NERVE-RACKING: Michael Lingwood, who owns San Jose, an abandoned building in Berea, has been billed for years with fictitious meter readings. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.
Johannesburg - A Joburg property owner is at loggerheads with the City of Joburg’s revenue department because he is being billed up to R12 million for water and electricity meters which do not exist.

Michael Lingwood, who owns an abandoned building in Berea, San Jose, has been billed for years with fictitious meter readings.

Michael Lingwood

After Metrowatch’s recent intervention, an actual reading was done of the water meter and, he said, the readings were corrected from what was previously erroneously put on the account, he said.

“The sad part is that despite having now obtained an actual meter reading for the first time in more than three years, the account has still not been adjusted,” he said.

The 121-unit block of flats has been vacant for more than 14 years and has been badly vandalised.

Level three cuts of water and electricity were done 14 years ago, according to the city’s own records, he said.

Each unit is valued at R5000 and therefore qualifies to be exempt of all rates, refuse and sewer charges, yet the city has kept issuing charges.

“Also, despite this being a residential building, the city is still erroneously charging business levies,” he said.

The city, he added, was also acting illegally charging residents for services older than three years which are, by law, supposed to have been removed off customers’ accounts as per the Consumer Protection Amendment Act, which came into effect on March 13, 2015, he said.

The fine, according to the act, for every account that contains prescribed debt on a statement, was R1million.

Lingwood said the city had promised to remove the prescribed debt by the end of August, but he had more than 300 accounts and this has not been done.

Thousands of residents have been forced and coerced, under duress, into signing acknowledgements of debt documents for these prescribed debts, he said.

The City of Joburg said it acknowledged the incorrect bill on the customer’s account and was currently working on the account to amend it.

It did not respond to a request for comment on the prescribed debt.

The Star