After receiving plenty of interest in the post entitled “Pre-paid electricity meters the way to go.” I have decided to write a follow up article to address some of the questions posted to us. I will answer to the best of my ability and hope it helps.
Getting a pre-paid meter for your home or rental property.
If you own the property and are not part of a body corporate you should contact your specific council/municipality directly and work through them. They will advise you on the steps to follow to change to a pre-paid meter. You should be able to find a helpline number on your last electricity bill aswell. This will be what most people are looking for and most of the time only the municipality has the authority to implement the change for you.
Getting a pre-paid meter if you belong to a body corporate.
If you are part of a body corporate or similar agreement you will need their permission to implement any changes at all. You have two options, you could either have everyone involved in the body corporate get pre-paid meters for their properties or you as an individual could install what is called a secondary meter. This means that you will get a third party (not the municipality) to install a meter inside the premises that works in conjunction with the municipal meter that is already there.
You will then still receive a monthly bill for the electricity your tenants have consumed from your body corporate but the tenants will be paying you/third party (depending on which company you use) for units. Once the tenants have paid they receive a voucher via sms with a 20 digit unique pin that they then enter into their meter in exchange for kilowatts/units.
The reason you will still receive a monthly bill from your body corporate is because an organization like that gets a bulk bill for various utilities that then gets divided between those belonging to it. You only pay for what you consume so it is a fair arrangement. So the money you collect during the month from your tenant should cover the bill you receive from the body corporate exactly. Most secondary pre-paid meter suppliers’ charge a small monthly admin fee, but the peace of mind you get in return is surely well worth it.
Do not forget to get approval from your body corporate, even for a secondary pre-paid meter.
Availability of the service.
The manufacturers have stated that it is a costly exercise to install and maintain the machines that actually dispense the electricity vouchers, like the ones you see at the supermarket or cafe. Therefore they need a certain amount of customers in need of the service before they will make the service available to a new area. From what I have seen this almost never happens and it would be worth your while to check that the service is available in your area already if you intend on buying a new property there for the purposes of renting out.
This is not so say they won’t ever designate a new area to service. Maybe if you and all your likeminded neighbours got together and contacted your municipality you could initiate a change.
The cost of installation varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and Eskom will tell you to get a quote from the manufacturer , they have a “Links” section on www.prepayment.eskom.co.za and this will give you easy access to some of the manufacturers websites. From what I have seen they can run you up to R2000 for the initial installation and startup. But there are many different manufacturers and not all of them charge this much.
To summarise, if you are an independent homeowner contact your municipality and if you belong to a group, like a body corporate, contact them first and then a manufacturer.
I hope this information is useful.
To part 1…