Property owner left fuming over R17m water and lights bill
A Johannesburg resident is struggling to sell his property - and his R17-million bill for water and electricity is certainly not helping!
Nico Niemand‚ who owns two semi-detached houses in Brixton‚ got a bill in June this year that looks more like the winnings of the Lotto.
He has been struggling with the City of Johannesburg since 2015. He claims to have had over 40 meetings with city officials.
Niemand started restoring the property in 2015. In June that year‚ he said an official from City Power told him they would install new prepaid meters to replace the old meters. “I was happy about that. I allowed them to install the new meter‚” he explained.
The house had no power when the official left‚ saying he was going to their offices to register the new meter - but he never returned.
“A week after that‚ I found the meter in the driveway‚” he said.
Niemand said City Power told him it was a stolen meter‚ even though he has documents to show that the old meter was removed. “City Power issued job cards to install a new meter‚ but it wasn’t done‚” he said.
Ever since then‚ he has been struggling to arrange for the installation of a new meter‚ which matches his account number.
Meanwhile‚ his bills have kept mounting.
“From July‚ the next month‚ we received ‘estimate’ billings of between R5‚000 and R7‚000. It is a prepaid meter‚ no power can go through - and then they say there is an estimate of R7‚000. In the first place‚ we did not have a working meter‚ so no power could go through‚” he explained.
His bill rose to R180‚000 - before he received the R17-million bill in June this year.
Niemand claims he has lost R900‚000 in rental income because anyone who visits the property can see the pre-service termination notice. “Anyone that walks past sees there’s a problem with the property and says‚ ‘We are not going to move here.’”
He is also struggling to sell the property.
Niemand advised property owners to check their billing and meter to ensure that their numbers match. “Go as far back as you can‚” he said.
City of Joburg spokesperson Kgamanyane Stan Maphologela said the billing error was the result of the “meter reading clock-over‚ resulting in technical misalignment of the meter’s dials when estimates were corrected”.
“A clock-over happens if the metering digits have reached the last 99‚999 digits‚ resulting in the start of the meter reading from a lower reading again‚” said Maphologela.
“We have put additional controls in place to ensure that such anomalies do not happen again in future.”
Maphologela said the city has investigated the bill‚ which “has been reversed successfully”.
“The account has been corrected and the customer will be notified of the final outcome‚” said Maphologela.