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‘Unacceptable’ services disconnections in Bedfordview

Since August a large number of residents have had to contend with disconnections as their municipal accounts fell further in arrears.

Since August, a high number of residents have had to contend with disconnections as their municipal accounts fell further in arrears.

This despite having their accounts supposedly flagged against disconnections after they objected to the new property valuations set out by the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE).

It now seems as though the city had not flagged the accounts of objectors, resulting in residents being disconnected for failure to pay their full municipal accounts.

“Unfortunately, our warnings of impending chaos have come to pass,” said Humphreys.

 

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She told the NEWS/Express/GCN residents who stood in queues during Covid and presented their objections were told their accounts would be flagged and extensions on payments granted until their objections could be finalised.

“Residents were advised to pay their previous rates as well as an additional 8%, which they did.”

The arrears amounts reflected on accounts amount to the difference between the paid amount and the new disputed, valuation amount.

Humphreys told the NEWS/Express/GCN residents have had their prepaid electricity meters blocked for unpaid accounts or their electricity cut.

“On numerous occasions, residents who went to Germiston municipal offices to contest the disconnections were told their accounts were not flagged although they were told it would be done when they objected,” she said.

Since March, the NEWS/Express/GCN has extensively reported on concerns regarding the new proposed property valuations.

In June Residents Action Group (RAG) called on CoE to halt the implementation of the “flawed” 2021 to 2025 Ekurhuleni Property Valuation Roll.

The NPO believed errors in this roll would result in homeowners (including RDP homeowners) and commercial property owners facing huge hikes in their rates with effect from July 1.

Some of the property values which were reported on had increased by 222%, others 350% and some as much as 1 000% in the 2021-2025 general valuation roll.

Humphreys, with RAG Bedfordview chairperson Marina Constas and property owners, expressed frustration and disbelief over the excessive increase in property values.

Following the closure of the property valuation roll in June, Ward 18 Clr Heather Hart informed property owners they can apply for a payment extension.

In a letter from the Department of Finance: Revenue Management given to the NEWS by Hart, it stated that just objecting does not defer liability for payment of rates.

It informed property owners they are liable to pay rates charged as per the general valuation roll values regardless of objections.

“Should outcomes result in reduced value, the city has a responsibility to reverse overcharges and should there be no change on the value, the ratepayer then remains liable to pay what has been charged per published roll value,” read the letter.

It was further stated in the letter that property rates would be levied in accordance with the published general valuation roll with effect from July 1.

“Adjustments will be made to accounts on receipt of the objection outcome.

“Should property owners remain dissatisfied with the outcome an appeal may be lodged, which will be considered by the appeal’s board.

“To assist property owners who submitted formal valuation objections, the finance revenue division through account and credit control sections will flag relevant accounts for payment extension for three months in anticipation of objection outcome.”

Property owners were advised by the city to keep undisputed service charges accounts paid and up to date to avoid escalating service debt.

Once the objection outcome is received, the payment extension will stop.

In August, Humphreys raised concerns that residents were receiving notices that they would be disconnected.

“Implementation of payment extensions has never been a problem before, but we have never had a valuation as flawed as this before,” Humphreys said.

“We need exceptional measures to deal with a disastrous document that has been inflicted on our residents and our officials.

“Our officials should not have to deal with the enormity of this debacle. There is no extra assistance, they just have to make do and this mess is the result.

“The chaos caused by the huge and accruing arrears amounts in these accounts, which are not possible to account separately, are creating havoc in the credit control department and residents’

lives. This is wholly unacceptable and needs to be urgently addressed,” Humphreys said.

On September 20 an enquiry for comment was sent to the City of Ekurhuleni.

Comment on this matter was requested by September 23, but at the time of going to print, no comment had been received.

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