In Water Restrictions Notice No. 4 published on 18 Janury 2018 the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality stated: “All multi-dwelling precincts such as blocks of flats, townhouse complexes, retirement villages and sectional titles are required to install water meters to measure the water supplied to each individual unit, at the cost of the body controlling the relevant precinct.”
Here the municipality is referring to Section 41 of the Municipal By Laws – Metering of premises in separate occupation – which states: “The Executive Director may require the installation, at the owner’s expense of a water meter for each unit of any premises in separate occupation for determining the volume of water supplied to each unit.”
Consumers have been given to 2020 to comply with this directive.
The sentiments around installing water meters to individual units are sound:
- If you can measure it you can manage it
- Some occupiers of communal living schemes are not being frugal with water leading to friction amongst residents
- Some units are occupied by one person whilst other units have many more occupants leading to an unequal split of costs from the bulk meter supply
- In the abscence of metering an occupant is not aware of whether this precious resource is being used ethicaly and within the guidelines laid down by the municipality.
Communal Living Complexes have to go the Private Route to install water meters and have two choices:
- A manual private water meter that needs to be read on a regular (monthly) basis and billed in arrears
- An automatic private prepaid water meter that only delivers access to water on a prepaid basis.
Both have pros and cons. Both carry an administration cost. Manual Metering will also carry a running (reading) cost. Each Body Corporate will have to decide on which method offers the lower cost and minimal ‘headache’ before getting the go ahead from their members.
“We have been to complexes where individual owners have manual meters installed which have been read and billed but not paid for resulting in body corpprates being owed tens of thousands of rands with little to no hope of recovering that money,” says Alan Straton from Straton Prepaid.
Compounding the concern of sectional title units is that some have multiple water feeds leading into each unit making the establishment costs considerable. Most of the complexes with multiple water feeds are older and the piping is in a precarious state which will lead to unforseen extra costs to fix and connect new piping to old.
Most Body Corporate Trustees are aware of the impending deadline but need to understand that installing individual water meters will came at a cost – the initial installation and running costs. Once the deadline is reached demand for installations is sure to increase along with the cost as pressure is placed on a finite number of qualified plumbers to perform in order to avoid punitive tariffs or fines.
How Prepaid Works:
Payment for access to prepaid Electricity and Water Meters is enabled through a number of payment gateways, the main client must be re-imbursed monthly and a 24 hour support mechanism must be in place to assist purchasers. Payment Gateways all charge a percentage per transaction and banks all charge for transfers. For this reason owners of bulk supply water and electricity may elect to recover these administration costs from their users. The admin costs are added to each purchase.
Should a Body Corporate elect not to recover the direct admin costs from their members then the admin costs will become an expense and all money collected less the admin fee will be re-imbursed to the Body Corporate – effectively the Body Corporate will have to recover these costs via their levy which will, inevitably, lead to some people paying less towards the complexes admin fee in comparison to the amount of water used.
What are the risks with Prepaid?
Should the company responsible for re-imbursing the complex fail to do so then the risk is equal to one months water usage. The prepaid meter eco-system is set up in such a way that a competitior can quickly take over the administration of a specific meter should the client wish. Each meter has a unique identifier and is assigned to a specific vendor code. Changing vendors is done via on-site programming.
What are the risks with Manual Metering?
Management of the manual metering can present a challenge in terms of cost to read, invoicing and the highest risk of collecting what is owed post consumption. Disputes by individual owners of the read amounts also create more expense and management headaches.
“It has been our experience that most people opt for manual private meters first and then switch to prepaid meters as the cost of management becomes prohibitive,” concluded Straton.