Advice and Opinion

Impact of water meters in sectional title schemes

When the body corporate of a sectional title scheme decides to install individual water meters or prepaid water meters for each unit in the scheme, the owners often question why this should be necessary and sometimes even oppose the idea, but the control of municipal accounts is what is important as this is often one of the monthly bills that can easily get out of control and is often one of the largest expenses, says Mandi Hanekom, operations manager for Propell.

“Many households use water daily without thought to how much is being used but if there is a prepaid system or an individual water meter, the owner is more likely to be cautious in his usage,” said Hanekom.

“If the water account is billed monthly and usually in arrears, people are less likely to check what their actual consumption is. There are often cases of slight neglect in water usage, such as dripping taps that aren’t repaired timeously, washing machines and dishwashers are run half full or not on the economic cycle or sprinkler systems are run for longer than necessary.”

If the sectional title scheme suddenly receives an overly large water bill, there are chances that there won’t be enough in the reserves to pay the account and there is a chance that the municipality can cut the services to the scheme, warned Hanekom.

This in turn affects the financial health of the scheme, because the body corporate might have to raise a special levy to pay their bills, which is not an ideal situation as many owners will be resentful of having to pay over and above what they usually pay in levies every month.

The easiest way to ensure stability in sectional title schemes is for consumable costs which can vary, such as electricity and water amounts, to be controlled by the owners themselves and preferably should be paid upfront by them, said Hanekom.

This will alleviate the chance of any “nasty surprises” in the form of large municipal bills, said Hanekom, and will ease the administrative burden on the trustees as well as they will no longer have to manage the billing and collection of water and electricity amounts to the owners.

“This makes sense, as it forms part of a practical financial management strategy, which is what the trustees need to keep the financial position of the scheme stable,” she said.

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