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tastywheat

AGL disconnected my hot water, despite me not being a customer?

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Hey Atomic, I post seeking advice on an awkward situation I find myself in.

 

Earlier this week, I lost hot water to my unit. The building has two bulk hot water system powered by natural gas, which feed 4 seperate units in the building each, and uses individual water metering to split the bill. Originally, I thought it might be a result of some construction that was excavating trees from the front of the building, and wasn't too worried. I spoke to the construction workers after it had been 24 hours since the hot water was disconnected, and they let me know they hadn't asked for anything to be disconnected, and weren't digging near gas lines.

 

Next, I spoke to my provider, Origin Energy. They said it wasn't an issue with them, and that I was up to date with my bills as far as they could tell. I then spoke to my Realestate Agent, who put me in contact with Body Corporate. Body Corporate sent a plumber round to look at it, who found a disconnection notice from the APA Group in the locked gas cabinet. I contacted APA, who passed responsibility to AGL Energy. AGL Energy said someone hadn't paid the bill, and that the problem was with Body Corporate. They acknowledged that they hadn't sent out disconnection notices to the individual units, and stated they didn't need to, because their relationship was with Body Corporate. They also let me know it would be 8-10 business days from the point that Body Corporate paid them, to when the service would be reconnected.

 

There seems to be a reasonable probability that the source of the problem was the Direct Connect service I used when I moved in last December, who possibly have connected me to the wrong meter. This would mean I've been paying someone else's bill, and the bill for my Unit has been going unpaid. While AGL were able to identify that this was the possible cause, they insist the problem doesn't involve me, and lies with Body Corporate (i.e. I can't simply pay whatever is owing, and sort out the details with Origin/Direct Connect/Body Corporate later). The person at the Body Corporate service provider who usually looks after this building is away on leave, so it's a reasonable possibility that disconnection notices were served and ignored.

 

Having possibly identified the problem, I find it supremely shitty that 3 other units (1 of which has a young family) have been dragged into this, and even though AGL are aware of the details, they're unwilling to reconnect the gas while the issue of payment gets worked out. The next issue is that my Dad comes down next week to start his next course of Radiotherapy. He lives in FNQ, so it's already going to be pretty cold down here for him, and cold showers are not the best idea for someone who's already immunocompromised. I can't afford to put him up at a hotel, but worse case scenario, I reckon I could probably rig up a bucket shower with a couple kettles as the hot water source.

 

However, if I can, I'd like to avoid that. It seems like this would fall foul of some sort of regulation given that hot water is considered an essential service, but I'm not really sure who to follow this up with? 8-10 business days means at the earliest, I'd get hot water back on 4th of May. I've contacted the Australian Energy Regulator for advice, but was told it was not in their jurisdiction, because they don't deal with bulk water systems. They referred me to the QLD Office of Fair Trading, who I'm skeptical would be able to help. I intend to follow it up with Origin Energy tomorrow to see if they can quicken the process of reconnection, but I have a feeling they're going to say it's out of their hands.

 

A final consideration is that the Plumber didn't re-lock the gas cabinet, and there's nothing physically stopping me from simply turning it back on. The disconnection notice states that it's illegal to interfere with the meter, and offenders will be prosecuted under Section 287 of the Queensland Gas Supply Act. I've had a look through the act, and even though I'm reasonably sure AGL had an obligation under Australian law to notify either me, or my service provider (Origin Energy) that they were going to disconnect the service, the law is stacked very much in their favour when it comes to reconnection.

 

Any clever folk here with ideas, knowledge, or experience on how to get my hot water back by Tuesday next week?

Edited by tastywheat

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I don't think hot water in itself falls into the essential services classifications, it's the energy itself.

 

Electricity is, no idea if gas is though. But you'd reckon it would be as many houses use it for heating, hot water and cooking.

 

So, have they disconnected the entire HWS as in shut off the gas? Or just the water output to your unit?

Re turning it back on - by turning a tap on to allow water or gas to flow isn't interfering with the meter. Interfering with the meter IMO would be something of a deliberate act aimed at falsifying the reading or to cause it not to increment.

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I'd be harassing the Body Corp.

 

Or ... you could turn it back on. And then be all innocent if some one asks. I mean it's not like you're trying to not pay.

You and your father need sanitary conditions. And well fucksake if you're in Melb. and your dad's coming from north of the border...

O.M.G !!

 

[warning! : I'm not particularly clever. I just have an almighty aversion to the cold]

Edited by eveln
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So, have they disconnected the entire HWS as in shut off the gas? Or just the water output to your unit?

Re turning it back on - by turning a tap on to allow water or gas to flow isn't interfering with the meter. Interfering with the meter IMO would be something of a deliberate act aimed at falsifying the reading or to cause it not to increment.

 

Thanks for the advice Rybags.

 

They had the option of turning off hot water for individual Units (there's a tap associate with every water meter, that could be padlocked to prevent it from simply being turned back on). Instead, they've shut down gas to one of the two hot water systems. The other system is still up and running, but is supplied by a seperate gas meter.

