Properties on which residential sectional title schemes or apartment blocks are built must be billed by the City in a manner that takes into account the number of ‘dwelling units’ or ‘flats’ at the property.
This is because in terms of our law, each ‘unit’ or ‘flat’ is entitled to 6 free kl of water per ‘month’ as defined, and to be billed in steps for both
electricity and water. If the number of dwelling units or flats is not taken into account, then the body corporate or property owner (as the case
may be) will be billed too much for consumption, because the step tariff will not have been applied correctly.
MEANING OF ‘DWELLING UNIT’ AND ‘FLAT’
The two essentially mean the same thing. A ‘dwelling unit’ is a suite of interconnected rooms designed for use by a single family or household,
with only one kitchen – unless a second is permitted by the council for religious purposes.Where there are 200 sectional title homes, each
with one kitchen, it is easy to determine how many dwellings there are. But where you have 40 flats,each of which commonly houses more than one
single family, and rooms at the top of the building in addition, determining how many households or dwellings there are, becomes more difficult.
If the issue is unclear, you should consult an attorney, town planner, or architect for assistance.
Every dwelling unit or flat is entitled to 6 kl (6000 litres) of water per ‘month’ for free. This is because access to water is a constitutional right.
The City cannot lawfully terminate your water supply entirely; it can only lawfully restrict the flow of water to a minimum of the free kl’s.
NO FREE ELECTRICITY
There is no entitlement in our law to free electricity.
TARIFF FOR WATER AND ELECTRICITY CHARGES
Residential properties should be billed on the residential tariff, which is a stepped tariff. This means that the more water or electricity
consumed, the higher the charge per unit of
water or electricity.
If the number of dwelling units or flats is not taken into account when the step tariff is applied,the incorrect number of units per step is applied.
This results in the majority of the consumption billed for being charged at an inflated rate.
HOW TO CHECK IF YOU ARE ON THE CORRECT TARIFF
For a residential property, look at the back page of the City’s statement and locate the charges billed for electricity and water. The first line in the block should indicate the billing period (the opening and closing meter
reading dates) and the meter number. The second line should calculate how much consumption took place. This is done by subtracting the opening reading from the closing reading.
The next line should indicate whether you are billed on a step tariff or not. Step tariffs have 7 steps: if you see calculations that include the words “step 1” up to “step 7” then you know that you are being billed on a correct tariff.
However, if your consumption is very low, your consumption might not span all 7 steps, and you might only see “step 1” up to “step 3”, or whichever
step is appropriate. For the 2015 year (from 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016)
the 2nd step for water should be billed at R6.80 per kilo litre per month.
Note that there is only one residential tariff for water that can apply to a multi-dwelling setting,but there are several different electricity tariffs that can apply to a multi-dwelling setting explanation given herein might not specifically apply to your property. If this is the case, and you are uncertain as to whether you are being billed correctly, consult an attorney, town planner, or rates consultant.
HOW TO CHECK IF YOU ARE BEING BILLED ACCORDING TO THE CORRECT NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS
Once you know how many dwelling units or flats you should be billed for, look at the line that includes the word “step”. Look at “step 1”. It should indicate that a certain number of units are billed at a certain rate, which
corresponds to step 1. For example, it should say something like: “step 1: 1305.42 kl @ 0.00”.
The number appearing after “step 1” is how many units of water you are billed for in the step 1 bracket. The number appearing after the @ sign
is the cost per unit. This should correspond to the City’s prevailing tariffs.
Use this formula to check whether you are being billed correctly.
No of dwelling units or flats x (days in billing period/30.4) x 6 = No of units charged for in step 1 of WATER calculations.
If the number that pops out at the end of the calculation is lower than the units charged for on the bill, then you are being billed for too many
dwelling units or flats.
HOW TO HAVE YOUR BILL CORRECTED
The City has no particular application method to correct an incorrect recording of the number of dwelling units or flats.
You can try logging a query with the City’s call centre on (011) 375 5555, but it is not guaranteed that this will cause the change to be effected.
You can visit a walk in centre with proof of how many dwelling units or flats are at the property, in the form of a sectional title scheme deeds office unit list, or sectional plans. For an apartment block, you can submit plans with an architect’s certificate confirming how many dwelling units or
flats there are. The CEO of City Power has advised the media that
an affidavit stipulating the number of dwelling units or flats will be acceptable.
You could also liaise with Johannesburg Water or City Power directly with this information, but it is not certain whether they would be approachable
in this respect. It is important to record how you deal with the complaint, and remember to get a service ticket or query number.
If the City does not assist you within a reasonable period of time after having applied for the change, you may need to approach an attorney for assistance to have your bill corrected and to claim a refund for amounts overcharged.
HOW DO I CLAIM A REFUND FOR AMOUNTS OVERCHARGED?
It is complex to calculate by how much any particular account has been over-billed in a multi-dwelling setting. You will need to approach an
expert such as your attorney, town planner, or rates consultant for assistance. Once you have determined the overcharge, you then need to
apply for a refund of that amount. You can log a call with the City’s call centre, or visit one of its walk in centres. As above, you may need to seek legal assistance in compelling the City to refund you.
Written by Chantelle Gladwin-Wood