Anger as water bills in flats rise 300 per cent

Anger as water bills in flats rise 300 per cent

19th September 2019

RESIDENTS of an apartment block in the centre of town are up in arms after seeing their water bills increase by more than 300 per cent.

The billing contractor Evinox said the hike at Ashby’s Point in Walter’s Farm Road is because of a faulty meter and prices not being updated.

The unit rate change has risen from £0.7055 per day to £2.98 for a three-bedroom property. The couldl mean monthly increases form nearly £23 to £90.

Revealed

The occupiers of the flats believe that ongoing problems with leaks and the structure itself may account for higher volumes being used than normal.

Town and Country Housing Group, which manages the 92 apartments of which 40 per cent are affordable housing, is investigating the issue.

After working with South East Water, Town and Country revealed that the meter had been recording no water usage so bills had only shown the standing charge.

It has called on Evinox, a company based in Chessington, Surrey, to stop trying to collect the payments until the matter has been resolved.

Evinox wrote to residents saying: “We appreciate that the new charges are a substantial increase in prices. This is due to several reasons.

“The prices have not been reviewed for several years and … a faulty meter was previously giving incorrect readings that were underestimating the amount of water being used.

“This has now been replaced and the correct readings indicate a much larger volume of water being used.”

Town and Country issued a statement saying: “Although the new meter should now be recording the correct water usage, we acknowledge that the reviewed figure seems higher than the UK average and we will look into the matter further.

“We have written to Evinox to pause the collection of money until we are satisfied that the water usage reading is correct. We will take the next few weeks to review this.”

But a week later [September 12] it said: “Usage is in line with [South East Water’s] normal operating parameters (quoted 0.6 cubic meter per unit per day). We have checked this with the actual bill.”

One resident, Jenny Lewis, said: “They say 0.68 cubic metres per day for each unit is normal.

“I do accept that our payments need to increase, what we’re disputing is that we use that much water.

“That’s about the same as a house with seven occupants, and the flats are mostly only two bedrooms.”

Residents recently discovered they had individual meters and Mrs Lewis said: “We’ve been sharing our meter readings and we’re averaging about 0.25 per day – that’s about the national average, and of course nowhere near what they’re saying.”

She added: “We’ve had so many leaks in the building now, we suspect that there really is that much water coming in, but that two thirds is leaking somewhere.

“They’ve found that everyone is using about the same amount of water except for two people who, when they turn everything off, you can still see the meter running over.”

The eight-floor block was built in association with consultants Barton Willmore, who had an application to build a 16-storey skyscraper and another on nine storeys in the same area, with 252 flats, turned down last year.

Ashby’s Point was completed in 2013, and there have been consistent complaints about leaks in the plumbing, problems with toilets and a lack of hot water.

Mrs Lewis added: “Town and Country told a meeting of residents that after the building settled, it moved a little bit more.

“We’ve had the leaks that everyone seems to have had, but many of our neighbours have had much worse issues.

“Two flats on the ground floor were flooded, and they had to move out while it was fixed – it was a health hazard.

“Meanwhile everyone is checking their meters obsessively.”

Cllr Matt Boughton, the Conservative representative for Medway ward, told the Times: “The additional water charges to residents in Ashby’s Point clearly came as a shock to all.

“Sadly this is just one of many problems residents there have faced. We have every sympathy and continue to work with local residents, including those who have had to move out recently.”

He added: “This wasn’t to do with the water leaks exclusively but more to do with wider issues regarding the actual building which Town and Country had to rectify after intervention from the council.

“The council’s issues were fundamentally due to damp. This is caused by building control matters, most likely including any movement in the building.”

Town and Country have announced they are holding a meeting with Evinox on October 3. Evinox has been approached for a comment.

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