‘R29 776 in bill mix-up’

2009-09-30 00:00

PAY us R29 776, 40 for a water bill that you are not liable for, otherwise you will face the consequen­ces.

This is the attitude of the Msunduzi Municipality towards businessman Rick McCarthy in their attempt to recover expenses for an amount for which he is not liable.

McCarthy contacted The Witness in desperation, saying: “I am a tax-paying resident and am begging for assistance and for some reason to prevail from the lunacy and incompetence in the municipality’s billing department …”

When McCarthy bought his Wembley home in December 2005, he was given a rates clearance certificate. Lawfully, this means the municipality has verified that water and electricity meters have been read correctly. However, McCarthy says this is not the case.

He let his property from December 2005 to March 2008 and he has proof that the tenant paid all bills before vacating the premises. He began receiving water bills from September 2008 onwards that were back-dated to April 2005, even though he bought the home in December that year.

He said by the municipality’s own admission, the last reading on record was April 13, 2005. The notes on the account claimed they could not locate the meter when, in fact, it is in plain sight in the same location since the house was built, said McCarthy.

“The municipality has been estimating 70 kl per month for three-and-a-half years. While this may be a good estimate for a large family with four kids, I have proven that since I took over occupying the house in April 2008, I have averaged 15 kl per month. While they currently estimate 26 kl a month, no credit is ever applied to my account when the new actual reading is taken,” he said.

McCarthy says he has started reading his own meters, but the estimating continues and he still receives incorrect bills.

Attempting to sort the matter out, McCarthy went to see Vinay Maharaj, chief accountant for consolida­ted billing, who accessed the account on the municipality’s system.

“Much to his amazement, he found that the meter was last read eight months before I took transfer of the property. He told me I would not be held liable for the account and that he would sort out the problem,” he said.

Records then show that the bill was split between McCarthy and a former tenant. McCarthy’s sewerage and refuse removal rates for the property were allocated under the industries/commercial/schools category, which are higher than those for residential properties.

“I think he did this as payment for annoying him with my problem. Thereafter, he was unavailable to discuss this matter,” he said.

McCarthy then took the issue up with credit controller A.J. Beharie and he also confirmed that the water meter was last read months before McCarthy occupied the property.

McCarthy says Beharie stated that the municipality was in the wrong and that he should not be held accountable for the account.

“He further stated that this will not hold up in court and they must sort this out,” he said.

Despite an assurance from Beharie that the changes would be made, nothing changed, said McCarthy, and he was handed over to municipal lawyers, who are still trying to recover payment.

“I have been told to pay the amount and seek a refund or credit, however, I have absolutely no faith in the system to protect me and I refuse to take money out of my own pocket to pay for a mistake made by the Msunduzi Municipality,” he said.

McCarthy, who owns multiple properties, says all his payments are up to date and he continues to pay for services he has used.

He says he has to fight off municipal workers on a monthly basis who say they have to cut off his electricity for “non-payment”, even though his electricity payments are up to date.

“I have a monthly hassle with my bill as it is invariably incorrect, despite my best efforts to take readings and submit them to the municipality. This matter has gone beyond ridiculous,” he said.

Despite repeated attempts to get a response from the municipality, none had been received by the time of going to print.

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