Rates and taxes billing problems always come to a head when one is preparing to transfer ownership of a property; because the requirement of a municipal Rates and Taxes Clearance Certificate, forces the council, (sometimes for the first time ever), to focus on the rates account.

All of these problems stem from the fact that the whole billing system still requires a physical visit to each property to manually read the meter; which in most cases is still an obsolete mechanical gadget. (Smart meters at this time, remain ineffective due to incompatible software).

Billing errors arise directly from the following:

1 Meters are read incorrectly.

• Residential property meters are required to be read every 90 days by council officials, but this hardly ever happens and therefore the council resorts to estimating consumption.

• The oldest meters which have the “five clock-face dials” are difficult to read accurately and result in incorrect debits to the account.

• The Star newspaper recently quoted the MMC for finance, Mr Dagada who complained that meter readings are: “often thumb-sucked by meter readers”. He also condemned the ever increasing “ridiculous estimates for many months resulting in unrealistic readings”.

2 Secondly, meters that are tied to the wrong property, are then linked to the wrong Rates Account. • It is so common to find that the neighbouring property is using the water/electricity and without paying for it, and this consumption is being paid for by the neighbour.

3 Thirdly, it is almost impossible to effectively communicate and resolve problems with the council,

    Call Centre Staff do not have the authority, and are not trusted by management, to take corrective action.

The following circumstances give rise to incorrect billing

• Previously subdivided properties are still most likely to be problematic.

• The meter closest to the house is not necessarily the correct meter;

• The rates account is linked to the wrong meter;

• The meter for the original property, before it was subdivided, is still serving the subsequently created subdivided portions.

• Subdivided portions, which do not have any dedicated meters, are sold before the obligatory meters are installed.

• Careless or ill-trained meter readers upload incorrect consumption figures.

How you can minimise rates and taxes billing errors.

You can minimise rates and taxes billing errors by focussing on the following: Make sure you are not paying for your neighbour’s consumption.

Identify your water meter by testing the water flow Generally speaking, the dials in the water meter will always be turning, because at most times, water will be flowing through the pipes. If you do an on-off test with someone in the house, switching the water on and off, whilst you are watching the dials in the water meter simultaneously stop and turn: you are dealing with the correct meter. If there is a tap at the water meter then turn off the tap and make sure that the taps in your property are then dry. How to identify your electricity meter by switching the outside meter on and off Have all the lights in the house switched on, whilst you switch the mains switch on and off. The corresponding blackout in the house, will confirm that you are switching the correct electricity meter on and off. Write the street address on the meter itself Label your meter with your Account Number, Erf Number and your Street Address. You can write this information on a piece of masking tape with a permanent marker and place this on your electricity meter. This is more difficult to do if you have an old water meter which is buried into the ground. If all meters were labelled, indicating which property the meter is linked to, a huge amount of confusion would be avoided. People are starting to mark their meters with their street addresses, to assist inspectors in identifying and recording the correct readings for the correct property. Regularly photograph the readings in your meter. Photograph your meter readings every month to provide a factual record. The photograph should show the meter serial number, its reading and its surroundings. The photograph should be date-stamped, by means of a digital setting on the camera. Do this before and after the property is sold, as the council will take note of factual information if there is a query to be solved. Use an effective and organised rates consultant to unravel your rates problem. So many of the rates and taxes consultants take on too much work, become swamped and fail to have the query resolved within a reasonable time period. Many consultants simply do not bother to give the problem intelligent focus, which results in unwarranted delays. It is clear that from our experience, that rates runners who are kept on a tight leash and are managed on a daily basis, will have your problem corrected so much more quickly than otherwise.

Denoon H Sampson Sandown House,Cnr 5th Street & Norwich Close ▪ Sandton

Our official website is denoonsampsoninc.co.za

Tel: (+27 11) 666 9600 ▪ Fax (+27 11) 666 9666 ▪ First Floor, Sandown House ▪ Sandton Close 2 ▪ Cnr 5th Street & Norwich Close ▪ Sandton ▪ South Africa ▪ Docex 108 – Sandton ▪ PO Box 782051 ▪ Sandton ▪ 2146 ▪ South Africa ▪

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