THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) says it has started repossessing several properties, mostly residential, deemed to have been abandoned after having gone for five years without any bill payments.

Town clerk Christopher Dube told Southern Eye that the properties would be sold after a month unless their owners show up and settle all outstanding payments to council.

“We are saying you have not been paying for the past five years, which means you have abandoned the property, or that land. We want the owners to claim those properties and if they don’t in the next 30 days, we will be left with no option but to take those (properties) to the sheriff for sale so that we recover the monies due,” he said.

According to a notice issued by Dube yesterday, hundreds of properties in the city are due for repossession by the local authority after being condemned as abandoned, with the owners nowhere to be found.

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In the notice, he said failure to claim the properties would result in council disposing of the said properties in terms of section 5 of the Titles Registration and Derelict Lands Act, Chapter 20:20, which reads: “Whenever there remains due and unpaid for the space of five years any rate or assessment payable to any municipality or other public body upon any immovable property in Zimbabwe and such property is abandoned, deserted and left derelict, and the owner thereof cannot be found, it shall be lawful for the person or body claiming such rate or assessment to apply to the High Court, stating the amount claimed to be due and the grounds for applying for relief under this Act.”

Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu said council is allowed by constitutional provisions to seize derelict properties.

“Yes, I know there are some provisions that allow the council to seize some derelict properties,” he said.

BCC is owed several millions of dollars in unpaid rates by ratepayers with government also being one of the debtors.

A harsh economic climate characterised by skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services has further incapacitated ratepayers’ ability to pay their tariffs, but the local authority has indicated that it has no option, but to increase rates by about 700% in the next four months — if approved by the parent Local Government ministry.