Can a body corporate switch off a defaulting owner’s electricity?

A landlord can’t change the locks or switch off the electricity if his tenant is in arrears with her rent. See http://www.bregmans.co.za/spoliation/

Can a body corporate switch off the electricity to a unit in a sectional title complex where the owner (or his tenant) fails to pay his levies?

The position is no different to the rights that a landlord may exercise: it an offence for the Body Corporate to shut off the utilities to a unit occupied by an owner or his tenant.

Only a municipality can disconnect the supply to the electrical installation when any consumption charges due to the Council for electricity supplied are in arrears.

If the body corporate unlawfully locks out a tenant or shuts off the utilities to the unit, the trustees shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to both such fine and imprisonment (in terms of Section 16 of The Rental Housing Act). It is similarly an offence in terms of Section 27(3) of The Electricity Act to cut off, damage or interfere with any apparatus for generating, transmitting or supplying electricity.

If the Body Corporate cuts off the electricity, the tenant or owner can either lay a criminal charge or approach a lawyer to bring what is called a spoliation application to Court for an order to restore the power. The body corporate will have to pay the lawyer’s costs for taking the law into its own hands.

In Naidoo v Moodley 1982 (4) 82 TPD, the tenant successfully applied for a Spoliation Order against the Landlord. The Court found that the use of electricity was an incident of occupation and that by cutting off the electricity the Landlord had substantially interfered with the tenant’s occupation. The Landlord was ordered to restore the electricity supply and pay the tenant’s costs of the application.

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