The city council let a Heathfield householder run up an R86,000 rates and municipal services bill, which it now insists that the property's new owner must pay. Cape Town attorney Malcolm Roup has called on the council to "create certainty" around payment of debts on property. "This is in the face of a bylaw stipulating that a new owner of a property is liable only for charges dating back two years preceding the date of application for the rates clearance certificate," said Dennis Hardisty, the purchaser. The council should not have allowed such a debt to have been run up over eight years and attached the property.
At the root of the problem is a difference of opinion regarding the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Municipal Systems Act. In 2004 the Constitutional Court ruled that the liability for arrear rates and taxes and other services lay with the property, whether or not there had been a change in ownership. But in March 2005, the Supreme Court of Appeal said in another matter that a rates clearance certificate had to be given to a purchaser who had paid all amounts due to the local authority for the previous two years only.
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