My friend lives in an apartment, in a block of eight (8) apartments.
Water usage is measured by a single water meter, covering ALL 8 apartments
and council uses some arbitrary process to divide up the water usage
and bill each apartment accordingly.
My friend is very water frugal but her water bills are outrageous.
I’m wondering how this is even legal?
It certainly does not give any incentive for the residents to save water or fix
leaking taps and toilets, especially as many of the residents are transient renters.
I have seen multi apartment blocks which have individual water meters for
each apartment, just like electricity meters, so I am really bothered about this
scenario which cannot possible be fair.
Anybody know how council can get away with this scenario?
It is not council, it is the water company operating under (usually) state laws. Perhaps some councils own their local water supply?
Regardless you need to refer to the local water supplier be it company or council for authoritative information. Here is the info from mine.
If your friend is renting it probably is what it is unless the landlord (as an owner) is willing to engage in the owners corporation. If your friend is an owner they need to engage the owners corporation.
We have a townhouse, one in a strata title of 5, QLD. They originally had a single meter when built in the 1980’s. It took 33 years to get to a situation where each is now separately metered and true consumption billed.
In addition to @PhilT feedback.
I found several businesses small and large offering their services to assess, quote and carry out the work required to install additional meters. They may have the best hands on knowledge of what is practical and acceptable. It’s plumbing work and must also meet the utility company rules as well as State regulations. We used ‘The Meter Guys’ who cover Greater Brisbane. A good place to start would be the respective Utility Company.
We found that prior to the meter upgrade the fixed daily charges for service and seperate fixed cost for sewage based on the number of toilets made up 80-90% of the bill. The portion of the billed cost that relates to the volume of water consumed needs to be considered against the cost of installing individual meters. The annual savings we gained were $50-$100. YMMV.
In our instance the cost to each owner was just under $1,000 for what was a very simple install. Apartment complexes may be more complex and expensive depending on the plumbing layout and Utilities Company requirements, assuming it is agreed and practical.
The greatest motivation for change may come from landlord unit owners who in our state are not legally entitled to recover water costs if they are not separately metered.
I do not comprehend “HOW” the water utility determines how much water is used by each lot, let alone “WHY”.
It seems to me that one meter, presumably in the owners’ corp’s name is the party the utility would bill.
If the OC chooses to recoup any monies from lot owners that is between the OC and the lot owners. It (should) have nothing to do with the utility, whose focus is to get its customer ie the name on the account (the OC) to pay on invoice.
Note the above is for WATER USE.
No doubt the council bills each lo for WATER RATES (which as you know is independent of water use).
How Utilities are billed and to whom for Strata property varies slightly depending on the State/Territory, Strata Title regulations, and property design/age.
Is your enquiry specific to one State and council area, or more general?
How does your OC go about this, or is there a water usage estimate included with your property utilities bill?
Where there is a single meter for a Strata property the water consumption costs are determined as set by the respective Strata Property legislation/regulations. Typically proportionate based on the lot/contribution entitlement.
‘The Strata Life - Understanding Water Usage in Strata Buildings
It’s some years since I received a rates notice which included the water, sewage etc on the rates notice. For any larger city in Qld or NSW it’s independent of council.
EG Unity Water & Urban Utilities in SE Qld, Hunter Water and Sydney Water in NSW.
Not sure about anywhere else.
My late mother lived on an estate, the body corporate of which created on paper multiple 8 unit blocks. There was one water meter covering all 8 units, administered by the body corporate. In their wisdom the billing for water was that each unit bore ⅛ of the water bill, so my mother paid the same for water as a family of 5. The only way out of this was for mum, at her own expense, to arrange for her own water meter, the cost of which was not cheap
In response to your query, one strata I know of (that has one meter for all lots) does not charge owners separately for their water use notwithstanding in some lots one person lives and in others there are several persons living. The strata pays the water use charge out of the quarterly levies owners are invoiced. The strata’s logic is that as levies are set by unit entitlements and that it would be too costly on every lot owner to install dozens of individual meters.
Water usage is included in our strata levies. But we get hefty connection charges separately. As we don’t have car washing or private gardens at our block usage charges are small. Even with the odd household into leisure showering, paying a thousand each to adjust some small bills seems unlikely.
A better use of strata funds would be commissioning an annual water check where a plumber inspects each unit, repairs minor leaks, replaces washers and notes any significant water issues that affect others, where strata pays for the site visit, owners for any small jobs. ‘Water is the enemy of structure’ and many of the big repair bills strata’s pay come when water damage is known too late or withheld by self-interested unit owners or tenants who don’t care, so this would save on water waste and potentially major repairs. Our unit of 6 had a 300k drainage repair before we moved in. Maybe these kinds of checks exist somewhere, but I’ve never known of them. Make them a govt requirement like fire safety checks would be even better.
I’ll add in the past we probably used more water than we paid for with two teens taking long showers. But I just installed 2 low flow shower heads and calculate we save around 300 litres of hot water a day now. That’s big savings in electricity and water. This is part of a household energy conservation drive I did that reduces our bills buy over $1000 a year. I posted about it in the money saving tips thread here on Choice.
