Cape Town’s water bylaws could impact community living levies

Aug 15, 2018 | Features

Press

“There were quite a few new water regulations that raised the eyebrows and blood-pressures of homeowners in Cape Town”

Cape Town’s highly publicised water shortage has caused more than just the dams to dry up. Local experts say demand for property in the region has also suffered in the wake of the Western Cape’s driest years in living memory. Thankfully, with winter rains finally beginning to turn the tide on water availability in the province, property market activity is expected to recover relatively quickly. However, Schalk van der Merwe, franchisee for the Rawson Properties Helderberg Group, says some sectional title property owners could still be in for a few surprises.

“Capetonians should be extremely proud of how well we’ve all banded together to defeat Day Zero in 2018,” says Van der Merwe, “but our water struggles aren’t over quite yet. The latest figures have our main dams at around 57,6%* full, but we need to hit at least 65% by the end of October to be considered out of immediate danger.” (*average on 8 August according to City of Cape Town)

While 65% should enable Cape Town to survive through to winter 2019 without the need for rationing, the authorities have stated that restrictions will only be fully lifted if the dams hit 85% full. In the meantime, the City is taking a conservative approach to water management to achieve better resiliency both now and in the future. As part of this resiliency strategy, several amendments have been made to the water bylaws, one of which, Van der Merwe believes, could have a direct effect on certain community-living schemes.

“There were quite a few new water regulations that raised the eyebrows and blood-pressures of homeowners in Cape Town,” Van der Merwe admits, “but most only apply to new-builds and renovations – people aren’t expected to proactively retrofit their homes to achieve compliance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the new clause that requires landlords keep separate records of consumption for each residential unit in multi-tenanted complexes and report any abuse of water restrictions to the authorities.”

The problem with this requirement, Van der Merwe explains, is that many community-living schemes currently supply water to their residents in bulk, charging each unit a fixed water fee as part of their levies. This method will no longer be appropriate under the new bylaws, as it does not allow for monitoring of individual units’ water usage to prevent the contravention of restrictions.

“To enable landlords to fulfil these obligations, homeowners’ associations and sectional title schemes will need to install water metres for every household in the near future,” says Van der Merwe. “This can be a pretty expensive endeavour and is unlikely to have been budgeted for in the scheme financials, which means a lot of schemes are going to have to dig into their reserves or impose a special levy.”

As a result, Van der Merwe warns owners of properties in schemes of this type to brace for some unexpected short-term expenses. He also recommends potential buyers inquire about the impact of this legislation as part of their research into scheme management before making an offer to purchase.

“Complying with the new bylaws might be a bit painful in the short term,” he says, “but from a big picture perspective, I do believe it’s the responsible thing to do. Becoming a more responsible and water-resilient city will benefit all of us in the long-term, and the short-term expenses will more than pay for themselves if they help us rekindle the desirability of Cape Town property.”

Interested in reviewing the new water bylaws for yourself? Click here for a summary of the bylaws.

Press release from Rawson Property Group