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Unfair charges

Felix Chaudhary
Monday, January 28, 2013

THE Water Authority of Fiji says landowners need to be aware of the legislation that deals with water meters installed within their property.

The advice was in response to issues raised by the Consumer Council of Fiji highlighting what it termed as the unfair manner in which property owners were being held responsible for other people's water meters situated within their legal boundaries.

WAF communications team leader Fulori Turaga said while it was unfortunate that some people had been penalised or brought to task, the provision in the WAF promulgation was designed to curb arrears and bill payment evaders.

Council chief executive officer Premila Kumar said the WAF policy should be amended to ensure that property owners who were acting as good neighbours did not get unfairly billed for assisting people in need.

She cited an example that was recently brought to the council's attention where a property owner was held liable to clear someone else's debt just because he allowed a landless person from an informal settlement to have a water meter installed in his yard.

The complainant's father, during the 1970s and 1980s, helped a lot of people in his community by providing his land for water meter installation since road infrastructure at that time was not developed and water meters could only be connected to those living by the roadside.

"Hence, the complainant's father, in good faith, helped the vulnerable people living in the settlement to have access to clean drinking water," Ms Kumar said.

"In November last year, WAF billed the complainant who is the current owner of the premises, a total of $1915.59 for a disconnected water meter in 1999.

She said the complainant was shocked when told that he was responsible for all water meters belonging to other people situated in his compound although the meters were not under his name.

Ms Turaga said the policy was in place for a purpose and landowners needed to be aware and act accordingly to ensure that they did not fall victim to unscrupulous water users.

"As in accordance with the WAF promulgation, the water debt remains charged on the property and owner himself is liable for any charges so remaining unpaid," Ms Turaga said.

"So under our arrears recovery process as in accordance with the WAF promulgation and its subsidiary legislation, arrears from a previously disconnected meter has been transferred to an active meter on the same property under the same owner. If the owner is supplying water to other neighbors within his vicinity, he becomes liable for the charges, as meter ownership is still under his name," she said.

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