Confusion over new city policy

2011-07-09 00:00

CONFUSION reigns over whether the Msunduzi Municipality has done an about-turn on its new credit control policy, which allows only landlords, and not tenants, to sign contracts with the municipality for electricity and water. Estate agents say it has, Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma says it has not.

Landlords are up in arms over the new policy, claiming they were not consulted nor given sufficient notification of the change. They say the new policy makes them the municipality’s credit controllers and its implementation is going to prove a logistical nightmare.

Estate agents reported that after the initial chaos and the difficulties in getting owners to sign power of attorney over to them, this week they were allowed to present an e-mail from the landlord to the municipality giving rental agents permission to connect the electricity and carry out credit control on their behalf.

However, Zuma denied any about-turn, saying there was no change to council’s credit control and debt collection policy.

“Owners of property are only allowed to contract with council for the provision of services. In the event that the owner is not available for various reasons, then a general power of attorney authorising the tenant or estate agent to contract on behalf of the owner is required. Kindly note that the account will only be opened in the owner’s name,” Zuma said.

Meanwhile, landlords are starting to complain of the practical difficulties in implementing the policy. A letter writer to The Witness said trying to bill tenants for water under the new system in flats and housing complexes is proving a nightmare.

Another landlord asked whether he could employ his own electricity disconnecter if a tenant did not pay for electricity.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) CEO Melanie Veness said her understanding for the rationale of the new policy is that the municipality has a problem collecting rates because on rented properties the rates and electricity accounts are separate — so the electricity accounts are paid by the tenants, but the rates aren’t paid by the property owners.

But she said the policy hasn’t been thought through properly and the PCB calls on the municipality to withdraw the policy and to consult properly regarding the rates collection challenge.

A group of businessmen who have joined together to challenge the municipality are working on their strategy, which they will announce once they have formulated it.

 

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