Different Kinds of Municipal Service Disconnections

Article by Ayanda Motlou (Associate Attorney)
Checked and released by Chantelle Gladwin-Wood (Partner)
06 January 2023

INTRODUCTION – ARE YOU IN THE DARK?

You come home from a long day at work, and the first thing you do is try to switch your lights on. You flip the switch but remain in complete darkness. It is definitely not load shedding because all of your neighbours have electricity. You then get a flashback of having received a piece of paper from the City of Johannesburg (“the City”) that was placed on your gate two weeks ago or so threatening disconnection of services should you not settle all outstanding amounts on your account. You fear the worst – the City has disconnected your power.

This article discusses the different types of disconnections typically carried out by municipalities and the various charges associated with same in the City of Joburg.

PRE-TERMINATION NOTICES

A pre-termination notice is a notice issued by the City due to a consumer’s account being overdue, wherein the City calls for payment of all outstanding amounts on an account or arrangement of payment and threatens disconnection of services should the account not be settled within 14 days of receipt of the pre-termination notice. The 14-day time period is not necessarily applicable to all municipalities, and the time period set for payment may be different in your jurisdiction. It is not usually less than 10 days, 14 days being the most standard time frame used.

When a pre-termination notice is issued, the City charges your account R273.00 for said notice. It is lawful for a municipality to charge you for the issue of a pre-termination notice, provided that it was lawful for the municipality to have issued that notice in the first place. If the notice is unlawfully issued, you cannot lawfully be charged for it.

Should the period between the day when the pre-termination notice was issued, and the actual disconnection, be less than 14 days (or whatever the relevant deadline is), the disconnection may be unlawful.

LEVEL 1 DISCONNECTION

Level 1 disconnections are those that are actioned immediately following non-payment of the total outstanding amount or failure to make payment arrangements, after the pre-termination notice has been issued. Level 1 disconnections actioned while there is a query in relation to the accuracy of the outstanding amount on the account in relation to inter alia any water or electricity consumption readings and/or highly inflated property rates and taxes on the account may be deemed unlawful if the municipality is precluded from taking credit control account in relation to the account due to the open query/complaint/dispute.

In Joburg the costs of a level 1 disconnection and subsequent reconnection amount to R691.01 (incl. VAT) for electricity, and R1 724.00 (incl. VAT) for water.

LEVEL 2 DISCONNECTION

A level 2 disconnection is actioned when it is established that an illegal connection of services has been made. An illegal connection is a water or electricity connection made without the City’s approval and is considered as tampering, e.g. connecting to an overhead pole or to a mini-substation, or using water supply from a municipal line without permission. This type of connection is usually referred to as ‘Izinyokanyoka’, due to the underhand way in which the connection is made. The cost of a level 2 electricity disconnection and subsequent reconnection in Joburg amounts to R691.01 (incl. VAT), and the cost for a water disconnection and subsequent reconnection amounts to R1 724.00 (incl. VAT) for residential consumers and R3 452.77 for commercial consumers in Joburg.

LEVEL 3 DISCONNECTION

A level 3 disconnection occurs when a level 1 disconnection has already been actioned, and the consumer unlawfully reconnects their services on their own accord. If a level 3 disconnection is actioned at a consumer’s property, your electricity and/or water supply and the meters measuring that supply will be removed completely. The costs of a level 3 disconnection and installing a new connection are R20 755.00 incl. VAT for electricity (a R3 747.83 fine for tampering with Municipal property, and a R14 300.00 reconnection fee) and either R13 000.00 incl. VAT (if the illegal connection is up to 20mm) or  R30 000.00 incl. VAT (if the illegal connection is larger than 20mm).     

ARRANGING RECONNECTION

The City would then reconnect any restricted services within 72 hours after receipt of settlement of the outstanding debt, or receipt of the signed payment arrangement.

CONCLUSION

Should you be faced with an unlawful disconnection (or removal of your meters), or perhaps you may have paid all outstanding amounts on the Account but your services are still disconnected after 72 hours, you may need an attorney to assist with arranging urgent reconnection. We have an in-house team of municipal law experts ready to assist for emergencies such as these.

REFERENCES

https://www.joburg.org.za/services_/Pages/City%20Services/Electricity/Electricity%20Home%20Page/Electricity%20payments/Disconnectionreconnection-fees.aspx

https://rekord.co.za/370857/illegal-electricity-connections-and-the-law/

https://www.elliottattorneys.co.za/news/municipalities-and-incorrect-biling-and-disconnections-your-rights/

https://www.schindlers.co.za/2021/disconnections-legal-or-illegal-2/

https://www.golegal.co.za/disconnection-electricity-legal/

VALUE

Municipal disconnections and the charges associated with same.

Ayanda Motlou
CANDIDATE ATTORNEY
SHARE THIS ARTICLE