Burnt-out eyesore a haven for rats

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ST Metro Watch Orange Ihsaan Haffejee PESTS PARADISE: This property in Orange Grove burnt down years ago, and is now inhabited by squatters. The owner says he cant fix it, so a neighbour is taking him and the City of Joburg to court. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

A FRUSTRATED Orange Grove resident has launched a court action against the City of Joburg and the owner of a derelict property to force them to adhere to the by-laws.

Frank Poretti is taking legal action against the council for dereliction of duty in enforcing its by-laws, and against the owner for failing to maintain his property.

“Our house overlooks the property and we cannot take it any more. The city does nothing and the owner refuses to clean up the stand.

“The case was set down for June 11, but was postponed by other parties, but we will fight it to the bitter end,” he said.

The property is owned by Gerald Rubin, who has left a burnt-out shell of a house on an unfenced stand. Vagrants have moved in.

Another neighbour, Robyn Cohen, said: “Squatters have taken over the stand. It is a continuing health and crime hazard. The owner is fully aware of the problem, but continues to take no responsibility. My tenants have had their third robbery this year.

“I have been dealing with various members of the council for six months and other neighbours have been dealing with the council for four years.”

The council’s environmental health department did a clean-up at the owner’s expense earlier this year, but soon the situation started deteriorating again.

“I am at the end of my tether after repeated attempts to deal with the various members of the council. The owner has many other properties.

“Surely he can demolish the brick structure that has been left after the fire, and put a wall around it?” she said.

The stench of urine, excrement and rotting refuse is unbearable, as is the smoke from fires burning constantly.

The property is also being used as a general dump site where people dispose of building rubble and garden refuse.

“There is an infestation of rats, the likes of which we have not see anywhere in more than 40 years of living here. It is scary and dangerous. The nightly noise of drunken and very vocal arguments involving these vagrants, especially on the weekends, is extremely aggravating,” said Cohen.

Complaining to the police is futile, as the vagrants are back within an hour of police raiding the property.

The Orange Grove Residents Association is trying to help, but it also gets no results from either the City of Joburg or the owner.

Deputy chairwoman Audrey Darrington said they had been dealing with this issue for many months.

“The owner is a business owner, and lessor of other properties in the area around, and is crying poverty.

“But it is really his responsibility to do the clean-up and the demolition,” she said.

Rubin told Metrowatch that he had no money to develop the property.

“I have applied to many banks, but they are just not financing residential developments. I cannot put businesses there as it is not zoned as commercial. What do the neighbours expect me to do if I don’t have cash and the banks won’t help? There is nothing I can do,” he said, admitting that the council had cleaned up his property in March.

The council did not respond to questions from Metrowatch.


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