Advice and Opinion

Sectional Title Schemes should budget for additional water charges

Water usage

With the Western Cape deep in the throes of a severe drought, many households have had to adjust the way in which they use and save water.

It is a little more complicated in sectional title schemes, however, as it is not that easy to implement grey water systems for multiple users and it is also difficult to monitor water usage accurately if there are no separate water meters“, says Mandi Hanekom, operations manager for sectional title finance company Propell.

The City of Cape Town has implemented Level 6 Water Restrictions and discussions about a drought charge are currently taking place and should this be approved, many households will have to adjust to paying an additional amount each month, based on the value of the property being billed – in addition to the usual monthly water and sewerage charges.

Cape Town’s water is billed on a sliding tariff (the more you use, the higher the price becomes in each bracket) since the more serious water restrictions have been put into place. The costs have varied since July 2017, ranging between R4.56 per kilolitre (for the first kl) to as high as R302.24 per kilolitre if the household uses more than 50kl per month.

It is portrayed as ‘unfair’ to many in sectional title schemes without separate billing as the ones who do what they can to save water inevitably ends up subsidizing those who do use a lot of water each month. “In schemes where there are no prepaid or separate water meters, each unit’s water charge is based on their participation quota, and not on usage“, says Hanekom.

The additional drought charge will not apply to properties under R400 000.00 and it will vary from R45.00 for a property valued at R800 000.00, R60.00 for a R1 million property etc. The highest amount levied will be R2 800.00 for properties valued at R50 million and above.

Body corporates could consider converting their water metering systems to separate meters if possible – if the owners agree and there is enough funding to do so. This would make the collection of fees easy to manage and to keep amounts billed fair.

In terms of sectional title legislation, a special resolution by the members of a body corporate is required before a body corporate may install separate prepayment meters on the common property to control the supply of water or electricity to a section or exclusive use area, and all members and occupiers of sections must be given at least 60 days’ notice of the proposed resolution with details of all costs association with the installation of the pre-payment system and its estimated effect on the cost of services over the next three years. Bodies corporate are also responsible for ensuring that pre-payment systems do not infringe on the constitutional rights of section occupiers of access to basic services.

“Water shortages and drought are not limited to one area in South Africa and other provinces have been through their fair share of having to restrict usage or penalise abusers, and sectional title schemes in general could all benefit from having separate billing for units to make collection of amounts due easier and more accurate”, says Hanekom