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Abandoned house attracts criminals

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The house, which has been standing empty for several months already, has been totally vandalised and is in a dilapidated state.

NEGLECTED: An abandoned house in Herlear, believed to be owned by a national company, is causing a major headache for residents in the area. The house, which has been standing empty for several months already, has been totally vandalised and is in a dilapidated state. Picture: Danie van der Lith

AN ABANDONED house in Herlear, believed to be owned by a national company, is causing a major headache for residents in the area.

The house, which has been standing empty for several months already, has been totally vandalised and is in a dilapidated state. Fixtures and fittings – from pipes to electric cables – have been stolen, while the windows and doors have been smashed.

Residents in the area state that the house has become a haven for criminals and vagrants. “Crime, especially housebreakings, in the area has escalated in recent months with some houses being targeted repeatedly.”

The neglected appearance of the property is also affecting the value of surrounding properties, and residents are at their wits’ end.

Recently three cottages, dating back to the 1890s, owned by the Department of Public Works in Memorial Road were also left to become dilapidated ruins, attracting thieves and drug users.

Fires were made inside the cottages by people who had illegally occupied them and one of the buildings caught alight, resulting in the department barricading the properties. Nothing more, however, has been done with the structures.

Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said that abandoned properties were a problem for the municipality as the local authority’s hands were tied.

“Because they are privately owned, the municipality would not be in a position to know whether a property has been abandoned or not, unless we receive complaints.”

He added that unless the situation got so bad that it became a health risk for neighbouring properties, the municipality’s hands were tied. “There are various reasons why properties are abandoned, ranging from health and mental health issues, to divorces and financial problems.”

According to Matsie, there are a number of abandoned houses in the city, as well as commercial buildings and even plots.

“Often people use empty plots as a dumping ground and this becomes an issue for the municipality. The owners pay their rates so there is little the municipality can do in these instances.”