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  • Buy-to-Let

    Water meters - do they ever go wrong?

    Morning All,

    I've just had a bit of a shock.  We have just moved a tenant into a second floor flat which has been empty for some time while we did a full refurb.  I called the Water supply Company to give them a reading and the flat has allegedly used 109m3 in 115 days between meter readings from 8th Jan to 3rd May while there was nobody in residence!  Seeing as how apparently a typical house of four uses around 180m3/yr this seems a bit excessive.

    The Supply Company suggested a leak, but as the flat is 2nd floor I think the ground floor flat would have known about it.  The only possible place it could have been 'used' is if the toilet were overflowing internally.  I am convinced this is not the case as I have been to the property several times most weeks and would have noticed this happening.  I have calculated that in the event this was happening and maybe the internal leak was at one litre/min it would have had to run for 75 days.  Even if the leak was at five litres/min which is probably around the normal cistern fill speed, it would still have had to run for 15 days without being detected, which I find hard to believe - especially as the area is very hard water and you would expect the back of the pan to be full of scale had that much water run down it.

    Potentially I was facing a bill of over £400 for water and waste, but to be fair to them the Supply Company have offered to reduce this bill if we complete a form saying that we found a leak and that it has now been repaired (although this was not the case!), But, this is a one-off reduction and I can never use this option again in my name at any point in the future, which is a bit of a worry.  I have certainly learned my lesson and will never again leave a water supply 'on' in an empty property again!

    They informed me that their meters 'never' go wrong, so I was just wondering whether anyone had experience of a genuine case of where they have given false high readings - any comments/input appreciated..

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    Hi Bosun,

    Sorry to hear of your plight.

    We've had this happen to us once, but it was a house.  The pipe between the water supply and our house had a leak and they sent us a bill for thousands.  We complained, and eventually they came and dug up the garden and found the leak.  After much too-ing and fro-ing they cancelled the bill.

    Did you have empty property insurance out of interest?

    See - Threats faced by empty properties 

    I would be minded to take photographs of the meter readings and ask them to monitor it over the coming months, to make sure it does not happen again.

    I would also contact the management company and/or freeholder and make them aware, just in case there is a bigger problem.

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    Afternoon Bosun

    Potentially if a leak is discovered there may be limited cover under your insurance policy for loss of metered water.  If there was evidence of a leak causing internal damage but the precise source of the leak is not visible you might be covered for ‘trace and access’ which will cover the cost of tracing the leak and making good the damage but not the cost of repairing the pipe.

    Not sure if that is of any help

    Heath

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    It's very unlikely to be a faulty meter - much more likely to be a leak or faulty appliance.  If the property was empty and the meter was running you can easily check for this by turning everything off and looking at the meter - you will see it moving.  A leaky toilet undetected for 15 days is nothing - I've had them run for months without anyone noticing - sometimes they are very quiet.  And it could be an intermittent running toilet where the next flush fixes it... so you might not even know.    I've had horrendous bills in the USA due to this issue - their toilets seem to be a lot less reliable than ours for some reason.  Another culprit could be a water softener - sometimes they get a fault and go on eternal 'recharge' which just flushes water through continually and out into the drain.  Best thing to do at this point is monitor and keep an eye on the meter.  Listen for water flowing through pipes when nothing should be happening.

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    I've had similar issues in the past. It was only when we switched off the water at the stopcock for building works that the neighbour below came up to ask if our water had stopped too and it became clear his supply was running through our meter too.

    In fact it was only his bathroom water supply. In the end Thames Water came out a removed the meter in my flat.

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    Just an anonymous opinion on the Internet.

    I have a flat where next doors water meter was registered to my flat and my meter to their flat.  Suggest you monitor the meter whilst somebody in the flat turns a tap on and off.

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for your input on this.  I have checked the meter no and it is the correct meter for the property and when I turn a tap on it works OK.  There are 3 meters in the block and three flats so no confusion there.  I today checked the reading again and it has only moved a fraction of a meter cubed in the last couple of weeks, but then the new tenant started to move her belongings in last week so I'd expect a little useage.

    I checked with the downstairs tenants today and they are always around and very often in or around the garden.  They reckon they'd have heard water constantly running down the stack pipe if the toilet was overflowing and I agree.  As stated above I would have expected a tonne of scale in the toilet pan if it had been running constantly over a period of time as we are in a VERY hard water area - the toilet pan was as clean as when it was installed during the refurb so I am at a real loss to understand what has happened.

    The bill from the water Company arrived today and was £206 and I am expecting the waste bill to be similar.  I'm still awaiting the outcome of my 'once in a lifetime' reduction but not very confident as the on-line form clearly stated that where the leak is internal they are not responsible...

    I'd still be really interested to hear from anyone who has come across a genuine situation where a meter has given a false reading...

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    Hi im a plumber and have not heard anything about dodgy water meters but I spoke with my colleague and he said that he's heard some people complaing about high readings and he said that people have paid £80 to get there meter taken out and tested to see if it is faulty or not by there suppliers.

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    One question occurs to me - it sounds like you personally took the most recent meter reading used for the latest bill, but who took the one before that? If someone misread the numbers that time it could easily explain an error of, say, a hundred, which would mean the previous bill payer got away with 100 free units of water! Any chance of looking back at readings prior to that to see if they're consistent?

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