An example of why I distrust many media reports

30 March 2022
lawyer at desk

Brass Colored Balance Scale on a Lawyer's Table / Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels

Today's from Moneyweb : "Take note if you are conducting a business from your private residence — Ratepayers must comply with their zoning provisions."

So I hop across to Moneyweb. Story reads:

People who are currently using their homes to conduct a business, whether operating a guesthouse, providing student accommodation or using it as office space, should take note of a recent judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

In terms of the judgment municipalities are allowed to impose a penalty rate on the property if its use is in contravention of its zoning provisions.

The rate can be imposed without having to recategorise the use and publish the change of the valuation roll in the provincial gazette.

Property lawyer Neels Engelbrecht, who represented the ratepayer in the case between the City Council of Johannesburg v Zibi and another, says there are literally “thousands of people” in many of the large metropolitan areas who are operating a business from a residentially zoned property in contravention of their zoning provisions.

He adds that people who are simply renting out a room or flatlet on their property should not be concerned about the judgment. In his view it only becomes a concern when the purpose and nature of use has changed completely.

I had not heard of this recent judgment even though I get all SCA judgments mailed to me. Searched my junk mail, checked whether I'd accidentally deleted it. Finally headed to Saflii — The Southern African Legal Information Institute which stores judgments online. Here it be:

" City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality v Zibi and Another (234/2020) [2021] ZASCA 97; [2021] 3 All SA 667 (SCA); 2021 (6) SA 100 (SCA) (9 July 2021)"

So, my two gripes:

First, July 2021 is not a "recent judgment" — Nine months from then to now is pretty much the entire cycle of copulation, conception, gestation and birth for our species.

Second, let me quote from the judgment:

[6] It is necessary to set out the relevant background facts, which are largely common cause, in order to have a better understanding of the context in which the dispute arose. The respondents took transfer of the property in their names on 24 June 2013. The property is a free-standing erf with a house consisting of 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a laundry room, a double garage, and an outside room with a toilet. In addition to residing in the property with their two minor children, the respondents aver that from January 2015 they started renting out 2 bedrooms to students and young professionals, thus using the property as a commune, a commercial concern . It is common cause that no authorisation was first sought and obtained from the municipality for such use.

I'll leave you to look at the two highlighted sections above and determine whether there is a contradiction between the Moneyweb report and the actual judgment.

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