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Monday May 28, 2012

Alarm over new Durban rates policy

eThekwini municipality's new Credit Control and Debt Collection Policy - where homeowners will be held responsible for the payment of their tenants' electricity and water accounts - has raised concerns and questions from both tenants and landlords.

Homeowners have been notified that the new policy, which has been approved for the 2012/2013 financial year, starting on 1 July, will hold homeowners responsible.

Municipal treasurer Krish Kumar said the new system would mean that the homeowner was "categorically" responsible for the account.

"Before there was a problem as to who is accountable, especially if the account was in the tenant's name and they were in arrears," said Kumar.

This new policy, said Kumar, would mean that there was no dispute over who had to pay the account, and the municipality would be able to recover what was owed.

He said owners should screen tenants carefully to assess whether they could pay their accounts.

Dr Sayed Iqbal Mohamed, chairman of the Organisation of Civic Rights, said there were many questions about the policy which made tenants "the biggest losers".

He said that in some cases tenants were concerned about their electricity and water being disconnected, because they had no idea if the account was settled in full and on time by their landlords.

He said in cases where there are outstanding rates by an owner on a property occupied by tenants, it would be "grossly unfair to tenants" if the owner failed to pay their rates.

"The municipality would disconnect the basic services bona fide tenants are entitled to. Tenants would not be able to settle the owner's rates bill and would therefore suffer extreme prejudice even if they are given a prior warning notice. Legal remedy would be long drawn and unaffordable to tenants."

He added that a tenant has the legal right to ask/demand proof of the original municipal bill before making payment.

The Independent on Saturday

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