Pretoria - The City of Tshwane spent the last six years demanding that a plot owner settled his neighbour’s water and electricity bill, which had by then rocketed to R650 000.
However, the Nelspruit attorney eventually had a last laugh when Gauteng High Court Judge Jody Kollapen issued a declaratory order that he was not indebted to the municipality in respect of any electricity or water consumption as indicated in the bill.
Johannes van Aard said he was told during his struggle with the City to first sort out the bill before they looked into the problem.
He was a happy man after Judge Kollapen ordered the municipality to immediately rectify its records to show that Van Aard did not owe it a cent.
The municipality was given seven days to get its house in order in this regard and process his application for a prepaid meter on his plot.
He said he had lost out on thousands in rental, as his tenants on the plot could not pay until they had electricity. In the meantime, he could not get (income) while the dispute over the bill was raging, as municipality refused to install a prepaid meter before the money was paid.
Van Aard said he tried his best to sort out the problem without involving the law, but he had spent hours away from his Nelspruit practice to sit in queues at the municipal offices in Pretoria, all in vain.
He explained in court papers that he bought a plot in 2010 north of the city, and in 2013, after he made some improvements there, applied for the connection of electricity.
Up to now the electricity has not been connected and he has been using solar power. But his first bill in July 2013 was for water and electricity usage.
The water meter for which he was billed was situated on his neighbour's plot; it thus measured his neighbour’s consumption.
Since 2013, Van Aard tried to sort out the problems and every time he had to explain to the administration staff that the billing was not in relation to water and electricity usage on his plot.
A municipal officer twice went to his plot to see what the problem was and acknowledged that there was no electricity connection and that the water meter was not linked to his property.
It emerged that the municipality had the wrong property linked to his name.
While customer care at the municipality acknowledged at a stage that the wrong property was being billed, it was not the end of Van Aard’s problems.
While he was being charged for his neighbour’s water and electricity he did not have, the account became higher and higher and it was on several occasions handed over to different lawyers to take Van Aard to task to pay.
“Despite all the hours I have spent on the phone, despite the letters and emails and visiting the municipal offices, absolutely nothing has been done about the situation. I still get my neighbour’s account,” Van Aard told the court.
He is now considering instituting a damages claim against the City for all the money in rent he had lost over the years due to their incompetence. Van Aard, meanwhile, told the Pretoria News that he hoped this court order was the end of his problems. He advised others in his shoes to turn to the law if they received no joy from the municipality.
The City did not file any papers to state their side, nor was it in court to defend the matter. The ratepayers will, meanwhile, have to foot the legal bill.