What to do when your water meter estimates are bungled
Municipality failed to take readings for 6 months. Six months later sent a bill of close to R8,000 claiming they under-billed us for all those months. The normal monthly usage is about R1,800. Fortunately we pay every month. Do I have a case against the municipality? We live in Pinetown – Clifford
Hi Clifford, thank you for your question. According to the Municipal Systems Act and each local municipality’s respective bylaws, municipalities have an obligation to take meter readings timeously. Each municipality’s bylaws differ slightly but usually the municipalities should not exceed 3 months without taking readings. However, the municipality is entitled to back bill for the amount that they may have undercharged when issuing the interim readings.
Generally speaking, most residential households use a similar amount each month unless there is some specific reason such as water leaks in the case of water meter readings and often we find that clients had a dripping or leaking geyser which can cause the water to be excessively used and naturally if the geyser is constantly being filled up by fresh new cold water its element will be working overtime and can also cause electricity charges to spike. A consumer needs to carefully monitor their monthly bills in order to prevent scares, such as these.
Even though it is not the consumer’s obligation to take meter readings for water and electricity, we strongly urge and suggest that clients monitor their electrical and water readings as well and be proactive. It is not nice trying to fight the municipality after they have sent you a bill. You may also proactively take your own readings and contact your respective municipality through their various mechanisms by issuing them the readings to ensure precise and accurate accounts.
Most municipalities welcome this assistance from ratepayers. Under no circumstance can you withhold payment to the municipality as their bylaws clearly state that if the readings have been taken the consumer is liable for the said charges and the readings are to be accepted as truth. However, if you feel that your meter may be giving false readings as every month they are giving erroneous amounts that are completely different approach needs to be undertaken.
I would be curious to know what your usage pattern for the respective services have been over the past year and what they did charge you and what their exact explanation is, as upon investigation you may find that the bill could be correct and at the same time could be grossly incorrect. Giving a generic answer for this matter is impossible as the merits of this case has to be considered carefully
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Who is Peter Livanos?
Mr Peter Livanos the Managing Director of New Ventures Consulting & Services(NVC): the Municipal Debt Specialist (MDS), has been a true pioneer of the correct implementation of Municipal Clearance Figures & Certificates since 2002. He was one of the first people to approach the courts to enforce the public’s rights for Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act. Over the years, his consulting practice grew into a serious force in the property industry. Due to NVC becoming the authority, they now act for most of South Africa’s major banks, transferring attorneys, real estate agents and property owners. To date, his company has successfully assisted in excess of 12,000 property owners in reducing and correcting municipal debt, resulting in savings of hundreds of millions of rands.
According to many, NVC has been declared the people’s hero, as they have been fighting for the helpless and funding all the legal costs. Their most recent litigation against Ekurhuleni and City of Tshwane is of major importance, as it will affect every single property owner in the country. This ground breaking court case could potentially have devastating effects on all banks’ mortgage bonds over a property. In the North Gauteng High Court recently, the judge declared that it was unlawful for a municipality to hold new owners liable for historic debts of a property. The judge further announced that if the municipality believed that the Municipal Systems Act allowed Municipalities to do this, that he declare that Act unconstitutional and referred same to the Constitutional Court (Con Court) for confirmation. Both the City of Tshwane and Ekurhuleni Municipalities have appealed the NVC cases and the matter is set to be heard in the Con Court during May 2017.