Private residential estates managed by homeowners’ associations have always enforced their own rules within their estates.
These include speed limits, which are generally set lower than the limits for public roads by government so that the association can facilitate calmer traffic in these residential areas.
Previously, private estates who issued fines to motorists were often met with a refusal to pay or an out-of-hand dismissal of the body’s authority to govern drivers.
This has changed dramatically following a recent court ruling, which found that private estates can fine motorists for violating their speed limits.
Not only does this mean that motorists must pay the fines set by estates, but it also means that private estates stand to make a killing from prosecuting motorists for speeding.
In March 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that private estates are empowered to create their own rules, which includes the ability to set their own speed limits on internal roads and fine motorists for violating these limits.
The ruling overturns a previous judgement delivered in KwaZulu-Natal which stated that private estates could not set their own road rules.
In the most recent case, the Association of Residential Communities argued that there is no right for the general public to traverse roads enclosed within an estate, adding that this made them private roads and subject to governance by the owner.
The judge found that the previous judgment was incorrect, and stressed the nature of the relationship between an owner and an association as a private, contractual one.
“It cannot be said that by ordaining a lower speed limit within a gated estate than that prescribed by national legislation goes beyond promoting, advancing and protecting the interests of residents, or is unreasonable, especially given the presence of children and wildlife,” the judge stated.
“I fail to see why it is objectionable.”
MyBroadband spoke to Justice Project South Africa chairperson Howard Dembovsky about the potential effects of this ruling on motorists.
“Private estates have been given carte blanche to set lower speed limits than the general speed limit and fine homeowners for the speed limit infringements of their visitors,” Dembovsky said. “Estates have been doing it for years, but now have open licence to do so.”
“I can only estimate that the revenue derived by Homeowners’ Associations arising out of speed fines runs into billions of Rands per annum.”
He added that these private estates generally do not comply with any government guidelines and use a lot of speed measuring equipment which has no SABS approval.
Homeowners’ associations also generally start fining drivers at 1km/h over the speed limit, not 11km/h as is the case with formal prosecutions.
“It is my view that the concept that speed cameras represent ‘road safety’ tools is unsustainable,” Dembovsky said.
“On the contrary, they represent nothing more than revenue generation devices for authorities and greedy Homeowners’ Associations alike.”
“I am no fan of people who exceed the speed limit, nor am I against the concept of proper speed enforcement,” he said.
“What I am against is the concept of ‘pay as you go’ speeding fines – otherwise known as ‘greed fines’!”