rates and taxes, Uncategorized

rates and taxes

Are you liable for historical arrear property rates on your property?
12 January 2015
Who is responsible for historical arrear property rates and taxes on your property? The good news is that the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred is liable. But did you know that a municipality can in some instances cause your property to be sold in execution for debts being owed by a previous owner?

Municipalities are obliged to collect charges that are payable to them for property rates and taxes and for the provision of municipal services. If you buy a house, the relevant municipality will – after the Seller has settled the required amount – issue a clearance certificate that certifies, amongst other things, that all debts have been settled in respect thereof for two years preceding the date of application for the certificate. Now the question arises: What about debts owed to the municipality that are older than two years?

The short answer is that of course the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred will be liable. Despite this reality, a threat exists to the new owner of the property based on the infamous section 118(3) of the Municipal Systems Act which provides a municipality with a lien over a property within its jurisdiction to secure payment of money due to it on that property.

What this means is that if there are monies owed to the municipality which relates to the property, the municipality can obtain a judgment against the person liable for the debt (remember it will be the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred), but because of section 118(3) the municipality will have the right to attach the property and cause it to be sold in execution to recover the money being owed. And this property may just be that dream house that was registered in your name not that long ago.

Our Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the transfer of ownership does not destroy the lien created by section 118(3) and the lien will in fact “follow the property”. The appalling result of this is that a new owner may be forced to have to save his property by paying the municipal debt of someone else. You can later try and recover the money from a previous owner, but this may be a futile exercise, leaving you even more out of pocket.

A notable exception to the above rule is where properties are purchased at execution sales where the municipality did not exercise its rights in terms of its lien. In such a case, our courts have recently ruled, the lien of a municipality over a property lapses. Accordingly, where a municipality is aware of the sale in execution of a property and it issues a clearance certificate without any objection or without exercising its rights in terms of section 118(3), the purchaser will acquire a clean title over the property.

Not all debt older than two years are recoverable by the municipality and it is necessary to distinguish between the following types of debt:  rates charges (taxes) and charges for electricity, water, gas and sewer and refuse charges. The reason for having to differentiate is because certain debts prescribe after three years in terms of the Prescription Act and are no longer enforceable.

Rates and taxes only prescribe after 30 years and electricity, water and gas charges after 3 years. It would seem that, at least at present, sewer and refuse charges also count as ‘rates and taxes’ and will thus only prescribe after 30 years.

If you are a potential buyer your must consult with your attorney who can assist you to include a relevant provision in the Deed of Sale that obliges the Seller to settle all debts due to the relevant municipality, and not just the debt incurred during the two years preceding the date of application for the clearance certificate.

As a Seller you would need to consult with your attorney to discuss any provision in the Deed of Sale which has the effect that you guarantee that all debts due to the municipality are settled.

Also estate agents should take note and ensure that their pro forma contracts cover this scenario and that they inform the parties of the effect of section 118(3) as discussed above.

The liability for old municipal debts against the property is a contentious issue and will evoke strong emotions from Sellers and Buyers alike. It is therefore critical that both parties carefully consider the wording of any Deed of Sale and where necessary discuss the situation with a property specialist before entering into any agreement.

Bouers/Ontwikkelaars, Uncategorized



Daar is vandag talle ongeregistreerde bouers en ontwikkelaars wat in die bedryf van die bou van huise is en dan is daar ook soveel huisverbruikers (hierna verwys as “die Verbruiker”) wat hulself bevind is ‘n posisie waar die bouer of ontwikkelaar van hul huis baie swak gehalte werk lewer. Hierdie artikel beoog om die regsposisie van die verbruiker sowel as die bouer/ontwikkelaar uiteen te sit in die volgende gevalle:

