Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

Water meter migration mandatory in Selangor

THOSE who live in flats, apartments and condominiums will be able to enjoy the Selangor government’s free water benefit soon as the water meter migration has been made mandatory.

The Selangor government last week decided to make it compulsory for all high-rise developments to change the existing bulk water meters to individual meters.

“All developers, management agents, management corporations and joint management boards are required to iron out with Syabas all the problems they face which hinder the migration process.

“Any developer who refuses will be blacklisted by the state government,” Selangor Housing, Building and Squatter Management chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad said.

He said the decision was made by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim during the Selangor Economic Action Com-mittee Meeting last week.

The free water policy, which was implemented by the state government after the March 2008 election, allows property owners to enjoy the first 20 cubic metres of water for free. However, the policy covers only those who have individual account billing using their individual water meters. The policy did not cover the majority of residents in high-rise buildings, which have bulk water meter system. It includes the low-income group staying in low-cost flats.

“Previously, Syabas would only allow the migration from bulk to individual water meter if all unit owners agreed to the migration. Syabas had also required all arrears to be settled before the migration,” Iskandar said.

Exemption from the 100% agreement by owners was only made when the owners were foreigners or in the process of selling their units.

Changing to individual water meters would allow owners to pay 57sen per cubic metre instead of the RM1.38 per cubic metre for apartments and condominiums and 80sen per cubic metre for low-cost flats that they are now paying. Currently, condominium residents have higher water bills as they are charged commercial rates as opposed to those with landed property, who pay a lower rate.

The accounts for the bulk meters are under the name of the management corporations (MCs) or the developers, so the rates are based on commercial rates.

A bulk water bill is sent to the management company, which in turn will charge the units for the amount of water used.

Problems arise when some of the residents fail to settle their water bills and accumulate arrears over the years, and water supply to the whole building is cut.

“Those who pay their bills on time will not have to worry about that problem as supply will only be cut to those who fail to pay their own bill, not on the bulk meter,” Iskandar said.

The fact that every one can get individual accounts was good news to many high-rise residents.

“We’ve been waiting for this. We’ve been asking the state government to make this water meter migration exercise mandatory.

“We are happy that it is finally coming true,” said Condominium, Apartment and High-rise Com-mittee (CAHC) pro tem chairman Tengku Nazaruddin Zainuddin.

He said they had received numerous complaints by condominium owners and residents on difficulties faced from the bulk meter issue.

Most of them, he said, could not switch to individual meters because of their failure to get the consent of all the residents.

He added that some MCs and developers were also not in favour of the migration. Many MCs are using the water meter as a bargaining tool to force owners to pay the maintenance fees, as MCs issued both bills together.

Haryati Hamzah, who lives in a medium-cost apartment in Damansara Damai, Petaling Jaya, said the move would enable her to save on her monthly bills.

The mother of four said her current water bill was more than RM50 per month. “We surely can use the money on something else, especially during the hard times now,” said the housewife.

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