Shared meters, troubled waters

THERE goes neighbourly relations, Launceston's Marcus Kitto thought when he discovered Ben Lomond Water's pricing policy for strata titles.

On July 1, Ben Lomond Water moved to two-part pricing - one charge for infrastructure and the other a variable fee for water usage - following a $10 million rollout of water meters.

But for strata properties, where only a single master water meter exists, Ben Lomond Water has no way of measuring water usage for individual residents.

Ben Lomond Water said it was limited in what it could achieve when it came to strata titles.

For Mr Kitto, who survives on a fixed income, this means incurring a usage charge that may bear no resemblance to how much water he uses.

In his case Ben Lomond Water split the bill between him and his neighbour.

"What if a neighbour leaves the hose on all night or puts in a jacuzzi?" Mr Kitto asked.

"I don't have the ability to control my neighbour's usage."

The options for strata residents include agreeing on who should pay what among neighbours or installing an internal meter, which Ben Lomond Water won't pay for because it's the resident's property.

Mr Kitto was also advised to set up a body corporate, which he said was impractical given that there were only two properties involved.

As a last resort Ben Lomond Water advised the pensioner to seek charitable assistance if he had trouble paying his bill.

Instead he went to the Tasmanian Ombudsman with his complaint.

It's a common problem for the Ombudsman, who received 300 per cent more complaints about water corporations last financial year.

A large number related to strata titles in the south, where meters are new, with neighbours concerned about subsiding one another's water use.

A Ben Lomond Water spokeswoman said the corporation always tried to work with property owners to achieve an equitable outcome.

"Two-part pricing is about getting some fairness and equity in the system and the idea you pay for what you use," she said.

"We're not blind to the fact that you shouldn't be paying for what other people use."

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