  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar is nie geregistreer by die NHBRC (hierna verwys as “die Raad”) nie en die gehalte van werk verrig deur die bouer/ontwikkelaar is baie swak en die verbruiker weier om te betaal vir die werk verrig;
  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar is nie geregistreer by the Raad nie en die gehalte van werk verrig deur die bouer/ontwikkelaar is inderdaad baie goed, maar die verbruiker weier om te betaal vir die werk verrig;
  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar maak ‘n eis aanhangig teen die verbruiker vir spesifieke nakoming of betaling van die bedrag uitstaande vir dienste gelewer of doen nie, maar die verbuiker loods ‘n aansoek teen die bouer/ontwikkelaar waarin die verbruiker die hof nader vir ‘n bevel wat verklaar dat die bouer/ontwikkelaar nie geregtig is op betaling nie en daarom ook nie geregtig is op enige vorm van retensiereg nie;
  • Die moontlike uitsondering(s) op die 3 gevalle hierbo uiteengesit.

Veronderstel die volgende feitestel as voorbeeld.  X, ‘n ontwikkelaar, sluit ‘n skriftelike bouooreenkoms (hierna verwys as “die ooreenkoms”) met verbruiker Y. X, ten tye van die sluit van die ooreenkoms met Y, is nie geregistreer as ‘n bouer by die Raad nie. X stel Y van die begin af mondelings in kennis dat hy nie geregistreer is as ‘n bouer by die Raad nie en Y blyk geen probleem daarmee te hê nie.  Die ooreenkoms dui verder aan dat X nie self die bouwerk in terme van die ooreenkoms gaan verrig nie, maar dat Z wel die bouwerk sal verrig.  X stel Y van die begin af mondelings in kennis dat Z wel ‘n bouer is wat geregistreer is by die Raad en Y blyk ook geen probleem daarmee te hê nie. Die ooreenkoms tussen X en Y dui aan dat die prys vir die bouwerke te verrig R 2 000 000.00 beloop.  Daar bestaan ‘n aparte ooreenkoms tussen X en Z, maar is dié ooreenkoms irrelevant vir doeleindes van die regsposisie tussen X en Y hierin.  Z begin Y se huis te bou.  X beoog om geen vorderingstrekkings te neem vanaf Y se bouverband tot en met Z ten minste 50% gevorder het met die bou van Y se huis nie en is dit ook so vervat in die ooreenkoms tussen X en Y.  Op ‘n stadium raporteer Z dat Y se huis 50% voltooi is en X stuur ‘n 50% vorderingstrekking aan Y om te teken sodat X dit by Y se bank kan indien vir ‘n vorderingsbetaling.  Y weier om te teken en meen skielik dat die gehalte van bouwerk inderdaad swak is. X meen dat die gehalte bouwerk uitstekend is en stel voor dat Y die Raad betrokke kry om verslag te lewer oor die gehalte van die bouwerk.  Y weier om die Raad betrokke te kry en stuur ‘n aanmaning aan X waarin hy vir X vra om sy erf te ontruim binne 7 (sewe) dae.  Y meen om ‘n nuwe bouer aan te stel om sy huis klaar te bou.  X reageer op Y se aanmaning en versoek betaling van R 1 000 000.00 vir die 50% vordering op Y se huis.  X noem ook verder dat hy ‘n retensiereg het oor die huis van Y en dat hy nie Y se erf sal ontruim tot en met betaling van        R 1 000 000.00 vanaf Y ontvang is nie.  Y weier om te betaal en loods ‘n aansoek waarin Y die hof versoek om te verklaar dat, aangesien X nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, X nie geregtig is op betaling nie and daarom ook nie oor ‘n retensiereg beskik nie. Y sluit ook ‘n bede in wat vereis dat X sy eiendom ontruim.  X staan Y se aansoek teen en meen dat hy wel geregtis is op betaling en daarom sy retensiereg kan uitoefen.  X vra dat die hof Y se aansoek van die hand wys met koste.

Die vraag ontstaan dan, wat is die regsposisie van X en Y onderskeidelik.

