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Thursday Aug 31, 2017

Blair Atholl estate wins appeal against Tshwane water tariff

The City of Tshwane must charge the homeowners association of the upmarket Blair Atholl golfing estate a special tariff for water supply as opposed to what it had been billing it for more than 10 years.

The estate, located 50km west of Pretoria near Lanseria Airport, scored the victory over the metro in a rather vast and complex case in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday.

The association initially turned to the High Court in 2010, disputing the rate it was billed for bulk water supply to the estate. It was billed as a single user, via two meters, for the total bulk water supplied to the estate.

But the issues were so vast and complex that it could not be resolved on papers before the court. It was eventually referred to oral evidence, in which both parties made presentations on their interpretation of the Engineering Services Agreement, concluded between the parties in 2006 when the township was established.

In delivering his judgment in favour of the association, Judge John Murphy said the interpretation favoured by the City would result in the residents of the estate being charged twice and paying for services not rendered.

This was because the City simply provided the bulk water supply to the doorstep of the estate. Meanwhile, the homeowners association operated and maintained the infrastructure and not the City, as was usually the case relating to ordinary households.

"It is the plaintiff (association) which carries the risk of bad debt or damage, not the defendant (the City)," the judge said. He added that the scale charged by the City up to now and which was placed in dispute by the homeowners association - which was higher than the scale the association was willing to pay - would compensate the City for expenditure and risk.

Judge Murphy stated that the association had to be on the same footing as other bodies supplied by the City with bulk water.

But this ongoing legal battle between the association and the City may not end here. Lawyers acting for the City said they were studying the judgment and were considering their options.

While Judge Murphy did not mention any figures in his judgment, it was understood that the difference between the billing of the "special tariffs" the association said it was entitled to, and the "normal tariffs" the City indicated it was entitled to, had escalated over the years and amounted to more than R20 million.

The City had launched a counter-application in a bid to recover what it claimed the association owed it in outstanding payments under the higher payment scale (no figure given at this point), but Judge Murphy postponed this application indefinitely.

The billing issue had been a bone of contention for years since the City had agreed to provide the estate with water.

The estate straddled two municipal areas - the City of Tshwane and Mogale City. The agreement was concluded between the developer of the estate and the Cty of Tshwane in circumstances where the estate fell outside of the City's priority area.

The developer of the estate initially negotiated with Rand Water for bulk water supply, but the City preferred to supply water to the association. Rand Water supplies bulk water to the City which then supplies the association through a pipeline.

Judge Murphy concluded that the City was only entitled to bill for the supply of bulk water and not an escalated fee which included costs relating to municipal services.

Pretoria News


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