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What would you do?

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  • What would you do?

    Hi All,

    I have an interesting situation and need to get some advice.......

    We have a residential section in the Bay of Islands. It is part of a sub-division and we've owned it for three years. Recently we received a 'water usage' invoice for nearly $6000 for Nov-Apr. It's the only communication we have received of its kind (no previous invoices or notices saying we are receiving council water etc). Apparently a water meter and tap were installed on our section late 2005 and the council water fed to the tap. I had my cousin check it out today and she said the tap is highly visible on the section and so easy access for anyone to use. The tap connects to nothing as there is no dwelling on the section.

    So someone has turned the tap on and raked up $6000 worth of water usage in the last six months and we have been told we need to pay up. The council do meter readings every six months - saw the tap was on and turned it off - took the meter reading and billed us!

    Has anyone been in a similar situation? I suppose what truly amazes me with all this is:
    1. A tap is installed and water fed to it without our permission (you'd think the tap would be locked until the owner has requested permission to use the water). I understand placing a water meter and connection ready for use - but I don't understand why they'd feed water to it -
    2. The tap is placed in a highly visible location - (open invitation for someone to connect to the tap and feed the village...which they must have done to rake up $6000
    What do you think we should do? Have you had any similar experiences and what was the outcome?


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  • #2
    I'd explain your predicament to them.
    To my way of thinking it's like someone stealing your car then getting speeding and parking tickets.
    After all the net cost to them is not $6k!!!


    • #3
      I agree with Toby. Contact the council.

      I had a situation (in Waitakere City) where a pipe outside the house started leaking. I contacted the council to see if it was my responsibility to fix or theirs. They told me it was inside the property so it was my responsibility. But they also said that if the next water bill was really high, I could ask them to take a few new meter readings to determine average daily usage, and they would reduce my water bill by a percentage of the water wasted. I cant remember the exact amount, but I think I would still have to pay about 30% of the wasted water.


      • #4
        Same situation as RentMaster, but with a leaking toilet - after review of usage, water bill was reduced by 50%.

        Definitely a time for some friendly communication.



        • #5
          Hey Donna,

          If you get stonewalled, try these guys.

          Good luck.


          • #6

            That stinks. The stories of people negotiating reduced charges probably aren't making you feel much better - 30 or 50% of $6K is still a big charge.

            When you say the council has "turned the tap off", do you mean that it is now secure, and can't be used? If they can do this, then why was this not done in the first place?



            • #7
              Hi Paul

              The meter is read only every six months.

              It appears that all the water has been used only since the last reading six months ago.

              "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx


              • #8
                My cousin checked it out and all the sections have the same thing - a meter, tap (connected to nothing) and can be turned on by anyone. I had my cousin take the tap handle off to disable it from further abuse.

                I don't think the council have ever done a meter reading (since the meter was installed in late 2005) and they realised there was a lot of water usage coming from somewhere - did a search found our section took the meter reading (put on the invoice that it was a reading for the last six months - however it is more than likely the one and only reading they have ever done).

                There is negligence there - as they are supposed to take reading every 6 months - but they can not have been doing so as we have never received any notice/advice slip/invoice saying they had taken readings for the six monthly periods.

                If they had taken readings then we would have known during the first six months (after connection to the water supply) that in fact we were connected and taken action to either 'disconnect' or do what we have done now - disable the handle so no one can use the water.

                I suppose it is going to come down to proving our point with them.


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                • #9
                  Depends on teh council but having dealt with this many times with leaks in rentals I would get your solicitor to contact council adavising that you have not used ANY water on the site and making it very clear that the bill is not yours.


                  • #10
                    Yeah spending a few bucks on a lawyer makes sense given the $6000 bill we are up against. I'll do that and let you know how we get on.

                    Thanks everyone - I've been having a few sleepless nights as you can imagine.


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                    • #11
                      I would point out to the rates clerk that the water actually costs them nothing. The take the water from a river or what ever and it comes to them free.
                      The whole point of charging for water is a convient way of dividing up the cost of laying the pipes and maintaining them. Our local councils have a similar scheme of rebating the costs if a leak is found. Recently they have been getting a bit tougher and saying the rebate will only apply if the leak was in a supply line and not something like an overflowing header tank or burst internal piping.
                      I am trying to sort out a problen at a property at the moment. The meter is showing that 1 cu m of water per day is being used. This is three times the average.


                      • #12

                        Assume you are being charged $2.38 per cubic metre ? (see fndc dot govt dot nz / rates).

                        Works out to 10 litres per minute for every minute of the six months. Not a trickle! Not something that would go un-noticed by locals/ passersby.

                        More likely that there is an error in either this reading or the previous reading. If it were me, I would try to reach a settlement myself before getting lawyer involved, starting from the position that I haven't used any water. If that doesn't solve it, get information from the council on the previous meter reading - if there wasn't one, then lawyer's work (and bill) may be a lot less (The council needs to prove the usage invoiced is correct by having a previous or initial reading that is defendable).

                        No doubt you are conscious of any late payment penalties. Worth requesting an extension to give time to have your concerns addressed (in writing).

                        Good luck !


                        • #13
                          I had a similar problem with an electricity bill a long time ago. Well it worked out that the hot water cylinder would have to have been on heating 24/7 plus some for previous month. When I explained the current rating needed exceeded the hot water cyclinders rating they came to there senses.


                          For anybody else wanting to test if there water system is leaking on a property do these steps:
                          *Take a reading at night
                          *Don't use any taps, toilets etc during night
                          *Take another reading in morning.

                          It should not have changed much/ at all.


                          • #14
                            It sounds as though there are hiccups in many systems involved here and I doubt that you are the only who has had a problem. Could you volunteer to the council and locals to be a guinea pig/spokes person for an upgrade in the systems e.g administration, billing and meter reading, tap use monitoring etc. If they agree, ask them to write-off your bill as a trade-off for services rendered.
                            To success,


                            • #15
                              You must be joking Dorien :-). Why should she volunteer to work for free for the council in excahnge for them writing off a bill that isn't hers??

                              Leave it to a good lawyer I still reckon