How to dispute a municipal account
How to dispute a municipal account
The Municipal System Act (No. 32 of 2000) provides that a customer may declare a dispute over a utility bill. No credit control may then be applied under section 102 (2) until the dispute is resolved.
Water, electricity and sanitation forms part of the elementary daily necessities described as part our constitutional rights. This means not only that a municipality should make provision for delivery of these services but also that the charges to a municipal account holder should be correct at all times.
Conveyance of inaccurate municipal records remains problematic. At some point many homeowners experience irregularities regarding their accounts which, left unresolved, may even cause credit control being enforced on them.
It comes highly recommended that prepaid electricity meters are installed to keep track of your own personal usage on a day to day basis. Tracking of water usage is becoming more and more important as many municipal account holders receive statements with incorrect data amounting to huge “debt” that is dealt with in controversial ways including sudden discontinued service delivery.
It is important to note that dispute of any amount or item related to accounts, meter readings, payments, prepaid cards, tariffs and charges may be raised.
Filing a written municipal account dispute is the best way to resolve matters in a professional manner.
Property Services supports this highly recommended process when a dispute is declared.
Write a formal letter to the manager of the specific municipality in which you state the following:
- Describe the discrepancies as detected in recent municipal statement. Attach a copy of the document accompanied by an evidence number.
- State in the letter that you are aware of the fact that no credit control (termination of services or summons) may be applied until the dispute is resolved.
- Direct the hand delivered letter to the municipality manager. Make sure to get a signed receipt and proof of conversation with recipient.
- Email a copy of the complete dispute to (1) The municipal manager (2)The financial department and the Property Services local branch for reference purposes.
- Stipulate a specific period of time in which you expect to be contacted to discuss the dispute, also a specified time frame in which the dispute should be handled. Again, request acknowledgement of receipt.
- Provide a copy to a ward councillor in which you ask for assistance in the matter.
- Should credit controls i.e. discontinued services or debt collection have been imposed without the dispute concluded, the Afriforum branch chairman may be approached for further assistance.
- To avoid additional unnecessary quarrel, all other charged services should be paid for up to date. Should the matter be referred to court, a clean and up to date account will lend great advantage in your favour.
- Remain calm and always handle yourself in a professional manner as this will certainly count in your favour.
Once a dispute is filed it should be driven by investigation and negotiation on your part to ensure speedy resolution. In terms of municipal laws the municipality must provide one with relevant documentation including a copy of the by-laws as well as a full breakdown of the account for verification of correct data.
Should the Municipality, pending the outcome of the dispute, proceed to disconnect service, one should be able to get a court order to reconnect the services.
Make use of the fax and email details provided on the municipal statement and keep track of dates and times of all correspondence.
Tracking of water and electricity supply is absolutely essential. Check your account and compare the meter readings regularly. An excellent proof of a meter reading is to photograph the meter and date stamp it. This will prevent any discrepancies or problems when the meter reading was estimated and not read by an inspector.
For assistance email Frans Roos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Frans Roos