High bill for sole resident

Winston Essau (46) from Lotus River.PHOTO: aishah cassiem
Winston Essau (46) from Lotus River.PHOTO: aishah cassiem

A Lotus River resident is asking the City of Cape Town to step up their investigation and fix his current invoice, this after receiving an impossibly high water bill. Winston Essau (46), who lives alone in his Resanne Close home, says his statements have jumped from a usual monthly payment of R102 to over R20 000 within a few weeks.

“This is impossible. I live alone and for the past ten years that I have been living on this property my water bill has never exceeded R80. The most I would have to deal with is R102, because I am a sole resident. This issue started last year already and I have been battling ever since. There have been times where my water bill is extremely high in one month which is impossible,” he says.

Essua is currently sitting with an account of R11 295.51 with a total outstanding balance of R20 670.40. He says his estimated water bill for the period 31 January to 23 February is R8067.34, and this on a prepaid meter, which he doesn’t have. His sewerage is R1792.98.

“We have gone through scenarios where the City said I had a leak, but this was repaired a very long time ago. Then it happened where they said there were leaks on the meter. In winter last year there was definitely a leak as water was streaming down the road for weeks. I called several times and after a while they came through to fix it.”

This was already during the period of water restrictions and a lot of water was lost during that time. Esua says he also logged a complaint with the City in October last year when he received a balance of R47 519 for rates and water.

“I made an arrangement and the balance came down. On 3 November I still had a balance of R37 374 and after I spoke to the ward councillor, they eventually reduced it to R4400. I was unemployed at this time and made arrangements to pay at least something on it. I have just started to work, but now I received another bill saying it went up to R9600, and most recently R20 670 – a huge jump within weeks – based on VAT and the water issue.”

Essua says he discovered that the City had been estimating the water bill during the leaks. “My billing within the last month was R10 288. Just 24 days after that it was again R8067. Now evidently, is this the consumption I had for these two months? My issue is not the paying; it is the estimate amounts added to my bill. The estimates taking place are ridiculous and what I have now should be much less than what I am currently sitting with.

“There is no earthly way that someone is actually estimating as you can’t even see the meter in the road – it is flooded with water and rocks. There is no way to take a reading from this meter in its current state. I don’t even use my water with the restrictions. I rather purchase, and I am still sitting with 15 boxes with four five-litre bottles of water in each, stored in my room. The City also says that I have a water meter installed on my property. I don’t even know about it. This is ridiculous, they need to fix it.”

Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy, says the City’s investigations have revealed that the high account was due to an estimate. “It was not possible to do an actual reading for the month in question as the water meter at the property was obstructed. The City has now, however, obtained an actual reading and reversed the estimation. The reversal will reflect on the next invoice,” she explains.

“The customer will be informed of the outcome of the investigation. In cases where residents receive estimated accounts that are higher than actual consumption, they are assured that the next time an actual meter reading is taken their account will be credited appropriately. Estimating consumption when it is not possible to read the meter is standard practice around the country­.”

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