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Gas bill problem

By 16 August 2014 21

gas-stock

Hey all, long time reader but first time poster looking for advice!

Today, I received a gas bill for the amount of $4000.00! It was quite a shock because since I moved into the property, I haven’t received a single gas bill. I moved into the property around 3 years ago and when I moved in, was advised by the landlord that the only utility account I would need to set up is an electricity account. I set up the electricity account on the day I moved in and when bills for it arrived, they were paid promptly with no issues.

In regards to the gas bill, it had a due date of 04/07/2014 on it but the date of issue on the bill was 06/08/2014 (over a month after the due date). I promptly called ACTEWAGL and spoke to a consultant who advised me that the bill is for the charges going back to the the time I moved in. I advised that not only have I not received a single gas bill before this one, I don’t have any gas services at my home (it’s all electric).

However, he did advise the water is gas heated. He could not explain why I had not received any bills until now (you would think collections would call me or it would get shut off…), he did not explain why the date of issue was after the due date, he did not explain why gas for a quarter was $530.00 (I live by myself). I advised I would investigate and call back.

I called my landlord to discuss but since it’s Friday, they were out of the office.

Has this happened to anyone else and can anyone provide any advice on how to proceed? I am obviously worried about my credit since I can imagine that many “unpaid bills” would destroy it, I am also worried that I haven’t received any gas bills in 3 years, if I do somehow pay this bill – how can I get assurance that this won’t happen again? Also, the ACTEWAGL letter did not even have my name, it just said “Dear Customer” on it.

Any advice is much appreciated.

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21 Responses to Gas bill problem
#1
CutSnake11:24 am, 16 Aug 14

I think ACTEWAGL has database problems.
My latest bill never arrived. I followed up and was told they had altered my address based on an automated update from Australia Post.
Australia Post said that wasn’t true.
Went back to ACTEWAGL, they said something about an error and how I wasn’t the only one. They said they had fixed it.
I’m not feeling very confident. Have had the same address for 25 years.
$530 a quarter seems like a lot, it must be heating a huge tank whether you use it or not.

#2
Rawhide Kid Part311:43 am, 16 Aug 14

If the Gas bill is not in your name then I don’t think ACTEWAGL can charge you directly for recoveries. It would fall back to the owner of the property who then might recover moneys from you.

#3
Masquara12:47 pm, 16 Aug 14

If you take long showers and do hot clothes washes, you could expect to run up that sort of bill. Were you unaware that the hot water was gas? Surely your electricity bills must have seemed quite low, as hot water is the main energy cost other than heating in any household …

#4
Maya1231:00 pm, 16 Aug 14

I agree, $530 a quarter seems like a lot. Although I have never had gas, my electricity bill for the everything has never been anywhere near $530, and yours is just for the hot water.

#5
scorpio631:37 pm, 16 Aug 14

The Landlord/Owner is responsible for the Gas Bill in entirety if you have not used ‘Gas’ since the commencement of your Lease.

Request the Real Estate to send it to the Owner of the Home. The onus is on the Home owner/Landlord to follow up with the previous Tenant through the Real Estate or privately through His/Her Solicitor.

Kindest wishes

#6
arescarti421:38 pm, 16 Aug 14

Bottom line is you probably need to speak with your landlord to find out if you have a gas service or not.

If your property has a separately metered gas service, then usually what happens is if you don’t set up an account with ActewAGL, they’ll keep sending you letters addressed to ‘the resident’ asking you to set up an account, and they’ll probably turn the service off eventually. The fact that you haven’t received a letter in the three years you’ve lived there suggests that ActewAGL has stuffed up, and either forgot about you, or you’ve got someone else’s bill.

Do you live in an apartment or a granny flat or something with shared utilities? That may complicate things.

If you just live in a house, you should be able to determine if you have a gas hot water system, and you should also be able to find your gas meter on the outside of the building. Check to make sure it’s the same meter number on your bill.

ActewAGL do seem to have problems with their billing systems, and in my experience they tend to be pretty flexible when sorting billing problems out. If you are in fact liable for a $4k bill, i’d expect them to be able to set up a payment plan of some sort so you don’t have to pay it back all at once. I also suspect there may be limitations to how far they can legally backdate a gas bill, I’m pretty sure in some states at least utilities can only backdate bills a maximum of 9-12 months.

