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Council Billing "Muddle" leads to SECTIONAL TITLE utility cuts

‘Billing muddle’ leads to sectional title utility cuts

UTILITIES at dozens of sectional title residential buildings in Johannesburg have been cut off in recent weeks. Property administrators say it is due to the City of Joburg’s inability to provide accurate bills.
SARAH HUDLESTON
Published: 2010/12/02 07:13:38 AM

UTILITIES at dozens of sectional title residential buildings in Johannesburg have been cut off in recent weeks. Property administrators say it is due to the City of Joburg’s inability to provide accurate bills.

Companies managing properties complain they are being forced to pay inflated amounts to get water and electricity reconnected or to avoid being cut off.

Residential property manager Trafalgar successfully applied to the Johannesburg High Court last Friday to have the water reconnected at two of their buildings, in Parktown and Braamfontein.

Jackie Matthew of Trafalgar said that it had been impossible to get accurate bills for the buildings and the cut had come without warning.

Constantia Sectional Title has had services cut at 30 of the buildings it manages, while the Status Mark Property Group has had four buildings affected.

Paul Cummings, of Status Mark, said that he had hired a utility administration consultant to sort out about 50 inaccurate bills.

Werner Steenkamp, the consultant, said the council would not allow him to sort out more than three accounts a day, which had “severely disadvantaged” him financially.

Mr. Cummings said the main problem was that meters had not been read. “Recent accounts only show interim readings and there is no way to reconcile balances. These estimates are completely out of sync with historic usage — sometimes by more than 300%,” he said.

Gavin Ferabend, of Constantia Sectional Title, said the company had been forced to settle inaccurate accounts to get electricity and water reconnected. He said the bodies corporate were unhappy as their accounts had gone into deficit.

“The council has done a good job in setting up a task team to handle problems with accounts for office buildings,” he said. “Why can’t they do (it) for sectional title buildings?”

The spokesman for the city’s revenue department, Stan Maphologela, said the reason for the cuts was that the council was aggressively pursuing credit control measures.

He said: “Trafalgar’s buildings were reconnected because they settled their bill. Many people do not pay but, if they do, we are happy to look into all complaints.

“Unpaid bills by sectional title buildings form a large proportion of the city’s debtors book.” Mr Maphologela said he recognized that services to ratepayers were not what they should be.

hudlestons@bdfm.co.za

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