A water leak causes high bills (May 2015)

High bills, Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2014/47189
Outcome Assisted Referral

The Issue

The customer received a higher than expected bill in October 2014 for approximately $2,500. She had also previously received a much higher than expected bill of $7,500 in early 2014 which she had paid. The customer believed the high bills were caused by staff from the water corporation tampering with taps at her property. The customer advised the property is vacant and should incur only minimal water bills. She had contacted the water corporation in October 2014 however she was unhappy with its response.

An Assisted Referral was raised, however this did not resolve the matter. Due to the complexity of the issue, EWOV used its discretion to bypass its Real Time Resolution process and instead commenced an Investigation.

The Investigation

EWOV requested the customer contact notes, bills and meter read data from the water corporation.

EWOV noted that the customer purchased this property and opened a water account on 6 April 2010. We confirmed that the meter was read each quarter and zero water consumption was recorded at the property until 4 October 2013 when a read of 569 kL was recorded. On 10 October 2013, the water corporation arranged for the meter to be checked to ensure this read was accurate. This check confirmed that the meter read was correct. On 15 October 2013, the water corporation sent the customer a letter advising of the high usage and warning that there might be a leak at the property.  It subsequently sent the customer a bill for $2,932.70. The next scheduled meter read on 7 January 2014 also showed high consumption of 465 kL and the water corporation sent the customer another high usage letter warning that the property might have a water leak, together with a bill for $2,406.83.

The customer contacted the water corporation to dispute the meter reads and it arranged a site visit on 13 February 2014 to investigate her concerns. During this site visit it confirmed that the meter itself was operating correctly, however the stop tap was faulty and this prevented the water supply to the properly from being turned off. The meter was next read on 11 April 2014 and the customer was sent a bill for $2,248.27. EWOV noted that the faulty stop tap was not repaired until 26 May 2014 when a contractor of the water corporation attended the property in response to a report from a neighbour that there was water leak at the property. The contractor fixed the faulty stop tap on this day and turned off the water supply to the property. The water corporation advised the customer verbally and in writing that it was her responsibility to fix the leak at the property.  The next meter read at the property showed zero water consumption.

EWOV discussed the timeline of events with the water corporation as it was concerned with the delay in repairs to the stop tap. EWOV noted that the pipes leading from the street to the meter, the stop tap and the meter itself are the responsibility of the water corporation and all pipes on the property beyond this point are the responsibility of the customer.

The Outcome

The water corporation apologised for the inconvenience caused to the customer and accepted liability for water consumption between the time it identified the faulty stop tap and the time the stop tap was repaired. Accordingly, it waived $2,099.14 in charges for water consumption during the period of 13 February 2014 and 26 May 2014.  This credit reduced the outstanding account balance to $343.68 and the water corporation extended the due date for this payment. The customer was satisfied with this outcome.

The water corporation also advised the customer that the most recent meter reading suggested the stop tap had been turned back on and the leak at the property had not yet been repaired. The customer accepted that it was her responsibility to have the leak fixed and that the water corporation would not waive usage caused by the leak in the future.

Related content

Hot topic

Hot Topic − Fair and reasonable (August 2018)

Getting connected and changing energy company, Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, Debt collection and credit default listings, Outages, brownouts and power surges, High bills, Billing mistakes, Delayed and catch-up bills, Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Hot topic

Estimated meter reads (July 2018)

Billing mistakes, Delayed and catch-up bills, Meters, poles, wires and pipes