Illegal electricity connections, whose responsibility is it to pay the bill?

What happens when a tenant connects electricity illegally, who is responsible for paying the electricity bill? In this article we tackle this issue.

What does the law say?

Property owners who let out their properties are ultimately responsible for all bills associated with the said property. The law states that property owners are responsible for all charges incurred in connection with the property, this includes deemed consumption fees for unlawful use and meter tampering fees.


If a tenant has connected the electricity illegally, what recourse do I have as an owner?

The owner can report the matter to the police station and lay a charge of electricity theft/illegal connection against the tenant. The owner will then have to get an independent contractor to confirm that the meter has been falsified and there was an illegal connection on the property.   The municipality will investigate the issue and determine who is responsible for the charges. If they can prove that the electricity charges are as a result of the illegal electricity theft then the owner will not be held liable. The owner bears the onus of proving this.

Another recourse available to the owner is to evict the tenant and claim the charges from the tenant that may have accrued as a result of the illegal connection.

Consequences of allowing an illegal connection in your property

Firstly, criminal charges can be brought against the person who tampers with the meter, which is illegal in itself. For instance, the Johannesburg municipality bylaws state that any person who contravenes or fails to comply with legislation shall be guilty of a criminal offence and upon conviction, be liable for a fine of up to R2 000 or six months’ imprisonment.

Secondly, Eskom has called for illegal connections to be added to the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill if this succeeds you could see the culprits being detained for a period of not more than 30 years  and or a fine of R 60 000.00.

Further, owners need to prove that they have taken reasonable steps to know what is happening in their properties. If they fail to do this they may be charged with being an accessory to a crime.


  • If you have had to pay a large amount of money because of a former tenant’s illegal actions of connecting electricity illegally you as the owner have the right to sue and get your money back
  • Speak to a lawyer or your legal insurance provider about how you can go about recovering your money back.
  • Speak to the municipality or in the case of a sectional title your complex’s property management company about being copied on all emails relating to payment of utilities.

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