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City of Cape Town must enforce its own by-laws on short-term lets

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Citizen action group claims holiday letting is out of control in Cape Town

Scores of long-term lease flats have been converted to holiday rentals by property owners in direct contravention of a 2015 city planning by-law, says Louisa Theart, spokeswoman for the citizen action group One Host One Home (Ohoh).

The Cape Town City Council, she says, is ignoring its own by-law banning holiday letting in apartment blocks by allowing illegal rogue “hotels” to operate despite formal complaints from ratepayers.

Permanent residents in apartment blocks in which holiday letting is undertaken illegally, she says, have their security compromised, their sense of community shattered by strangers, their costs for water and power rise, and they could be liable for increased insurance to cover the possibility of holidaymakers being injured in common areas.

Read: Moving from prevention to enforcement

          The City of Cape Town needs proof about rental contravention

Apartment blocks in which holiday letting is rife also do not have the high levels of fire and safety systems required for business premises, she says.

“Official complaints have been made to the council about the rising incidence of holiday letting businesses and absent owners letting properties for short stays. “Holiday letting in Cape Town is out of control. Cities around the world have introduced controls to protect the interests of permanent residents,” says Theart.

She says some elderly Cape Town residents are considering selling their apartments in blocks allowing extensive holiday letting.

Some owners of multiple apartments have rejected long-term rental leases in favour of holiday letting, electing to keep apartments empty rather than let them to Cape Town residents seeking permanent accommodation. This has forced some residents to move to other parts of the city where high demand for rented accommodation has driven up rentals to the point where they are barely affordable, says Theart.

“I challenge city officials to secure an apartment in the city or the Atlantic seaboard at an affordable monthly rental. Not only are ratepayers earning reasonable incomes forced to move further away from town, we are also unable to afford to buy an apartment in any of these areas.”

Theart says Ohoh supports the right of apartment owners who live permanently on site to let a room or rooms in their properties to holidaymakers and other guests. Holiday rentals can also provide income for people in disadvantaged communities.

“There are examples of acceptable types of controls implemented elsewhere in the world to better manage holiday letting. At the very least property owners who undertake holiday letting should register with the city and pay a fee. There should be a limit on the number of days an apartment owner can let rooms to holidaymakers. Property owners who transgress should be liable for heavy fines and banned from holiday letting for a lengthy period.”

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