#7
lelcat2:29 pm, 16 Aug 14

Thanks for all the responses, I will wait until Monday to talk to the landlord and go from there. I live in a unit so I am not sure where to find the gas meter, however I will enquire with the landord about that.

I am just a bit annoyed since if I was told about the gas at the property or if ACTEWAGL sent the bills earlier (Maybe 3 years ago) I would have paid them.

To answer the previous question, I am not sure why it’s over $500 a quarter – I do not have long showers in the mornings and the washing machine rarely uses hot wash.

#8
charmer883:06 pm, 16 Aug 14

I work in the billing department for a similar company, and we’re only allowed to legally backdate bill for 6 months. So make sure you check that out and don’t get caught out.

#9
damien haas4:11 pm, 16 Aug 14

I moved residences and closed off all utilities at the old address, and opened new services at the new address. For some reason the gas bill from the old address would be sent to my new address. I would ring ACTEW/AGL and they would acknowledge the error, and apologise, and tell me it would be fixed.

Three months later, the same thing would occur.

After a year I received a bill for a large amount (I cant recall exactly but over 700 but less than 1000). I decided to visit the old place and talk to the new tenant. I knocked on the door, explained my reason for visiting, handed her the various bills for that address, and told her I I kept calling ACTEW/AGL but they kept sending her bill to me. She was shocked. She genuinely thought the gas was free.

I never received another bill for that address.

#10
Holden Caulfield4:37 pm, 16 Aug 14

I think you should pay the bill…

…with a drawing of a seven-legged spider.

#11
Alsadruid6:41 pm, 16 Aug 14

It’s likely a master meter. I have one and I hate it. One massive hot water boiler for however many units in your block. No matter how many people occupy a single unit, you all get an equal portion of the total bill. I’m paying $100 per month for hot water. Other units in my block have 3 or 4 people living in them and pay the same $100. It’s even worse if you have half of the units empty as the boiler keeps on heating enough for every unit in the block and the bill is just split between however many units are occupied. It’s a complete rip off and I’m powerless to do anything about it. I often wonder if actew find people who aren’t paying their share and bill them, whether the rest of us would get a refund for our over payment. Sadly I doubt it.

#12
Maya1238:51 pm, 16 Aug 14

Alsadruid said :

It’s likely a master meter. I have one and I hate it. One massive hot water boiler for however many units in your block. No matter how many people occupy a single unit, you all get an equal portion of the total bill. I’m paying $100 per month for hot water. Other units in my block have 3 or 4 people living in them and pay the same $100. It’s even worse if you have half of the units empty as the boiler keeps on heating enough for every unit in the block and the bill is just split between however many units are occupied. It’s a complete rip off and I’m powerless to do anything about it. I often wonder if actew find people who aren’t paying their share and bill them, whether the rest of us would get a refund for our over payment. Sadly I doubt it.

That reminds me of a private rental I once had. A house was split into four flats. One flat had always been a flat and had its own metre, but the other three flats would have the electricity bill split between them. Even though I hardly turned a heater on and froze most of the winter I had to pay a high share proportion of the electricity bill. Basically I was paying for others to heat their flats and leave their heater on when they went out, while I was being economical and freezing. Fortunately the rent was VERY cheap and this compensated. To prove it wasn’t me using the power, I moved into a house after that and shared with two others. Our electricity bill was lower than what I paid for just me while in the flat. Some people are very wasteful with electricity and gas.

#13
Bundybear2:27 am, 17 Aug 14

Bet you live in a reasonably large unit complex. If so, your hot water service will be common for the whole property, however you will most likely have an individual “hot water meter” located inside your unit. Look under the sinks, look for a panel in the roof of your bathroom or laundry, or ask your building manager/ strata manager. Small round unit about the size of a coffee mug, with a flip up cover over the reading. If you have one of these, your usage is read remotely by an RMU- remote metering unit- and you are charged accordingly. However, they still occasionally do an ” I can’t access your meter so I’m going to guess bill, which is the best money spinner that have. If you find the meter they have to adjust it back to actual reading. Good luck

#14
Alsadruid12:36 pm, 17 Aug 14

Bundybear said :

Bet you live in a reasonably large unit complex. If so, your hot water service will be common for the whole property, however you will most likely have an individual “hot water meter” located inside your unit. Look under the sinks, look for a panel in the roof of your bathroom or laundry, or ask your building manager/ strata manager. Small round unit about the size of a coffee mug, with a flip up cover over the reading. If you have one of these, your usage is read remotely by an RMU- remote metering unit- and you are charged accordingly. However, they still occasionally do an ” I can’t access your meter so I’m going to guess bill, which is the best money spinner that have. If you find the meter they have to adjust it back to actual reading. Good luck

I’ve been through all of that. I’ve made formal complaints to the real estate about not being informed of the financial implication of such a ridiculous system and had everyone here looking for an individual meter as I refused to believe it was set up as a master meter. There are definitely no individual meters. Apparently the master meter scenario is common in Melbourne and it’s perfectly legal.

