A customer sought compensation for sewage overflow into his property (September 2016)

Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2016/4464
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr W was dissatisfied with damage caused to his rental property after there was a sewer blockage and leak inside the house in early 2015. He also advised that the same issue had occurred previously in 2008. When he arrived at the property, the floor coverings had been ripped up (due to damage) making the property unliveable. He was seeking reimbursement for damaged floor coverings, household items that were not covered by his insurance and lost rent. He was dissatisfied with the customer service received when the water corporation rejected his claim via email, advising it was not liable for the damages. In order to resolve the matter, he was seeking $8,100 for lost rent, $2,300 for the floor coverings and $176 for a plumber’s visit.

The Investigation

EWOV initially raised an Assisted Referral on 25 February 2016. Although the water corporation agreed to reimburse Mr W for the plumbers visit, he recontacted EWOV on 6 April 2016 because it would not process the rest of his claim. EWOV escalated the matter to an Investigation. During the Investigation the water corporation confirmed that the blockage was caused by tree roots blocking the sewer mains. There was also a faulty drain known as ‘the overflow release gully’ which did not function correctly. This drain should prevent a sewer blockage/overflow from making its way inside a home or garden and is the customer’s responsibility to maintain. A similar situation had occurred in 2008. Mr W said that he was not informed in 2008 that he had a defective drain, and was dissatisfied that he had not been provided with this information back in 2008.

The water corporation did not agree to reimburse Mr W for lost rent, as it believed that repairs could have been done quickly and should not have resulted in such a large loss of income. However, it acknowledged that because it could not provide EWOV with contact notes or other records that showed it had explained to Mr W in 2008 that his drain was defective, it would compensate him for the floor damage.

The Outcome

While the water corporation did not accept liability, it did acknowledge that the lack of records made it difficult to ascertain what information had been previously provided to Mr W, when the first blockage occurred in 2008. As such, it agreed to pay Mr W $2,390 to cover the cost of the floor coverings, based on a quote Mr W had provided. In order to ensure that the issue didn’t recur, the water corporation also inspected the drain and was satisfied that appropriate action had been taken and the overflow relief gully was compliant. Mr W was satisfied with the offer made and the complaint was closed.

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