Uit die staanspoor is dit belangrik om te noem dat Y die sterkste regsposisie het in terme van artikel 10(1), (2), (6) & (7) van die  ‘ Housing Consumers Protection Measures – Wet, Wet 95 van 1998’ (hierna verwys as “die HCPM-Wet”) en die Grondwetlike Hof se uitspraak in Cool Ideas 1186 CC v Hubbard and Another (CCT 99/13) [2014] ZACC 16; 2014 (4) SA 474 (CC); 2014 (8) BCLR 869 (CC) (5 June 2014) (hierna verwys as “Cool Ideas”).  Die feitestel hierbo uiteengesit is soortgelyk aan die feite in die Cool Ideas-saak.  Daar is wel een uitsondering in die feitestel hierbo wat later hieronder verder bespreek sal word.

Die HCPM-Wet

Artikel 10(1), (2), (6) en (7) bepaal soos volg:
“10.     Registration of home builders.
(1)       No person shall—
(a)       carry on the business of a home builder; or
(b)        receive any consideration in terms of any agreement with a housing consumer in respect of the sale or construction of a home, unless that person is a registered home builder.
(2)        No home builder shall construct a home unless that home builder is a registered home builder.”

(6)        The Council may, in addition to any other category that the Council may deem appropriate, in the registration of home builders distinguish between—
(a)        home builders themselves having the capacity to undertake the physical construction of homes or to manage the process of the physical construction of homes; and
(b)        home builders who in the normal course need to enter into agreements with other home builders in order to procure the capacity referred to in paragraph (a).
(7)        A home builder registered in terms of subsection (6) (b) shall be obliged, for the purposes of the physical construction of homes, to appoint a home builder registered in terms of subsection (6) (a).

Die beginsels vervat in die Cool Ideas-saak

Volgens die meerderheidsuitspraak in Cool Ideas, gelei deur Majiedt WR, was dit die wetgewer se oogmerk om die huisverbruiker te beskerm toe die wetgewer die HCPM-Wet geskryf het.

Die Grondwetlike Hof in Cool Ideas was spesifiek getaak met die interpretasie van Artikel 10(1)(b) van die HCPM-Wet en met die opweging daarvan teenoor die reg om nie arbitrêr van eiendom ontneem te word nie soos vervat in Artikel 25 van ons Grondwet.

Die kwessies wat dus besleg moes word was:

  • die interpretasie van Artikel 10(1)(b) van die HCPM-Wet;
  • of Cool Ideas arbitrêr ontneem is van eiendom;
  • of die boukontrak geldig bly;
  • of billikheidsoorweegings van toepassing is;
  • ens..

Die meerderheidsuitspraak in Cool Ideas het bevestig dat die korrekte interpretasie van Artikel 10(1) van die HCPM-Wet is dat registrasie deur ‘n bouer by die Raad inderdaad ‘n voorvereiste is vir ‘n bouer om bouwerke te kan verrig of om die besigheid van bouwerke te bedryf.

Versuim om te registreer by die Raad diskwalifiseer die bouer om dan voortaan betaling te eis vir enige werk wat verrig is in terme van ‘n boukontrak.

Die Grondwetlike Hof was tevrede dat Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet ‘n regmatige en belangrike statutêre doel wil behaal en dat daar ‘n rationele en proporsionele verband is tussen die statutêre verbod/beperking en die doel daarvan.  Gevolglik is Artikel 10 nie arbitrêr van aard nie en dus geen oortreding van Artikel 25 van die Grondwet nie.

Die Grondwetlike hof het verder beslis dat, in die geval wat die bouer en die verbruiker in ‘n kontrak ingetree het en die bouer nie geregistreer was by die Raad nie, die kontrak wel geldig sal bly staan en nie ongeldig sal wees nie.  Aangesien die HCPM-Wet glad nie spesifieke voorsiening maak dat die kontrak ongeldig behoort te wees in so ‘n geval nie, word aanvaar dat die kontrak wel geldig bly staan maar in konteks van Artikel 10, net regtens uitvoerbaar sal wees vir die huisverbruiker en nie vir die ongeregistreerde bouer nie.  Die kontrak, ingevolge die HCPM-Wet, is wel onwettig en dra ‘n sanksie vir die bouer wat daarin getree het, maar die kontrak is nie ongeldig nie.  Die minderheidsuitspraak het wel hiermee verskil.

