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Johannesburg - In yet another move that has infuriated residents and will be hitting them hard in their pockets, the City of Joburg has suddenly – without prior notification – started increasing electricity and water deposits.

This has resulted in residents receiving inflated electricity bills, not knowing why.

Many have paid what they thought was their normal consumption, only to find that they are in arrears and face cut-offs, because the money they paid was automatically taken for the deposit.

The city requires a two-month average consumption electricity and water deposit on all accounts.

Mostly hard hit are sectional titles owners who, when they sell their units, will never recover these deposits.

Charlotte Steenekamp, a sectional title portfolio manager, said it was affecting residents badly as neither they nor their bodies corporate had budgeted for these additional costs.

“Many are old buildings which initially only put down small deposits. Now they are having to pay amounts up to R40 000, which has to be spread among a small number of owners. It is throwing out the budgets of many bodies corporate, who cannot afford them,” she said.

Rodney Louw, chairman of Honeydew Ridge Estate, which comprises 230 townhouse sectional title units, is outraged.

“We have just been informed by the managing agent of the massive increase from the city regarding the deposit for electricity accounts – this without prior notification or input from anyone.

“I would like to know the motivation for this and what our options are as we are already being heavily penalised with incorrect billing, disconnection without notification – in spite of being up to date with payments – and incorrect reading of meters.”

The city, however, says it is legally entitled to have a two-month consumption deposit.

A spokesman for the city revenue department, Stan Maphologela, issued a statement after receiving questions from The Star.

“We would like to inform customers of accounts that have not been charged deposits for electricity and water services that they will have this deposit billed to their account.

“The decision to raise the deposits is in line with the city’s by-laws and means that customers who have no deposit reflected on their account will be required to pay an average of two months billing for their metered services,” he said.

Deposits are raised on accounts as security in payment of any charges which are due. This is in line with the credit control and debt collection by-law promulgated in May 2005, which the city implemented from February 2006.

Maphologela added that the city’s credit control and debt-collection policy provided that where a deposit had not been paid to the city for whatever reason, water and electricity might be disconnected until such time as an account holder agreement had been signed and the applicable deposit paid.

Maphologela said the city started implementing this project from February in various regions, and customers were duly informed, but chose to ignore the request. Therefore, the council was obliged to enforce these by-laws.

“The city is aware of the financial impact this will have on customers and is offering a payment plan, payable over six months, for those who have difficulty paying the lump sum.”

The Star