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Tenants overcharged for electricity and water; tenant association calls for the matter to be probed

DAWOOD Parag, the KwaZulu-Natal Tenants and homeless peoples trust chairperson. | Supplied

DAWOOD Parag, the KwaZulu-Natal Tenants and homeless peoples trust chairperson. | Supplied

Published Oct 31, 2021

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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Tenants and Homeless People’s Trust claimed that landlords have gained total control of the electricity and water supply in buildings and are overcharging tenants.

The trust’s chairperson, Dawood Parag, who held a placard protest in Overport, said the government has actually fixed the consumption of electricity and water firmly in the sole discretion of the landlords and their agents.

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Parag alleged landlords and their agents determine and control the relegation volume of electricity and water a tenant was entitled to.

“We need to know how is it possible that when a tenant buys an electricity or water voucher with his money then the voucher is controlled by the local authority in such a way that the voucher is debited to the landlord or his agent. Our organisation has been actively campaigning issues such as illegal evictions and the illegal disconnections to water and electricity for many years. We call for a thorough assessment and investigation.”

“The landlord or the agent then have a system of doctoring the meter to determine the volume of electricity and water supply the tenant must receive for their voucher.”

He said they had discovered that the rates and charges differ from area to area.

“When a tenant falls into arrears with this rental payments then the landlord or his agents has total control of your electricity and water supply and together with the local authority can restrict the services of the tenant immediately which was paid for by the tenant.”

EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said government has a Free Basic Electricity (FBE) policy in place which enables it to give relief to indigent customers who consume less than 150kWh of electricity per month.

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Since the early 2000s, eThekwini Municipality has been giving indigent customers 65kWh of free electricity.

“Qualifying customers make an application then an assessment is done. Once approved, the applicant gets relief from a basket of municipal services. The energy tokens cannot be accumulated and must be collected on a monthly basis. When it comes to the reselling of electricity, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa allows for landlords to resell electricity but not with the intention of making a profit. The landlord normally pays directly to the municipality for all using consumption on the premises then, in turn, sells the electricity to the tenant for a reasonable administration fee.”

In October the City launched the smart water and electricity meter reading system which could be the solution to the problem and challenges residents were facing.

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