Gevolglik het die bouer geen reg om te eis vir enige werk wat gedoen is nie en as gevolg daarvan ook geen vorm van ‘n retensiereg teenoor die huisverbruiker nie.

Die Grondwetlike Hof het ook beslis dat Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet baie duidelik is oor die terugslag in die geval wat die bouer nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie en dat die kwantiteit bouwerk verrig deur die bouer, sonder betaling, dus irrelevant is.  Die bouer is nie geregtig op betaling nie en ook nie op ‘n retensiereg nie.

Die regsposisie van X en Y in terme van Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet en die Cool Ideas-saak

Dit is gevolglik duidelik dat X geregistreer moes wees as ‘n bouer by die Raad, όf in terme van Subartikel 6(a), όf in terme van Subartikel 6(b) van die HCPM-Wet.

Indien X nie by die Raad geregistreer is nie, sal X gevolglik nie enigsins betaling vanaf Y kan eis nie en ook geen retensiereg kan uitoefen oor Y se eiendom nie.

Hierdie posisie, soos bevestig en bewerkstelling deur die Grondwetlike Hof, sal voortaan bly staan tensy die Grondwetlike Hof weer in die toekoms met dieselfde regsvraag uitgedaag word.

Dit blyk dan ook irrelevant te wees of die gehalte van die bouwerk deur X goed of swak was en dat Y ongeag van die gehalte bouwerk steeds dieselfde regsposisie sal kan inneem.

Is daar uitsonderinge op hierdie regsposisie?

Baie onsekerheid is bewerkstelllig in die Cool ideas uitspraak.  Volgens die Gemenereg is enige onwettige kontrak ongeldig en dus onafdwingbaar maar in hierdie geval, sό volg die uitspraak in die Cool Ideas-saak, is die kontrak steeds geldig en afdwingbaar vir die huisverbruiker alleenlik al is die kontrak (of die intree daarvan) onwettig.

Normaalweg in die geval wat ‘n kontrak onwettig is, sal die kontrak in terme van die Gemenereg as ongeldig en onafdwingbaar beskou word en sal beide partye die reg hê om die hof te nader vir restitusie, indien nodig en moontlik.  Maar ingevolge die Cool Ideas-saak sal dit nie moontlik wees nie aangesien die Grondwetlike Hof van mening is dat die kontrak inderdaad nie ongeldig is nie.

Is daar wel uitsonderings op hierdie regsposisie?  Uit die staanspoor lyk dit nie so nie, behalwe in ekstreme gevalle wat verder hieronder bespreek sal word.

Dit is baie duidelik dat die HCPM-Wet die huisverbruiker in die mark wou beskerm deur die bouer streng te reguleer.  Die reguleering van die bouer is natuurlik grootliks gemik op die kwaliteit van bouwerk wat deur die bouer aan die huisverbruiker verskaf word. Myns insiens was dit nodig vir die wetgewer om so in te gryp as gevolg van die uitbuiting van die huisverbruiker in die verlede en die kwaliteit van die bouwerk van die bouer in die verlede.  Dit blyk dan, ingevolge die Cool Ideas-saak, dat daar letterlik geen hoop is vir die bouer nie. Daarom kan die gevolge vir die bouer verder strek as net ‘n blote loesing oor sy/haar swak gehalte bouwerk. Dit is uiters belangrik dat die bouer wat in die mark is of wat die mark betree, homself/haarself baie goed vertroud maak met die HCPM-Wet en wat die nagevolge is van die versuim om te registreer by die Raad as ‘n bouer, όf in terme van Subartikel 6(a), όf in terms van Subartikel 6(b) van die HCPM-Wet.

