If you’re a first-time home owner, you may find your municipal account more than a little confusing.
You might not be entirely sure what the terminology actually means, what you are being charged for
and why – so Cosmopolitan has put together a basic guide to help you.
Let’s start with why you receive a municipal account…
If you own a house or property and have access to electricity, water and waste removal services, you
should receive a monthly bill from your local municipality for these various services, as well as the
taxes you pay on your property.
While no two municipalities issue identical bills or always use the same terminology, the basic
information remains the same. Always check your account and ensure that the details are correct.
There are five main charges on your bill namely:
Water – If you are on a metered account, all domestic water consumers receive the first six
kilolitres of water consumed per month for free. Thereafter a stepped tariff per kl is charged
by the council based on your metered water consumption. If you are on pre-paid water,
there will be no water usage charge on your municipal account.
Sewerage or waste water.
Electricity – if you are on a metered account, you will receive a charge for this based on how
much electricity you used. If however, like most new households, you are on pre-paid
electricity, there will be no electricity usage charge on your municipal account.
Refuse removal of solid waste.
Rates and Taxes, also called assessment rates.
The account will give you a detailed breakdown of the total amounts payable including:
Basic services, also called availability charges – Availability charges are a fixed amount
charged to recoup the capital costs of delivering water, electricity and sewer connections to
Itemised consumption and adjustments for water and sanitation and refuse collection –
Water is charged based on how much you use each month. If you are on prepaid electricity
there will be no electricity charge on your account.
Assessment rates also known as rates and taxes – The income generated by the levying of
assessment rates is used by your municipality to provide services to the region such as
libraries, parks, sports fields, roads, infrastructure and so on. All property owners must pay
rates and taxes from the day they become the registered owner, regardless of whether you
live in the property or not. It is your responsibility to open an account at council in your
name and pay a consumer deposit. Make sure that you provide the correct billing address,
and if you do not receive the statement every month, you need to enquire at council to
rectify this. Remember to pay an amount every month even if you have not received your
account to ensure that you don’t end up with a huge bill to settle once your account is finally
What happens on a property bought off plan at registration?
Rates and taxes – In terms of rates and taxes on a new property that is built off plan, there
are two ways that council will levy rates and taxes. If at the time of registration of the
property in your name, the council has not yet completed the property evaluations, you will
be charged a ‘vacant land tariff’ which is slightly higher than the residential tariff. Once the
council completes the valuations, you will be switched to the residential tariff. At this point
the council will do a ‘rates adjustment’ which means they work out the difference between
what you paid under the vacant land tariff versus what you should have paid under the
residential rate, which is usually slightly lower. Typically, if you were paying the higher
vacant land tariff you will receive a refund or credit on your account. You will also receive a
small assessment rebate which all property owners receive – the exact amount varies
between different councils.
Availability Charges for water, electricity and sewerage connections – You will be charged
for services that have been ‘connected’ to your property – such as water, electricity and
sewerage connections. These are known as basic service or availability charges and they are
a fixed rate each month. Once your water meters are installed these charges will switch to a
metered consumption and you will no longer be charged a basic fee, but charged for your
actual usage based on the meter readings. If for whatever reason the council continued to
charge you for the basic charges after your water meter was installed, they will revert back
to the installation date of your meter, reverse the basic charges and then charge you for
your actual consumption.
It can be really confusing when you look at all the charges and terminology on your municipal bill,
especially if you’re new to home ownership. Take the time to study your account and make use of
your local council’s support line or website for assistance on any queries.
Please note that this article is intended as an advisory guide only and does not replace the guidance
provided by your local council. Each council uses its own terminology and this can change without