Meter readers unlawfully entering houses?

By 30 July 2008 37

Has anyone had a meter reader enter their house unlawfully?

Earlier this week an electricity meter reader entered my house through the back door after letting themselves through the gate, while myself and my wife were home, and she was having a shower in the next room, and both our cars were parked out the front (he had to walk around them to get inside).

Now our meter is not on a porch or anything like that. It is inside the house… you have to enter the back door and go into the laundry/kitchen area.

When I complained, their initial response has been that it was their policy to do this.

This makes me wonder how often they do this. Has anyone else here had this happen to them? I don’t quite understand how anyone could think that it is a good idea to have a policy of entering homes if the back door is unlocked.

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37 Responses to
Meter readers unlawfully entering houses?
H1NG0 11:24 am
30 Jul 08

Thats a tricky one. Entering a yard is one thing, entering a house is another. The better question is, why the hell is the meter in your house?!

jake 11:28 am
30 Jul 08

H1NG0: I don’t know… it’s a rental. They could have build the house around it I guess to enclose an area that was previously outdoors, although if that is the case then it happened a long time ago – the brickwork is not new.

el 11:38 am
30 Jul 08

Considered locking the back door?

jake 11:40 am
30 Jul 08

el: Yeah, now. We just had it open a crack to let the cats out for 20 mins in the morning. before we left for work. We weren’t really expecting someone to walk inside at 8:30am.

FB 11:52 am
30 Jul 08

Jake, from the ACTEWAGL web site

ActewAGL and the Australian Federal Police warn Canberra residents not to allow entry into their land by anyone claiming to be an ActewAGL employee without seeing their ActewAGL identity card.

In the past, ActewAGL has received reports of people claiming to be ActewAGL employees entering resident’s land and, in one case, charging money to perform phony jobs.

ActewAGL will never request face-to-face payment for a service and if someone does request this, alarm bells should ring that this person is attempting to rob you.

Under the Consumer Protection Code ActewAGL utility staff must always attempt to identify themselves to a resident before entering their land. The exception to this is if staff are responding to an emergency, reading a meter or checking the accuracy of a meter.

ActewAGL employees are required to knock on the door of the property in an effort to identify themselves to someone at the premises. This involves showing their identity card and explaining their reason for needing access.

If a person is claiming to be an ActewAGL employee and cannot produce an identity card then residents are urged to call ActewAGL on 13 10 93 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

FB 11:54 am
30 Jul 08

I suggest giving ActEWAGL a call on 13 10 93 and asking about it.

Did you get the name or ID number of the person?

Thumper 11:54 am
30 Jul 08

Beat them with a prefrozen stoat.

jake 12:02 pm
30 Jul 08

Thanks FB… on that note there is a little more to the story.

I came out of the house as he was leaving. I asked what he was doing. He said he was there to read the meter. I thought ‘cool’ – I haven’t lived in a house before with the meter inside so didn’t think about it.

I realised when I got in that the meter is in the house, so went back out and took the guy’s numberplate. When I called the power company to complain, they said that they hadn’t sent anyone.

At that point I called the cops with the guy’s description and numberplate. They basically recommended that I leave work immediately to see what had been stolen.

While I was on the way home the power company called me back and said that he was in fact with them. I called the cops off, and that’s where I am now.

jakez 12:13 pm
30 Jul 08

Wow, I’m shocked. If I were you I’d be bloody pissed off.

MrMagoo 12:16 pm
30 Jul 08

I still think that they can’t just come in a door or gate or whatever without the home owner/occupiers permission.

Same as I found a guy claiming to be from ACTEW running the tap out the front of my house and claiming he was testing water. I asked who would reinburse me if I got charged for excess water use and he replied that that was not his problem, he was doing his job.

Seems to me some of these people are a law unto themselves.

Aurelius 12:23 pm
30 Jul 08

If they’re coming in without knocking, claim something is missing – and see how quickly their policy changes.

amarooresident 12:32 pm
30 Jul 08

Assuming it was legit, How would they read your meter if you weren’t home? Break in?

tylersmayhem 12:58 pm
30 Jul 08

Jake – I’d take this as far as it needs to go legally with the company and police. This behaviour is far from on!

H1NG0 12:59 pm
30 Jul 08

I’d leave every door locked and see how long it is before you get another bill or if they will just “estimate” how much power you have used. I got an “estimated” bill from EnergyAustralia once and it was a good $200 more than I actually used, and my meter is out the front of my bloody house.

iCanberran 1:12 pm
30 Jul 08

They’re allowed to enter “property” and even move property (plants, paths, driveway,etc) to carry out their duties. However I do not consider it warranted to enter a private residence while people are clearly home just to check a meter. Sounds very dodge. Even if it were a real ActewAGL staff member, I would still be suspicious of their intent. There’s always a chance of bad seed getting into the ranks. It pays to keep the doors and windows locked.

Julius Constantius 1:15 pm
30 Jul 08

These guys charge you extra so they can afford to keep there habits going (nose candy, Waffle dust, Mexican brown etc).

Dude I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these meter guys, they must move amongst the shadows and wear camouflage gear. I might set up a fake meter in my backyard and try and catch me one of these meter monkeys.

Jem 1:35 pm
30 Jul 08

I hadn’t seen one either until last week when a guy came tramping through the garden in an orange HiVis vest with METER READER on the back.
Not really camouflage gear :)

Mr Waffle 1:46 pm
30 Jul 08

When I got transact cable installed, the contractor had to go into the next door neighbours yard to hook up the cable to the pole. After knocking to see if they were home (and asking if they had a dog) he walked in through the gate. I asked if that was legal and he said “as long as the gate isn’t locked”. Entering someone’s house is a bit more of a deal though!

