalty is reasonable given the ‘gravity and extent’ of the contravention. Further, the developer could not reasonably claim to have been ill-advised by professionals, given that they had committed similar contraventions in 2021 relating to the construction of 14 apartments at two different erven elsewhere in Bellville,” the City said.

The appeal outcome was issued on May 27, and the developer has 20 calendar days to pay the penalty per the order by the high court.

The developer must comply with all lawful processes regarding the unauthorised building under the City’s Development Management Scheme. Should the criteria to regularise the building work not be met, this may result in the City approaching the court for a demolition order.

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