My final thought is energy efficiency is a big missed opportunity for households and governments. So maybe annual strata ‘fire safety’ and ‘water’ checks could be expanded to include resource efficiency and the sparkies and plumbers could do small reports highlighting energy and water saving options. They could be tied in with council schemes to help organise and subsidise minor refits: low flow shower heads, tap aerators, heat reflecting window films, insulation, timers, fitting LED lights: there are a few things that can can save big bucks for minor effort, and be especially cost-effective for strata when people pay shares of site visits where they can be combined for households. Worth considering in a time of insane energy bills and a heating planet.
Hi I absolutely agree with you. We live in a large unit block with over 60 units many of them are holiday lets. We try very hard to be water wise but get lumped with a water bill that is monitored by one water meter. There’s only the two of us and yet we are paying for other units that can have at least 4 people in them. It’s extremely frustrating. Thanks for raising this.
What state are you in?
In VIC this is common. Probably almost half of apartment buildings have shared meters, seems more common in older buildings.
The water provider proportions the usage, I believe it’s based on the lot entitlement, so a 2 bedroom will pay more usage than a 1 bedroom, etc. A building of all 1 bedrooms will all pay the exact same usage each bill.
This has pros and cons; for landlords it’s mostly cons, as you legally can’t pass on the usage charge to the tenant and you’re paying usage even when your property is vacant. As an owner occupier it sucks because as you said, you’re let down by other apartments crammed full of people, though in bigger buildings your usage is probably offset by unoccupied apartments. For tenants it’s great because you don’t have to pay water.
The reason there is a shared meter is mostly cost cutting. In bigger buildings especially, the cost to install an individual meter to each apartment is expensive, especially after it’s built, even owners who hate the shared meters still don’t want to pay the levy to get them installed.
In a smaller block it shouldn’t be that much of an issue though, your friend just needs to raise it at the next comittee meeting. It’s one of the few things owner occupiers and landlord should agree on.
I have a number of rental properties and I have to pay a share of the water bill for the ones with a common meter. I still pay for the water used at the properties with individual meters, but am able to pass on the water usage component to the tenants (which hopefully encourages them to not be wasteful).
A legacy of how water may have been billed at the time. The water supply, capital and other costs were considered social/community funded. Just one part of the budget and mostly absorbed proportionately across all consumers through the rates etc.
IE Those on more expensive property paid higher rates in effect subsidising the essential living costs of those not so well off.
The transition to the current ‘user pays’ paradigm failed to resolve the impact of the change on common metered strata properties. In full ignorance some might say, or others collusion our various governments have also permitted the ongoing development of new properties with common metering. I’ve observed similar for reticulated gas and hot water in some relatively recently constructed multi level strata properties, Brisbane.
Observations may differ if through the eyes of government or through what the community needs to know?
Many years ago when I lived in a strata block of 24, I made enquiries about having separate water meters. I found out then that it was the builder/developer’s choice to only put one meter in, and that was probably to save money on piping. With one meter, it wasn’t necessary to run separate pipes from the meter to each apartment/unit, but simply they run spur lines off one main line. Unfortunately, this meant that the apartment/unit furthest away had the lowest water pressure. Hmmm, maybe the people that designed the NBN got their ideas from this system.
A further consideration in our part of Oz was a block headed attitude of the utility companies and government regulations. A meter had to be accessible from the front (public side) of a property. It was not possible to locate multiple meters within the property, whether at ground level near each doorway or a common metering panel. That fortunately has now changed and the reader will come into the property if freely accessible.
Another issue with apartment blocks with only one water meter to cover the entire block is that if you need to turn the water off to do any type of plumbing work, eg: replace a tap washer, you are obliged to notify all apartment occupants before turning the water off.
There’s only one water meter at the block of flats where I am, and it is inconvenient when the water supply gets shut off for every one when plumbing work needs to be done in one of the units.
I got around causing the problem by having ‘isolation valves’ installed in my kitchen and bathroom, and luckily many of the renovated apartments have the same feature.
Also: water usage gets equally divided among the Units, but occupants vary from single to young family households.
Electricity is the same where a family member lives they split up the cost between every one even if doesn’t use the power. I am relating it to water i cant quite understand logic of it. Pretty crazy now adays. What is worse if units are vacant the rest still pay
What utilities does a vacant unit consume?
Well i was told that the cost is divided instead of each individual owner paying because eqch units don’t have individual meters so it cost more and don’t receive a normal bill like older style apartment
Our lived experience in SE QLD includes a block of units with a single meter. Each owner was billed individually for the connection and a daily amount for sewage based on a pedestal count. The cost of the total volume of water metered was divided equally, or per the lot entitlement and added to the other individual charges for each lot.
A vacant unit reduces consumption, saving the other owners a little on their bills. The owner of a vacant unit is being billed for sewage and service connection charges, and is required to pay for a share of the water despite not using any. It’s mostly the same if you leave your home empty for some time. The rates still need to be paid, as do the standing/connected costs for utilities including water, electricity and gas.