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Friday Aug 15, 2014

Audit into high electricity costs for tenants

A forensic investigator is horrified to discover how many landlords are ripping off their tenants with electricity charges.

Patrick Herron was approached by a pensioner couple who felt they had been grossly overcharged by their landlords SA Property Trust (Sapt).

Herron says after completing a full forensic audit on the City of Joburg invoices and those sent to the Taylor family, it is estimated that they have overpaid the landlord by about R70 000.

The Taylors moved into the Waterval Estate cottage in April 2010 and left last July after the electricity became so expensive that some months it was higher than the rent.

'They were getting bills for electricity of up to R7 000 a month. This for a pensioner couple in a small cottage,' he said.

The irony is that the Taylors met with the readers every month to check that the readings were correct, but despite this, they were slapped with these exorbitant bills.

Herron says he knows of other people who have vacated units and other commercial properties owned by the company because of huge electricity charges.

'I made several attempts to resolve the problems with the landlord's representative to no avail. I am pleading on behalf of the elderly victims to assist this couple. The wife Anne, 76, is in remission from cancer.'

The Taylors have now had to find R40 000 to pay an attorney to fight their case.

Herron has also contacted the National Consumer Council for assistance.

'We were told the complaint has been set down for arbitration by the consumer commissioner, but this has not happened,' he revealed.

Herron says he has spent hours doing a complete reconciliation between actual electricity meter readings provided by the tenants, actual electricity rates and actual services rates, and he estimates overcharges of about R70 000.

'I would like this to be a warning to other tenants to check out their electricity readings and invoices from landlords as I believe many are making a fortune out of unsuspecting tenants,' he said.

Bubu Arndt, of Sapt, said no one had approached him to resolve this matter, which Herron disputes.

'We simply take the bills sent to us from the city and we pass the costs on to our tenants. The city has had many billing problems, so it is not our fault.

'If Mr Herron can provide us with accurate figures, we will be happy to refund the Taylors what is owed to them,' he said.

He added that the Taylors stopped paying rent for a few months before moving out, so they too owed money.

'We will still try and resolve the matter in an amicable way,' he said.

Joburg Metro Watch
The Star

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