By Sanette VIljoen
Property rates and municipal accounts legally obligate every property owner, as well as every consumer of municipal services, for payment thereof.
Section 229 of our Constitution stipulates that municipalities may levy property rates as well as fees for the rendering of services to a property, for example providing water and the removal of refuse.
This constitutional right is codified in the Municipal Property Rates Act no. 6 of 2004 and the Municipal Systems Act no. 32 of 2000.
Property rates are always levied as a percentage of the value of a property. A valuation is compiled that comprises the market value of all properties within the jurisdiction of a certain municipality. The cost pertaining to sewage and refuse removal is a fixed amount that is levied monthly. The water and electricity account of course depends on the amount of water and electricity you use monthly.
Unfortunately, it is so that many municipalities no longer take monthly readings, with the result that often only an estimate is made of the consumption. Every month owners are then confronted with an estimated account. In many cases, in some jurisdictions accounts are no longer even issued. This creates a huge problem.
Section 27(2) of the Municipal Property Rates Act stipulates that a property owner is liable for property rates, regardless of whether or not the owner received an account. This section therefore places an obligation on property owners to make enquiries at their municipality should they not receive an account.
Of course, theory and practice don’t always meet. No-one wants to stand in the municipal queue for hours, only to hear that the system might be down. In practice if often happens that property owners receive massive accounts, because after some months the municipality decide to take readings and determine that the estimates were much too low. Consequently, the property owner is now stuck with a gigantic account. It also happens that the property owner’s clearance figures are much too high when he wants to sell his home.
It would therefore be wise for every property owner to make sure that he receives his monthly municipal account. Also, keep a monthly record of your meter readings. Don’t allow your property rates and levies to pile up and don’t stop paying because you didn’t receive an account.