Termination of electricity supply due to non-payment of an electricity account

A landlord may not, without a court order, terminate the supply of electricity to premises leased to a tenant who is in arrears with monthly electricity payments. This is according to the recent High Court judgment in the matter of Anva Properties CC vs End Street Enterprises CC (22109/2014, 14 April 2015). In the absence of a court order, terminating the electricity supply would constitute taking the law into your own hands and would thus be unlawful. This judgment does not consider repetitive defaults by the same tenant resulting in a potentially impractical position where a landlord would have to apply for a separate court order for every default. 

Termination of electricity supply by a municipality

In the matter of Rademan vs Moqhaka Local Municipality and Others (2013 (4) SA 225 (CC)), the Constitutional Court ruled that the municipality may, without a court order, terminate the supply of electricity to a property where the owner defaults on its account for all levies charged on the property. The judgment considered the provisions of the Municipal Systems Act, 32 of 2000 and accompanying bylaws, and,inter alia, determined that -

  • a municipality may consolidate accounts; 
  • where an account is not being settled in full, an owner is not entitled to elect how the partial amount being paid is to be applied to the entire amount outstanding; and
  • a municipality has the right to restrict or disconnect electricity, and this right shall prevail notwithstanding the fact that payment has been made in respect of any specified service.

Accordingly, a municipality may terminate the supply of electricity as a result of arrear rates and taxes. This may be the position even if the electricity account is up to date.

Termination of water supply

Regulation 3 of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998 stipulates that a minimum quantity of potable water of 25 litres per person per day, or six kilolitres per household per month, must be provided. Section 27(1)(b) of the Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water. South African courts have ruled that no person can be denied the basic 6000 litres of water per household per month, irrespective of the state of their account. A municipality cannot disconnect water supply completely; however, it may disconnect electricity if the water account and other accounts for charges levied on the property have not been paid.