Future of Echo Road house in limbo

The City of Cape Town has declared the house a problem building.

The future of the ruined mansion in Echo Road is still uncertain.

The house poses a threat to health and safety and has long been a worry for neighbours, according to Fish Hoek Community Police Forum chairman, Andre Blom.

Vagrants have moved into the house several times over the years, stripping anything of value, and thick bushes have sprung up on the property, posing both a fire and security risk.

However, in recent weeks, an aggressive “tenant” and a fire scare proved the last straw for long-suffering neighbours.

Mr Blom said a homeless man who had been living in the house for some time had been trespassing on surrounding properties, helping himself to tap water and verbally abusing residents who dared to confront him about it.

The man made a fire inside the house, and the fire brigade had to be called out to stop it spreading to the dry bushes
on the property and from there to neighbouring homes.

Two neighbours opened cases of trespassing, and the man has since been arrested and denied bail as he has other outstanding warrants against him.

The man claimed the owner had given him permission to live there.

Fish Hoek police spokesman, Warrant Officer Peter Middeltonconfirmedthe arrest and said it was not the first time vagrants had occupied the house.

To prevent a repeat of recent events, the CPF has asked the owner to consider partially restoring the house to provide accommodation for local law enforcement officers.

That would keep unwanted “tenants” out and prevent vandalism, said Mr Blom.

After the fire scare, the City of Cape Town’s problem building unit cleared the bush from the property at the owner’s cost.

Nina van Deventer lives in a wooden house behind the problem property, and a staircase next to it is the only way to reach her home.

She said she felt unsafe using the stairs and was worried about the threat of fire.

She was one of the residents who reported the “tenant” for trespassing after he shouted at her after using a tap on her property.

She said it wasn’t the first time the man had been aggressive towards her, and she had seen him talking to himself often. She suspected he was on drugs.

Next-doorneighbour, Dominic Rayner, said the house had been in a state of disrepair at least since 2008 when he had moved into the area.

He said he had met the owner in 2009 during one of his infrequent visits and he had essentially “camped out” for a few days at a time
when he visited. Mr Rayner said the owner had told him he wanted to “fix up” the house and planned to live there
in the future, but he had made little effort to do that.

The house was structurally unsafe, he said, and posed a public danger. It also lowered property values in the area.

The owner of the property, who asked not to be named as he is elderly and in poor health, said the property had fallen into disrepair due to circumstances beyond his control.

He said he had bought the property 25 years ago with the intention of renovating the house for himself and his wife, who had since died.

He said he was not opposed to the house being used for temporary accommodation, but fixing it up would come at a cost.

He said he had not given the squatter permission to live there and had been to the police station to complete an affidavit stating that.

He said years ago, while renovating the property, he had been burgled twice, losing power tools and other valuable items. He said it had been a traumatic experience and he had suffered great financial losses.

He said he intended to renovate the house in the future so he could enjoy the view, the dolphins and the reflection of the moon on the water.

The City’s problem building unit confirmed it had removed vegetation from the property and said it was liaising with the owner and monitoring the situation.