Durban rate payers owe the eThekwini municipality R1.9 billion in unpaid rates as of June this year, the Mercury reported on Monday.

Business in the city owed R417 million with Durban Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrew Layman saying last year's July 1 increase might be the reason businesses were defaulting in their payments.

“If the values of their properties were steeply increased and the rate bill was then unexpectedly large, in some cases more than double what they paid before, they may not have the cash to pay,” Layman was quoted as saying in the Mercury.

Government departments were the biggest debtors, owing the city R410 million.

The Ingonyama Trust which owes 32 percent of all land in KwaZulu-Natal reportedly owed R285 million.

The trust chaired by King Goodwill Zwelithini consists of traditional land, including the major townships of Umlazi, KwaMashu and Inanda.

The trust was in a legal dispute with the municipality over whether it was required to pay rates.

Durban reportedly charges the highest rates in the country, more than Johannesburg or Cape Town. -Sapa