Maar wat van die geval waar dit blyk dat Y al die tyd X wou uitbyt?  Verdonderstel jouself dat Y nie net geweet het dat X nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, maar ook presies geweet het wat die gevolge vir X sal wees omdat hy nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie.  Alle feite dui later daarop dat Y te alle tye geweet het wat ons regsisteem bepaal oor die bouer wat nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, dat X geen betaling sal kan eis nie en ook geen retensiereg sal hê nie. Terwyl Y heeltemal bewus was van hierdie posisie, het Y nietemin in ooreenkoms getree met X vir die bou van Y se huis.  Y het homself dus ten volle vereenselwig met die nagevolge vir X en ook so ver gegaan as om te beplan dat hy, ten tye van X se eerste trekking vir 50% vordering, nie die trekking sal goedkeer nie en ook X sal probeer verwyder van sy grond af teen die agtergrond van ‘n valse ‘swak gehalte bouwerk-klagte’ by die Raad.  Dit blyk ook verder dat X, wetend dat ‘n bouer geregistreer moet wees by die Raad, nie bewus was van die feit dat hy nie net bloot ‘n geregistreerde bouer (Z) kon aanstel en nie self dan hoef te geregistreer by die Raad nie.  Al is dit uiteraard baie duidelik dat Y spesifiek vir X wou uitbyt in hierdie situasie, blyk dit dat hierdie posisie nog nie spesifiek getoets is deur ons howe nie.  Die vraag is of X wel ‘n remedie sal hê in hierdie spesifieke geval.  Óf, sal die posisie soos vervat in die Cool Ideas­-saak steeds heers?

Wat van die ou gemeenregtelike beginsel van in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis (hierna verwys as “die in pari delicto-beginsel”)?  Alhoewel hierdie ‘n our gemeenregtelike beginsel is was baie min gebruik word in ons hedendaagse regsisteem, is die beginsel nog lank nie koud nie. Die in pari delicto-beginsel verwys daarna dat waar twee of meer partye gelyk deelneem of deelgeneem het in ‘n onregmatige of onwettige daad (wat die intree van ‘n onwettige kontrak insluit), die hof, teen die agtergrond van billikheids-en gelykheidsoorwegings, kan weier om tot die redding te kom van een party ten koste van die ander party/partye.

Dit volg, in lig van die feitestel van X en Y hierbo, dat die kontrak tussen X en Y ongeldig behoort te wees in terme van die gemenereg op die basis dat die kontrak teen die publieke belang is.  Die Gemenereg was wel nie in oorweging gebring in die Cool Ideas-saak nie, behalwe in die minderheidsuitspraak waar die minderheid homself beperk het tot die gelidgheid van die ooreenkoms. Die Grondwetlike Hof, in die Cool Ideas-saak het wel geen ag geneem aan die in pari delicto­-beginsel nie.  Die in pari delicto-beginsel veronderstel dat die hof behoort ag te gee aan die beginsel van ‘eenvoudige/basiese geregtigheid tussen man en man’ en mag dit dan wees dat die hof, met inagneming van gelykheids-en billikheidsoorwegings en spesiek Artikel 9 en Artikel 25 van ons Grondwet, nie gehoor sal gee aan die bedes van Y nie en daarom ook nie tot Y se redding sal kom tot nadeel van X nie.

Sou die hof wel bevind dat die hof nie tot die redding van Y kan kom nie, is dit steeds onseker wat die hof moontlik in die alternatief sal beveel of kan beveel.  X is natuurlik meer as welkom in hierdie geval om ‘n teenaansoek te loods vir restitusie en mag die hof dalk die teenaansoek toestaan om sodoende uiting te gee aan X en Y en om sodoende regverdigheid te laat geskied tussen X en Y.  Aangesien restitusie ook tog moeilik bewerkstellig sal kan word tussen X en Y, plaas dit X en Y in ‘n beter posisie om die terme van restitusie spesifiek te bepaal in ‘n skikkingsooreenkoms of om op enige ander terme te skik wat beide partye sal pas.

