Build­ing owner hit with a R12m ghost me­ter bill

The Star Late Edition - - METRO WATCH - ANNA COX anna.cox@inl.co.za

AJOBURG prop­erty owner is tear­ing his hair out with the City of Joburg’s rev­enue de­part­ment, be­ing billed up to R12 mil­lion for wa­ter and elec­tric­ity me­ters which do not ex­ist.

Michael Ling­wood, who owns an aban­doned build­ing in Berea, San Jose, has been billed for years with fic­ti­tious me­ter read­ings.

Af­ter Metrowatch’s re­cent in­ter­ven­tion, an ac­tual read­ing was done of the wa­ter me­ter and, he said, the read­ings were cor­rected from what was pre­vi­ously er­ro­neously put on the ac­count, he said.

“The sad part is that de­spite hav­ing now ob­tained an ac­tual me­ter read­ing for the first time in more than three years, the ac­count has still not been ad­justed,” he said.

The 121-unit block of flats has been va­cant for more than 14 years and has been badly van­dalised.

Level three cuts of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity were done 14 years ago, ac­cord­ing to the city’s own records, he said.

Each unit is val­ued at R5 000 and there­fore qual­i­fies to be ex­empt of all rates, refuse and sewer charges, yet the city has kept is­su­ing charges.

“Also, de­spite this be­ing a res­i­den­tial build­ing, the city is still er­ro­neously charg­ing busi­ness levies,” he said.

The city, he added, was also act­ing il­le­gally charg­ing res­i­dents for ser­vices older than three years which are, by law, sup­posed to have been re­moved off cus­tomers’ ac­counts as per the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Amend­ment Act, which came into ef­fect on March 13, 2015, he said.

The fine, ac­cord­ing to the act, for every ac­count that con­tains pre­scribed debt on a state­ment, was R1 mil­lion.

Ling­wood said the city had promised to re­move the pre­scribed debt by the end of Au­gust, but he had more than 300 ac­counts and this has not been done.

Thou­sands of res­i­dents have been forced and co­erced, un­der duress, into sign­ing ac­knowl­edge­ments of debt doc­u­ments for these pre­scribed debts, he said.

The City of Joburg said it ac­knowl­edged the in­cor­rect bill on the cus­tomer’s ac­count and was cur­rently work­ing on the ac­count to amend it.

It did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the pre­scribed debt.

City still work­ing on amend­ing the ac­count

@an­na­cox

PIC­TURE: DUMISANI SIBEKO.

NERVE-RACK­ING: Michael Ling­wood, who owns San Jose, an aban­doned build­ing in Berea, has been billed for years with fic­ti­tious me­ter read­ings.

Michael Ling­wood

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