Clown Killer 2:21 pm
30 Jul 08

It’s my understanding that ACTEW really only check the meter once a year. Most of your bills are estimates based on analysis of your usage patterns for as long as you’ve been with them. When they do check your meter they adjust the amount you owe either up or down

Jem 2:22 pm
30 Jul 08

CK – What?! Hopefully they don’t do their yearly check in winter!

jakez 2:39 pm
30 Jul 08

The meter would give them an accurate yearly reading, so it wouldn’t matter if it was in Winter.

…I imagine.

Clown Killer 2:40 pm
30 Jul 08

Jem, they keep records quarter by quarter so you should get charged roughly the same for each quarter, plus whatever the price of electricity has increased by, plus any detectable upwartd trends in usage. They usually get it pretty right.

I found this out because I built a small fence closing off the side of the house because we had a new pup. One day we got a note from ACTEW saying the meter reader had been around but been unable to access the meter because of the new fence – excep it had been there for about 14 months. When I queries that, the ACTEW people explained the way they calculated the bill without reading the meter.

vg 3:04 pm
30 Jul 08

My limited understanding is that they have the power to enter your LAND to check meters, not house. They can knock and ask but to arbitrarily enter without seeking permission, i.e. just walking in through a half open door, is a trespass.

Your average meter reader wouldn’t know the law as it stands if it hit them in the face. The only way anyone can enter your house without your consent generally is with a warrant. There are individual laws in relation to law and safety type things where there is an entry without permission power, but checking a meter, I’m pretty sure, isn’t one of them

FB 3:22 pm
30 Jul 08

VG I agree, the police can’t enter without a warrent (some emergency exceptions), landlords or agents can’t enter without written notice.

Why would Actew be above the law or property owners?

I know they can enter the property, read land. I had a power pole in my back yard and for about six months I regularly had people wandering on to the proprty to inspect the pole, condem it, remove it, replace it etc. It would have been at least a dozen different visits/occasions but nearly every time with a few exceptions I had prior written notice and the guys knocked at the door and clearly identified themselves. Even making a point of showing me their ID even when I told them not bother and do what they wanted.

Somthing sounds fishy here. I’d say he was a legit meter reader who got lazy and was busted doing somthing he shouldn’t and tried to cover his arse with the story that he was allowed too.

Let us know how this progresses Jakez, I for one am interested to know what happens or what Actew’s response is.

smokey4 3:30 pm
30 Jul 08

Lock your door if you have a problem!

In a previous life I read water meters down in Melbourne. Don’t know about ACTEW but the Melbourne meter readers had to read a huge number every day to make a crust. They do not muck around and are under the hammer so if they cannot get easy access then they estimate. They are periodically are required to do a water check to see if the meter works.
According to the laws of trespass every body has access to your front door or the nearest gate with a buzzer. No buzzer then even a locked gate can be lawfully jumped. OH&S usually precludes this.
Entering a house is a problem for everybody including the meter reader perhaps they should just estimate until the owner relocates the meter.
I can remember hanging out of a first floor window in order to change a meter installed on the wall outside on the Melbourne waterfront at Elwood. It had been retro fitted by a plumber doing a block of flats.
If I cannot pick up another IT job soon I may be going back to my former life. It was fun travelling around Melbourne and meeting with the different cultural groups. Sort of miss it up here.

jakez 3:30 pm
30 Jul 08

FB said :

Let us know how this progresses Jakez, I for one am interested to know what happens or what Actew’s response is.

Actually Jake is a different person to myself. Don’t worry it’s confusing the hell out of me too.

‘…I don’t remember typing that’.

FB 3:53 pm
30 Jul 08

*bangs head on desk* DOH! sorry Jakez

I know it can be a bit confusing, there is another poster here who goes by FC so I can understand fully.

GottaLoveCanberra 5:36 pm
30 Jul 08

ActewAGL themselves do not read electricity meters, this is contracted out to Field Force who read residential meters every quarter. If access can’t be gained to an electricity meter a few tries will be made to contact ya. Usually after a few tries is when they estimate your bill. Electricity bills aren’t just estimated all the time. As for building a fence around your meter, if it denies access that’s sought of a no no and you’ve only yourself to blame for getting estimated meters.

Give ActewAGL a call on 131 493 if it’s really a problem.

The reason the meter is inside your house is either because it’s:
A: an old house
B: extensions were done around that part of the house at which point it should have been moved to an accessible location.

If it really bothers you, either move the meter or make arrangements to have the meter read when you’re home.

dragonflygal 7:47 pm
30 Jul 08

What I find frustrating about the meter readers is their policy for accessing the meter. Our house is a battleaxe block, and is enclosed completely by a fence and 2 gates. The gate that opens up onto out driveway is kept locked, as we have 2 small dogs who will be out on the main road within seconds of someone leaving the gate unlocked. All our friends and family know the code, and I have a doorbell on the gate with a note to call and my mobile number for access. I’ve had couriers call for access to the front door, and a meter reader once. However the other day when ActewAGL spoke to my husband they said that:
a) We must leave our property unlocked so that they can access it at any time
b) The dogs must be kept locked up
c) They won’t ring the doorbell on the gate or call the number for access
d) They won’t tell us which day or time they are coming!

I do realise you can get locks that the meter readers have keys for, but they won’t access the property with our (ferocious man eating) chihuahua’s on site, so there’s no point. If they could at least indicate a timeframe of a few days we could ensure they get access!

bd84 9:22 pm
30 Jul 08

Obviously having your pet rats running around would be an OH&S problem for the readers, and probably be a bigger problem for you should they bite one of them. From what I remember there’s a requirement for you to provide unrestricted access to water meters and power boxes and access is required to be given with notice from ACTEWAGL for other infrastructure such as powerpoles and lines etc unless in an emergency. Or you could just keep it locked and have them estimate the readings.

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