#15
Milo1110:11 am, 18 Aug 14

$530 a quarter is astronomical, I have 3 in my house with Gas heating, cooking and water and our bills are about $350 to $400 in winter. If it tuns out you do have to pay call ACTEW and work out a payment plan, for all their faults they are fairly good with that sort of stuff.

#16
Maya12310:45 am, 18 Aug 14

I found this very relevant ACTEW link:
http://www.actewagl.com.au/~/media/ActewAGL/ActewAGL-Files/About-us/Natural-gas-network/Gas-centralised-hot-water-systems-faq.ashx
I didn’t read it all, but here is a quote:
“The hot water for your unit is supplied by a Gas Centralised Hot Water system (GCHWS) which is powered by natural gas. Having a GCHWS eliminates the need for individual hot water systems in each unit. The only equipment that is required in each unit for the GCHWS is a hot water sub-meter, which is read remotely via a master data logger.”
It says you are “required” to have a hot water sub-meter. If you haven’t got one, it seems the building has been set up incorrectly. Contact ACTEW and discuss it with them.

#17
Steven Bailey12:18 pm, 18 Aug 14

Wow! That’s ridiculous. Firstly, a tenant is only liable for the consumption of utilities so make sure that you haven’t been charged for anything else. Secondly, find out which party has neglected to pass on the bills to you. It may be that your landlord has been sent the bills and has then denied responsibility for paying the bills to ACTEWAGL, or it may be ACTEWAGL’s fault. Once you find out who is responsible, you can seek legal advice from Legal Aid and/or dispute the charges through ACAT. If you dispute the charges through ACAT, just go to the website, find the appropriate form and fill it out. It may cost you something like $120, if you can’t pay that amount, you can apply for an exemption. If you go though ACAT you will be an Applicant making a claim to the Respondent – whether that be the Landlord or ACTEWAGL. Firstly ACAT will try to mediate between the two parties. If you still disagree the matter will go to a hearing and a Member will make a judgement. Remember, if you make a claim against your Landlord, and he/she doesn’t turn up, a decision will most likely be made in your favour. You should be prepared to take some liability, unless you are sure that you have a contract between you and your Landlord stating that you would not be liable for the consumption of gas. Contracts can be made verbally, in practise, or in writing. Just from the outset, from my perspective, you should be able to claim that a contract was formed between you and the Landlord verbally and in practise (the proof being that it was practise for the bills not to be passed on to you). In any case, if you take it to ACAT, they’ll make a fair judgement, and the other parties will have to justify what has happened. It sounds like the Landlord or ACTEWAGL has been negligent but this doesn’t mean that you are not liable to pay some or all of the bill. Don’t be frightened to stand up for yourself, and good luck.

#18
Holden Caulfield3:02 pm, 18 Aug 14

Good advice Steven.

Although, I’m a little disappointed in the lack of support for the seven-legged spider.

#19
tuco5:28 pm, 18 Aug 14

Holden Caulfield said :

Good advice Steven.

Although, I’m a little disappointed in the lack of support for the seven-legged spider.

That’s when you ask for the picture to be sent back.

#20
ACATManager1:05 pm, 27 Aug 14

If the utility has not resolved your concerns, I suggest you contact the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) on 6207 1740 (option 1), or via email through acatenergycomplaints@act.gov.au. The ACAT may be able to assist you through its Energy and Water Complaints jurisdiction.

The ACAT can consider and work to resolve complaints about the supply of energy and water by the utilities in the ACT, including complaints about billing. There are no application fees for this service.

Further information is available from the ACAT website: http://www.acat.act.gov.au

#21
Pitchka1:31 pm, 27 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

I agree, $530 a quarter seems like a lot. Although I have never had gas, my electricity bill for the everything has never been anywhere near $530, and yours is just for the hot water.

Never had gas, but think its high? Thankyou for your informed opinion.

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