Answer to a question from a reader

What can I do about the municipality crediting my rates, in error, to the previous owner of the house?

The short answer

The municipality has to rectify the issue, but you will likely need to settle the bill pending resolution of the dispute.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

What can I do about the municipality crediting my rates, in error, to the previous owner of the house, even though they had issued a clearance certificate and the property had been transferred to my name? The result is that I am now sitting with a big rates bill.

The long answer

If there is a dispute about a bill, the municipality generally demands that the bill is paid pending resolution of the dispute.  

I do not understand how rates can be "given" to a previous owner by the municipality, but it certainly appears as if the municipality has made a mistake. As you have already tried to solve the problem for eight months unsuccessfully, I assume that you have taken all your documents – including the clearance certificate – to the municipality?

Perhaps you should try once more to meet with the municipal officials and ask them to explain what has happened so that it can be resolved. You should take down the name of the person you speak to and get the names of any others who may have dealt with this. But as I said above, they may well tell you that the bill must be paid pending resolution of the dispute.

If they do not resolve this, you could escalate the complaint to the MEC of Housing in your province.

These are the contact details of MECs for all the provinces:

  • Housing Enquiries Hotline: 0800 146 873

  • Gauteng: 011 355 4000

  • Western Cape: 079 769 1207 (Please Call Me)

  • Eastern Cape: 043 711 9901/2/3

  • KwaZulu Natal: 033 392 6400 or 033 3365300

  • North West: 018 388 5403

  • Limpopo: 015 284 5000

  • Northern Cape: 053 830 9422

  • Free State: 051 405 3883

  • Mpumalanga: 013 766 6087

You could also ask the Black Sash, an organisation that gives free paralegal advice, for help:

Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 9, 2023, 10:55 p.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.