Municipal Law is a unique field of law that deals with all aspects of the relationship between a municipality and a person living or working within (or sometimes only visiting) the jurisdiction of that municipality. It deals with aspects of property law, human rights law, housing law, electricity and water law, valuations law, public law, administrative law, criminal law, information law and consumer law. Most disputes in municipal law arise as an allegation that the municipality has violated the rights of a consumer in some way.
It’s not only municipalities that sometimes treat consumers unfairly. This happens often with parastatals (like Eskom), national and provincial departments of government, and other state owned institutions like SAA or Transnet. Most of the same principles that apply to municipalities apply to these organizations/departments and as such they are also dealt with by our department.
Because municipalities (also known as local government) are at the “coal face” of service delivery – they are the entities responsible in law for delivering the services that our government provides to its consumers – it is vital that they operate lawfully, efficiently and in doing so protect and foster the rights of their consumers (the citizens of this country).
The kinds of disputes we typically handle include the following:
- where a municipality incorrectly bills a person for amounts that they do not owe (including all municipal charges such as electricity, water, rates, refuse, sewer, gas, engineering contributions and exactions),
- disconnects their electricity or water supply unlawfully,
- does not account to a consumer properly for charges as a result of incorrect or malfunctioning meters, leaks, incorrect factoring, estimated charges not being reconciled to actual charges, incorrect account reconciliations,
- summonses a consumer for amounts that they do not owe,
- refuses or simply doesn’t bother to issue a permission or license,
- fails to give emergency housing to unlawful occupiers (who are the most vulnerable people in our society),
- fails to deliver municipal services such as refuse or sewerage removal,
- fails to repair municipal infrastructure such as roads or substations or pump plants,
- fails to decide applications (such as town planning, building plan, heritage, consolidation, subdivision, notarial tie, consent use or other kinds of applications),
- fails to control and stop illegal activities such as violations of town planning, building and health laws, and
- fails to produce important documents like job cards or rates clearance certificates when required by law to do so.
Our department also handles slightly different kinds of disputes, also related to property, consumer rights and public law:
- damages claims for all of the above issues, where the consumer suffers damages as a result of the conduct of the municipality or another government entity;
- land claims and other issues relating to land reform,
- sectional title disputes between trustees and owners, or tenants, or developers, or a municipality, even if they are at CSOS or arbitration,
- feasibility studies for property transactions,
- arranging payment plans (called “AOD’s”) with municipalities for amounts owed,
- neighbour law disputes (including noise violations, encroachments, boundary wall disputes, neighbours who are operating illegally from a premises),
- contractual disputes relating to property (sale, lease, eviction, construction law matters);
- gated community (home owner’s association) disputes;
- constitutional law relating to property, including cases dealing with violations of section 9 (equality), section 10 (dignity), section 25 (property), section 26 (housing), section 27 (access to water and other socio-economic rights like welfare grants), section 32 (access to information), just administration action (section 33) and section 34 (access to justice and courts), and section 36 (limitations clause).
We also have an informative Facebook page if you would like interesting information and updates on local Municipal Law.
Please feel free to contact Chantelle Gladwin-Wood (Partner, Municipal Law Department) on +27 (0) 11 448 9678 for any further information on any of the above issues.