Neem wel kennis!

Hierdie artikel is net gefokus op die siviele aard van die regsposisie tussen X en Y, en neem nie spesifiek die kriminele aard daarvan in ag nie.

X kan byvoorbeeld nogsteeds vervolg word in terms van Artikel 21 van die HCPM-Wet ongeag wat die uitkoms is van die siviele aangeleentheid tussen X en Y.

Die in pari delicto-beginsel is ook nie so maklik om te opper nie en is dit ook baie moeilik om te bewys dat die party betrokke wel in pari delicto is.  Daarom, as X meen om die in pari delicto-beginsel te opper, is dit onsettend belangrik dat X homself goed vegewis met die beginsel en die bestaande regspraak wat met die beginsel handel, inter alia die volgende sake:

  • HENRY v BRANFIELD 1996 (1) SA 244 (D);
  • KELLY v WRIGHT; KELLY v KOK 1948 (3) SA 522 (A);
  • MAMOOJEE v AKOO 1947 (4) SA 733 (N);
  • MASEKO v MASEKO 1992 (3) SA 190 (W);
  • PARBHOO NO v SPILG 1990 (2) SA 398 (W);
  • VAN STADEN v PRINSLOO 1947 (4) SA 842 (T);


Bitcoin, Uncategorized



What happens to my Bitcoins when I die?
08 March 2018
“I’ve started buying Bitcoins as a form of investment. I am aware that is a virtual currency and that different rules apply to Bitcoins. But I’m know starting to wonder how I can ensure that I transfer my Bitcoins to my heirs when I die?”

Bitcoin is essentially a digital payment network where Bitcoin currency is stored and transferred. A Bitcoin is a form of digital token that you can send or receive electronically, but is does not come in set amounts like a physical currency does, and can be divided up to 8 decimal places, meaning that the smallest amount you can send is 0.00000001 Bitcoins. The value of a Bitcoin also changes in much the same way that the value of stocks change based on bidding.

Bitcoins are protected by powerful cryptography which makes it a secure way to store your wealth, but it also creates the risk that when you die, it will be out of reach for your heirs.

Bitcoins are stored in a virtual wallet which uses a string of random characters called a “public key”. The public key is visible to anyone as an address for sending and receiving the cryptocurrency. A separate “private key” however allows the owner access to the wallet’s contents. This means that when you die, your heirs may discover your Bitcoin wallet, but will be unable to gain access thereto without the private key.

The easiest way to ensure that your Bitcoins can be transferred to your heirs is to ensure that someone has a copy of the private key by writing it down, storing it on a memory drive or entrusting it with a company or a trusted financial advisor or attorney who can give it to your family after your death.

It is also a good idea to bequeath your Bitcoins formally in your will and identify who has a copy of the private key. Although it won’t form part of the physical assets of your estate to be administered, this will help ensure that there is no uncertainty as to whom you wanted to gain access to your wallet after your death.

I would suggest discussing your Bitcoin portfolio with your estate planner with a view to formally providing therefore in your will.

firearm licence, Uncategorized

Lapsed firearm licence

Lapsed firearm licence

“I own a firearm which has always been validly licenced. I was out of the country for a few months with work this year and was unable to renew my licence before its expiry in June. On my return I went to the police, but they told me that because my licence was not timeously renewed it was now invalid and that my possession of the firearm is now illegal. Is this the case? Surely I have a valid excuse for not having renewed my licence?”

Renewal of firearm licences is governed by section 24 of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (“the Act”), which stipulates that the holder of a firearm licence who wishes to renew his licence must apply to the Registrar of Firearms (“the Registrar”) at least 90 days before the expiry date. In a recent High Court judgment, the constitutionality of section 24 and section 28 dealing with the termination of a firearm licence, was questioned.

