BCM ratepayer owes R1m, but will benefit from debt incentive scheme

A ratepayer owes Buffalo City Metro more than R1m.
Image: REUTERS

A ratepayer in Bonnie Doon, East London, owes BCM more than R1m even though the home has been unoccupied for more than a year.

In a pre-termination notice seen by DispatchLIVE, the resident’s arrears were stated as R1,003,235.27.

The amount has accumulated from October 2017.

Yet this resident and others stand to be benefit from a BCM debt incentive scheme that will be introduced from Monday.

BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said it had been difficult to collect money in cases where the  arrears were 120 days or more due to the effects of the lockdown.

“BCM residents faced further economic pressure as they were unable to generate sufficient income when businesses closed as regulated,” he said.

The debt incentive scheme has been approved by council to assist clients in settling arrears by means of an incentive.

“This will lighten the financial burden of the metro’s customers,” Ngwenya said.

“Residents who owe the most will qualify for the debt scheme as the scheme is open to all customers, except government accounts which have arrears in the ageing category of 120 days and older as at December 31 and whose accounts are still in arrears at the date of registering for the scheme.”

Asked what the situation was in cases where homeowners had left homes unoccupied, Ngwenya said: “The owner is responsible for the debt and the debt must be paid whether the property is occupied or not. The owner can apply for the debt incentive scheme.”

BCM has taken a huge knock in rates collections during lockdown.

“We did have a silent grace [period] in place where we didn’t block or switch off [water and electricity] to those in arrears in view of the Covid-19 situation.

“Obviously we couldn’t announce it, otherwise people were going to take advantage.

“But we are now fully implementing a credit control policy which includes account suspensions, electricity token deductions and so on,” Ngwenya said.

BCM did not respond to questions on how much the top five debtors owed and which suburbs they lived in.

DispatchLIVE

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