31 july 2014 Investigating Law Enforcement Officer with the Problem Building Unit, Sean Newman, searches the once-majestic, now-in-ruins, mansion at 6 Bellona Street, Somerset West, a notorious "problem building".

Cape Town - Relieved neighbours of a notorious “problem building” in Somerset West watched on Friday as the City of Cape Town ordered an inspection of the allegedly crime-ridden site.

The city is preparing legal action against the property’s owner, who has allowed the former mansion to fall into disrepair.

The broken-down building was filled with filth - including human excrement. Locals alleged the house had been used by prostitutes, gangsters and homeless people.

In June 2011, the city announced it planned to legally attach the “problem” property - 6 Bellona Street in the Somerset West suburb of Bridgewater - after executing its first raid in a residential area under the new “problem buildings” by-law.

The property is potentially worth more than R2 million and measures around 3 500m2. It was once a magnificent home with outbuildings and lawns that rolled down to the banks of the Lourens River.

Three years later, the city says legal action is now finally imminent.

The city’s Sean Newman, who is an investigative law enforcement officer, photographed the site, for use in the upcoming court case.

Earlier this month, the city reported: “The property owner has ignored all notices issued to him.

The city’s legal department will now prepare the necessary documentation, following which the property owner will be summoned to appear in court.”

During a visit to the site in June 2011, the mayco member for safety and security JP Smith and senior officers pointed out how the mansion had been stripped of windows, floorboards, staircases and all fittings, and had been used by vagrants.

Neighbours recently expressed their anger and fear - telling of repeated thefts from their homes, by residents of the dilapidated building, and how their lives had been threatened when they tried to confront the residents.

Smith said the owner had hoped to develop the property, but had been declined permission.

He was now simply allowing the property to deteriorate - in contravention of the new “problem building” by-law.

Cape Argus