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HANDY MAC: Put brakes on fakediy

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Fraudulent contractor compliance certificates is latest scam in building industry

My life is pretty hectic at the moment. My company is repairing a badly fire-damaged guest house, a heritage building with a tight contract period, so I have decided to relocate to site and handle this one myself.

It is a great challenge and means my lifestyle has changed. To the office by 6am, on site at 10am, home by 5pm, cook for Mrs Mac and myself and then late into the night I’m on the computer to catch up on emails. But it is worth it to get back on to a site, feel cement, smell paint and get my hands dirty.

I will share some experiences in the months ahead as it will help me to try to get the project finished on time. This week I learnt more about health and safety than I thought was necessary, even on a small site.

Plus there are fire regulations that come into play if you own a guest house with an occupancy over a certain number. It has been exciting week. But then you get the other picture, of those continually letting the side down and breaking the law. I am dedicated to enforcing the use of only registered and compliant contractors.

The Building Industry Bargaining Council (BIBC) is doing its best to enforce the law to ensure workers get a fair deal. The latest scam is someone selling forged compliance certificates.

This is bad enough, but what really gets me is contractors buy these certificates. I am now losing faith in some fellow contractors. We all know the industry is struggling, but to be fraudulent is a step too far. If you are employing a builder please check with the BIBC to confirm legality. Don’t accept a certificate at face value.

Q and A

PROTECT THE PAST If you live in a heritage site, ensure you monitor construction in the area.
Picture: Agnieszka Kowalczyk

I have kept this question anonymous and not mentioned the name of the developer as it could get heated, but it is a pertinent question. Day after day, in email after email, I see evidence of haves getting away with “building murder” while honest law-abiding types commit minor transgressions and pay the penalty.

Q: Please advise who I can contact to report damage to a heritage building caused by illegal development work. I own a 121-year-old building with an IIIB grading in the Gardens.

There is an enormous development happening adjacent to the property, and today I confirmed that they unlawfully anchored steel nails several metres into the rear of my property, and plan to anchor further.

I have not given my consent for this work. My building has developed new cracks and my concern is there may be more serious damage that I am unaware of.

The two properties next door are also heritage buildings and neither owner has given consent. The same illegal anchoring has been done on their properties. Who can I contact to help in this matter of urgency?

A: Illegal building is on the rise and must be stopped before there is a building accident, poisoning by lack of control of dangerous materials in old buildings or the “good” being physically attacked by the “bad”.

I asked a professional colleague for advice about this. “Anyone can report a heritage crime. The provincial heritage resources authority is Heritage Western Cape (hwc.org.za) and the website’s main page has a form to report an alleged crime.

“If the development has been approved and HWC has issued a permit, the body is not responsible for monitoring the work. However, if there is a deviation from a plan approved by HWC, the case officer could follow up on that.

“A call to the local authority, and specifically the local area building inspector at the City of Cape Town, would be a good start, as they would know whether the required approvals are in place and whether all the paperwork was lodged. They can be asked to urgently inspect on site.

“The nature of the query regarding the anchors requires more details. Expecting authorities to act immediately is unwise. I suggest the writer engage a structural engineer or architect to view the issue and suggest what action should be taken.” 

Feedback

Be careful when switching on old appliances which have not been used for a while. Picture: Brett Sayles

Bob is back with answers for Jonathan’s questions about his kitchen light from two weeks ago: “Firstly, the filament went black because air leaked into the bulb.

If the replacement bulb does not light up, simply replace the lamp socket (switch off the power before replacement.) “Regarding the dead Betamax video machine – wow, that’s a really vintage machine. Dead video or electronic apparatus is much more easy to fix than half-dead apparatus.

“If Jonathan is in the Cape Town area he is welcome to call me or to bring his antique machine to me. It may be a silly quick fix job, and there will be no charge.

“Jonathan also asks about the safety aspects of switching on electrical items that have been stored for a long time. There should be no problem as long as the item has been stored in a dry and dust-free place.

“However, stored vintage wireless sets, or radios, from the 1920s to the 1960s will produce a loud hum after not being used for many years. This is because the internal smoothing condensers (capacitors) need replacement.

“My hobby is collecting and restoring early wireless sets and crystal sets, which I have been doing since the age of 10 and I am now just 85.” 

Tip of the week

Due to the important question this week, I am giving painting a miss, but will pass on a small, but efficient tip picked up by Mrs Mac. Last year we had a lot of comment on stopping pesky mosquitoes and, of course, they are back this year.

As I am on the window side of the bed I suffer the attacks while Mrs M sleeps peacefully beside me. Now she has done some research to help protect me. 

It’s dead simple and cheap: every night I put a tiny spot of Vicks VapoRub on my forehead and leave the tin open on the bedside table. Not a mosquito to be seen or heard.

If you have a question for Don, send it to don@macalister.co.za or SMS only to 0824463859. 

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