The North Gauteng High Court on Monday made an unprecedented declaration in a case before it that the Municipality practice of holding a property purchaser liable for past debts of the previous owner is unconstitutional. It clarified a long drawn-out battle between residential property buyers and municipalities.
Municipal Systems Act unconstitutional
The judgment dealt with Sec 118 (3) of the Municipal Systems Act which allowed past debt to attach to the property, and which the court ruled is constitutionally invalid. This judgment will now have to go the Constitutional Court for confirmation, but in the meantime is binding against the Gauteng Municipalities involved and will likely be applied to every Municipality in the country who have been applying the Act in contravention of the Constitution. This is of great relief to property purchasers, some of whom have been saddled with huge past debts they did not incur and in some cases were denied connection of new services until the past debts of the previous owner/s were settled.