Tead your own water meter, is the advice of the chief executive of ACT Electricity and Water, Dr Mike Sargeant.
He was responding to the plight of people buying a house who are faced with the choice of paying a $55 fee to get the water meter read or risking it and perhaps getting hit with the previous owner’s excess water bill.
A woman who bought a house in Macquarie recently has just been hit with a bill of $371 for excess water consumed by the previous owner.
She says her solicitor told of the facts, but she took the risk.
Lawyers are generally telling people that now the fee has moved up to $55 (it used to be about $20) they should assess whether it is worthwhile, given that excess water bills are usually not as much as the fee.
The legal position is that the excess water bill “”runs with the land”. That means that whoever owns the land is legally obliged to pay all outstanding water, sewerage and rates bills, no matter when they were incurred. However, the new owner after paying ACTEW or the rates can then seek reimbursement from the previous owners and can sue them if they don’t pay.
That’s all very well in theory. It is often the case that previous owners cannot be found. After all they have just sold up, perhaps to take up a posting in Brazil or Tarrawingee. Even if they are in Canberra the legal costs of pursuing them would be more than it is worth.
Dr Sargeant recommends that buyers talk to their solicitors or the sellers and do their own meter reading. They can look at the previous bill which has the previous reading and pricing scales on it and work it out among themselves.
Dr Sargeant said the fee was $33 for a reading and a further $22 for a formal certificate showing the state of the account. These charges were necessary to recoup costs.
The ACTEW is moving to a new pricing structure which will do more to conserve water. Under it, there will be no “”free allowance” and therefore no “”excess water”. We will pay for every drop at a commensurately lower. People who consume less than the old “”free” allowance will therefore get a reduced bill. The idea is to encourage conservation so ACTEW can put off building an expensive and environmentally destructive new dam.
With the new billing, an adjustment for water consumption will have to be made with every house purchase, unless, of course, the ACTEW gives up its right to levy old bills against new owners and treats water just like electricity, as a personal bill payable by the user whether former owner or former tenant.