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Ask a lawyer – Can the municipality cut off services in a dispute?

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HomeTimes received a lot of questions related to our story on a precedent-setting case in which it was determined that the onus of responsibility falls on the municipality to prove a customer’s bill is correct – and not the account holder.

Candidate attorney at Schindlers Attorneys, Rogan Heale, answers a reader’s question.


Interesting article. I have a question in principle based on this: If you query an account/reading can the municipality cut you off at that time? A friend of mine challenged her reading a couple of times before converting to pay-as-you-go and each time she was told to pay up or be cut off and that she can query it afterwards. Then when you query it afterwards they take forever to resolve it, if they resolve it at all. – LT Falconer


Dear LT, the courts have determined that it is unlawful for a municipality to terminate the supply of services if the customer has logged a dispute regarding the account in the appropriate forum for that municipality, and that dispute remains unresolved. In addition, the municipality must issue pre-termination notices prior to the termination of any services. If termination of services has occurred while a dispute is still ongoing, it may be an unlawful termination of services.

Your municipality now has to prove your bill is correct

Rogan Heale, candidate attorney at Schindlers Attorneys.

Rogan Heale, candidate attorney at Schindlers Attorneys.


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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  • Andre Barnard 15th July 2016

    The Water Services Act 108 of 1997 states that sanitation services tariffs will be charged as a percentage of one’s water-consumption. Oudtshoorn Municipality is not complying with the Act. What can I do? The Municipal Systems Act 32of 2000 states that a waterservice will be volume-based.