GIVEN the demand for housing across Cape Town, property owners are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunity by converting buildings into rental units.

Renting out rooms has become a good business for many homeowners but the City of Cape Town is clamping down on all those who have built flats without permission from authorities. The city can take action against those property owners whose properties do not comply with the municipal planning by-law, irrespective of where such a property is located.

House owners could face hefty fines or imprisonment.

The city’s spokeswoman, Priya Reddy, said: “Those wanting to extend or renovate their properties should submit building plans to the city prior to doing so. Depending on the legislation used to establish the township, building plans for dwelling houses may not be required and the owner should, therefore, consult with the city planners. However, the use of the said property must also comply with the land use and zoning of the property.”

The by-law became effective on 1 July 2015.

“This is news to me,” said flat owner Bongani Matyobeni from Greenfields in Lwandle, who has had flats for the past 10 years.

“This is the first time I have heard of this. Why did they not come to us when we were starting to build many years ago? This municipality wants to see black people suffer.

“There are no jobs and these flats bring money for us.”

When asked about those who built their flats before 2015, Priya said: “Should the city become aware of a non-compliant building, the department of development management will take legal steps to ensure the safety of non-compliant structures.

“They will issue notices to the owners informing them of the violations of the municipal planning by-law, and how to rectify the situation to ensure that the building does not pose a safety risk.”