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Receipts for public utilities: A right or a privilege?

Receipts for public utilities: A right or a privilege?

Issuing receipts for the use of public utilities is more than just a transaction; it is a pledge of transparency, a tool for empowerment, and a cornerstone for fostering community trust in which HOAs can demonstrate their commitment to accountability and fair governance. Photo: Facebook

Public utilities are essential services that provide people with water, electricity, garbage collection, and other amenities. They are usually regulated by the government and paid for by the consumers through taxes or fees. However, in some areas with no adequate or reliable public utility system, homeowners associations (HOAs) step in to fill the gap and provide these services to their members.

HOAs manage and maintain the common areas and facilities of a residential subdivision or condominium. They collect dues and fees from the homeowners to fund their operations and expenses. One of the responsibilities of HOAs is to issue receipts to the homeowners who pay for public utilities.

Receipts are official documents that serve as proof of payment and transaction. They also help keep track of the income and expenses of the HOAs and the consumption and allocation of public utilities.

Receipts are essential for several reasons, such as:

  • Transparency and accountability - Receipts provide a clear record of the amount paid by homeowners for public utilities and how the collected funds are utilized by the HOAs. They include important details such as the payment date, time, mode, and the authorized personnel's name and signature. The presence of receipts helps prevent fraud, corruption, and mismanagement of funds within HOAs. Additionally, they can be used to resolve any disputes or complaints regarding payment or the delivery of public utilities.
  • Compliance and regulation - Issuing receipts is a legal requirement for any transaction involving money or goods. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) mandates that all entities engaged in trade or business, including HOAs, must provide receipts or invoices for every sale or service rendered. Similarly, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) requires HOAs to issue official receipts for all collections from their members. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in penalties or sanctions imposed by government agencies.
  • Record-keeping and monitoring - Receipts are valuable tools for maintaining records and monitoring the performance and efficiency of public utilities. They enable the measurement of homeowners' water, electricity, and other utility consumption and demand. Analyzing receipts can identify problems or issues affecting the quality or availability of public utilities, such as leaks, damages, or shortages. This information is crucial for planning and budgeting future improvements or repairs to ensure the continued provision of reliable public utilities.

Therefore, issuing receipts for public utilities is a responsibility and a right of both HOAs and homeowners. It is a way of ensuring that public utilities are appropriately managed and maintained by HOAs, as well as adequately paid for and utilized by homeowners. It is also a way of improving the quality and availability of public utilities, which can benefit both HOAs and homeowners in terms of health, safety, convenience, and satisfaction.

However, not all HOAs issue receipts for public utilities. Some of them fail to do so due to various reasons, such as:
  • Insufficient resources or capacity - Some HOAs may lack the necessary infrastructure to routinely issue public utility receipts. This includes a shortage of personnel, equipment, materials, or efficient systems to produce and distribute receipts effectively. Furthermore, they might encounter difficulties collecting payments from delinquent or uncooperative homeowners.
  • Insufficient awareness or education - Some HOAs might not fully grasp the importance or legal requirements surrounding the issuance of public utility receipts. This lack of understanding extends to the potential advantages or disadvantages of providing or not providing receipts, fueled by misconceptions or misunderstandings about the process involved.
  • Unwillingness or lack of cooperation - There are HOAs reluctant or uncooperative when issuing public utility receipts, possibly harboring ulterior motives such as tax evasion, avoiding accountability, fund manipulation, or exploiting homeowners.
These reasons are not valid excuses for not issuing receipts for public utilities. They are violations of the rights and obligations of both HOAs and homeowners. They are also detrimental to the quality and availability of public utilities.

One example of a case where an HOA failed to issue receipts for public utilities occurred in Tacloban City. A homeowner fetched water from a jetmatic pump managed by an HOA in a different cluster where he does not belong. He paid 15 pesos to the attendant and requested a receipt for the transaction. 

However, instead of issuing a receipt, the attendant responded aggressively towards the homeowner,  threatened to throw away the water he had collected, and even suggested he fetch water from areas that provide receipts. This exchange demonstrated the disdain and potential abuse that can stem from not issuing receipts.

This incident is not isolated. There may be other cases where HOAs fail to issue receipts for public utilities or mistreat members or non-members who ask for them. Authorities and the public need to expose and address these issues. 

Government agencies, such as the DHSUD, should enforce laws and regulations regarding issuing receipts for public utilities. They need to monitor and audit the HOAs and their public utility services and impose penalties or sanctions on HOAs that violate the rules or fail to comply with the standards. It is also important to educate and inform the HOAs and their members about the importance and requirements of issuing receipts for public utilities.

Homeowners, on their part, should assert their rights and demand receipts for public utilities. They need to be vigilant and report any irregularities or anomalies in the payment or delivery of public utilities. Furthermore, those representing HOAs must treat all individuals with respect and refrain from being aggressive or arrogant. Similarly, homeowners should show respect and courtesy to personnel who issue receipts.

Receipts for public utilities are not a privilege but a right and obligation of both HOAs and homeowners. They benefit both parties and should thus be a priority, not an option. Therefore, issuing receipts for public utilities should not be seen as a problem but a solution that promotes transparency, compliance, and improved service delivery for all involved parties.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  iTacloban.
iTacloban

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