It was contended in court that these sections caused confusion for firearm owners in respect of their obligations under the Act, in that if a person has not applied for renewal of his firearm licence and the 90 day period has lapsed, there is no way that he could renew or apply to renew his firearm licence and was therefore in unlawful possession of the firearm with no means to rectify the situation. Additionally, although section 28 of the Act provides for amongst others, procedures for the cancellation of a firearm licence and a declaration by the Registrar or a Court that a firearm holder is unfit to possess a licence, the section does not provide any process which ought to be followed by firearm owners whose licences have terminated due to effluxion of time, nor does it provide clarity as to how and where to surrender their firearm, should their licence be invalid due to such expiry.

Likewise, a person who has been declared unfit to possess a firearm is required to be given 30 days’ notice in writing of such declaration and intention to invalidate their firearm licence and is permitted to provide reasons why their licence should not be invalidated. There is no similar provision in the Act for a firearm licence holder whose licence has terminated due to effluxion of time, despite the fact that valid reasons could exist for the failure to renew the licence.

In the absence of proper procedures for the renewal of firearm licences, the court declared sections 24 and 28 unconstitutional and ordered that the Act be amended by Parliament within 18 months to address this aspect. In the interim the Court held that all firearms issued in terms of the Act, which are or were due to be renewed, shall be deemed to be valid. This order is at present suspended pending confirmation by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the particular sections.

Against this background it means that there is a good chance that the expiry of your licence may not be valid and we would recommend that you ask your attorney for assistance with formulating the necessary correspondence to the Registrar explaining your reasons for not having renewed your licence in light of the High Court decision.

George Kleynhans

http://www.attorneys24.net                       http://www.ilaw.co.za                         

http://www.attorneys.web.za               http://www.attorney.net.za


municipality, Uncategorized

water meter

water meter
Who must prove that the water meter is not working?
16 November 2017
“I’ve really tried to cut down on my water consumption and over the last year it‘s been very low. However, over the past 3 months my municipal water accounts suddenly more than tripled. Knowing this cannot be right I queried my accounts with the municipality. They said the consumption was correct according to my water meter and I must pay or my water would be cut off. The only explanation I have is that the water meter is not working correctly. But whose responsibility is it to verify this?”

Our courts recently had to address a similar set of facts in the case of Euphorbia (Pty) Ltd t/a Gallagher Estates v City of Johannesburg. In this case, the applicant (Gallagher Estates) was sued by the municipality for several million rand which the municipality alleged was owed to it as a result of water and sewage charges due and payable by Gallagher Estates to the municipality. Gallagher Estate’s response was that the charges that the municipality was seeking to recover were based on a faulty water meter and accordingly that these amounts were not lawfully owing.

One of the issues before the court was whether the duty of proving that the consumer was incorrectly billed lies on the consumer or whether proving that the consumer was correctly billed lies on the municipality.

In the case it was found that Gallagher Estates was legally not allowed to remove and test the meter because the legal entitlement was reserved for the municipality. Accordingly, because the applicant was not in the possession of all the information that it needed to prove that the meter was not functioning properly due to the fact that only the municipality was legally entitled to remove and test the meter, it would be unfair in law to burden the applicant with the responsibility of proving that the meter was not functioning as it would be much easier for the municipality to prove that the meter was working than for the consumer to prove that it was not.

From this case it can be deduced that in metering disputes with a municipality it is not the consumer’s responsibility to prove that the charges billed are wrong or based on a non-functioning meter. It is rather the municipality’s responsibility to first prove that the charges are correct and based on a functioning meter. If a consumer disputes the alleged consumption and lodges a query, the burden then rests on the municipality to investigate the issue, and the meter, if necessary to confirm whether the alleged amounts billed are correct.

In your case, we would advise lodging a formal query with the municipality to investigate the meter, and should the municipality not adhere to the request to through your attorney inform the municipality of their responsibility to do so as stipulated in the above case.