Mystery of pensioner’s high water bill

Mayco member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg, said, “It is quite disingenuous when customers make these claims against the City”.

This after former Table View resident Lorraine Brennand, 70, disputed her high water bill claiming the municipality refused to fix a leak.

Ms Brennand was moving to a house she was building on her son-in-law’s property in West Beach so she wanted the issue resolved urgently so she could get her rates clearance certificate.

“Last September my water bill was R38 000; usually it is R200 a month. For two months it returned to normal (possibly because of estimates and not actual readings), and then spiked again. I have been phoning the City of Cape Town to try to get the leak fixed yet they insist I must pay the outstanding amount or have it fixed at my expense. Finally they repaired the leak in July this year. The leak was on the municipality’s side yet they still insisted I pay. I went to the municipal offices to try to resolve this. The consultant confirmed that a credit would be passed but suggested that as it was urgent I should follow it up at the City’s office at Paddocks shopping centre. The consultant there was adamant that the bill was correct, despite there being a leak,” said Ms Brennand.

“We also went to the municipal offices in Milnerton where the clerk said a credit would be passed automatically because their system reflects the leak has been fixed and as it was urgent he advised me to go back to the Paddocks office and they would do the credit right away. The consultant said all readings were actual and not estimates. I countered this with the disparity of the amounts. She said that we were never billed because the meter is not working. We were told to pay because they had no reason to pass a credit as everything was normal. I asked how the water usage could jump from under R200 to R38 000 the next month and she replied that I used the water and must pay.

“Her supervisor’s only response was that I must not think logically because it is a complicated system and they would not pass a credit.

“I asked if she could check my account over the last year and explain the high amounts. She said we obviously used the water and they were being audited so no credit could be passed,” Ms Brennand said.

“When the workers came to repair the leak they used an inferior pipe that will possibly burst soon. Apparently it needs to be a polycarb pipe which it is not. The paving is still stacked in piles which they did not bother to put back after the pipe was replaced. The call centre refuses to report the leak. I was told to pay and they would credit me. When the inspector arrived he refused to look at the meter and said I should get it fixed and they would reimburse me.

“We also contacted the City ombudsman who, on their emergency hotline, said it would take 120 days to start an investigation. The mayor didn’t reply to our email either,” Ms Brennand said in July. “Please help.”

It didn’t take long to get a reply from City hall.

Ms Limberg said they contacted Ms Brennand, who settled the account and will also be paying for the meter to be tested.

“It is quite disingenuous when customers make these claims against the City,” she said.

“The high consumption has been investigated by our water inspectors; no fault or leak was found during the time of the investigation. The leak was on the council side of the water meter, therefore there was no impact on their consumption. Our records reflect that the leak was reported on July 15 this year and was repaired on July 16.

“Ms Brennand is responsible for the water bill because the high consumption period is not the same as the leak period. While the high consumption was for the period August 2018 to September 2018. There is a balance outstanding on the account but the City cannot divulge that information,” said Ms Limberg.

She said Ms Brennand will need to pay for the meter to be tested and the bill will be adjusted accordingly.

There is a fee for testing the meter which will be credited to Ms Brennand’s bill if it is found to be faulty.

Ms Brennand confirmed that a City official contacted her and said the only time she can request a credit is to pay R922 for a meter test. “The official explained that a leak alone does not justify a high water bill and the meter needs to be tested because the auditors need a reason to pass a credit. As if the leak is not reason enough,” Ms Brennand said.

“We paid R55 046.66 to get the rates clearance certificate, so the sale of the house could go ahead. My lawyer told me to pay and pursue the matter at a later date, apparently this is common when selling your house and our bill was relatively low compared to others they have seen,” Ms Brennand said.