 

This is the exact text on the tag put on the gas tap:

 

"Once the supply has been disconnected, it is illegal to interfere with the meter. Offenders will be prosecuted under Section 287 of the Queensland Gas Supply Act 2003 which states: "A person must not wilfully tamper with a distributer's gas infrastructure unless the person has a lawful excuse." Maximum Penalty 500 Penalty points or $55,000. In addition the Queensland Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 Section 657 states: "A person must not unlawfully interfere with a meter, or the operation of a meter, or a security device, seal or stamp attached to the matter." With a similar maximum penalty of $55,000."

I searched the Act for what was considered to be a lawful excuse, and no definition is provided.

I'd be harassing the Body Corp.

 

Yeah, they seem to bare ultimate responsibility for not paying attention. The person I've been talking to is nice enough, but it seems a bit dodgy that I've had to do all the leg work to get things rolling. They've promised to sort it out tomorrow, but the Dispute Resolutions officer I spoke to at AGL (apparently the person with the highest authority you can talk to) said that regardless of what happens, it's still going to be 8-10 business days.

 

I made a point of explaining the situation with my Dad, offering to pay whatever was owing, and that this was a fairly bold strategy to lose customers for life given the collateral damage of their position. She insisted she had no authority to turn the gas back on until Body Corporate sorted their account out. Apparently unless it's life support equipment, there's no legal obligation.

Edited by tastywheat
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if its not dealt with by the time your dad arrives, then i guess, since the plumber left it unlocked, a member of the general public possibly connected in some way to the occupants of one of the four affected units must have turned it back on — but theres really no way to be sure.

 

ahem. notwithstanding the fact i have NFI what Direct Connect is, it seems that the ultimate blame for this lies with Body Corporate. they are probably the only ones who can exert at least moral pressure to fast-track the reconnection. so maybe you should be exerting moral pressure on them.

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I know an AGL employee (partner of my sister) but he's in the price modelling department and not billing department.

Anything to do with body corporates is right royal pain!

Edited by Jeruselem

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$55000.00 << yep that's scary.

Contact ACA immediately ! The bodies working in your Body Corp. need a good kick up the behind.

Got to be getting cold down there and ten-fourteen actual days ( stuff the business day BS ) is really not

to be treated lightly. Your personal history of prompt bill paying should be enough on it's own for them to

know you are indeed a serious customer .ffs you're an existing tenent !

I mean how long so far have you been with out hot water ?

Edited by eveln

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you might do better to post your question on whirlpool - there's a lot of useful knowledge to be trawled over there ;)

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So the Act is fairly explicit with respect to culpability in the event that an individual meter is turned back on, but I'm not sure how this works for communal meters. Additionally, as far as I can tell, the only way they're going to be able to find out that it's been turned back on is when the APA Group contractor comes back to reconnect it, and no gas would be 'stolen', because the meter reading will remain consistent.

 

The problem is that because I was the one calling and complaining, I think if they wanted to be dicks, they could make my life pretty complicated while they try to pin guilt, even if they can't get it to stick.

 

I reckon a wooden frame that fits to the existing show walls, holding a large paint bucket or heavy duty plastic storage container, with a basic valve and shower head, and maybe an extra kettle or two from Kmart might suffice. I may even be able to pass the receipts on to Body Corporate given their negligence in all of this...

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Yep, the camp shower I reckon would be the best and safest idea unless you have a bath and can resort to that.

 

Having temporary systems that mix the flowing cold water with recently boiled water in some teetering reservoir is a potential disaster in waiting, especially if the person using it is physically frail.

 

You could probably use 2 kettles and a saucepan or two for 6-7 litres worth of boiled water which would probably be more than enough for a 19 l camp shower.

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Hadn't even thought of buying something off the shelf, but it definitely makes the most sense, and might be a useful bit of kit for future camping (glamping?).

 

The DIY plan was always to mix the water first to an appropriate temperature, before turning on the shower head. Multiple kettles were just a way to produce more hot water in a reasonably quick amount of time.

 

The shower heads in a lot of developing countries have built in electrical heating elements that heat the cold water as you go, and scare the shit out of me whenever I've used them. Cheap Chinese parts that may or may not be water proof in the right areas, with super dodgy electrical install jobs that often rely on a mass of electrical tape for sealing/isolating connectors, and questionable water quality with probably enough heavy metal content to make it reasonably conductive.

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Another possibility is the 10 litre fresh water containers. Fairly rigid plastic and cheap $5 (?) but they use a tap similar to the cheap wine casks. Though it can be removed and in theory replaced with hose + shower rose.

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Bloody crazy state of affairs.

 

You don't live in a shack void of modern day utilities.

 

You live in a unit completely stocked with modern day utilities.

And yet you are looking to buying camping gear to use in your unit that is completely stocked with modern utilities.

 

And the only reason for this is modern day bureaucratic (<<I can never ever spell that word correctly) bullshit .

 

If the idea of ACA doesn't thrill you then get on to Alan Jones on the radio ;)

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Have you tried contacting the real estate agent ? And what do the other people in the units say?

 

If its too the whole set of units i would advise electing a spokeperson from the units and getting legal advice. If this Body Corporate is deliberately not paying rates on these units ,it could be an offence. Not a landlord so i cannot say what your legal rights are. Try contacting the Landlord and Tenants Association in your state.

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"Have you tried contacting the real estate agent ? And what do the other people in the units say?"

 

< Yells to make sure cc hears > Hey codecreeper ! Have you tried reading the OP ?

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The fun and games continues. Turns out the gas hasn't been paid since July last year, and the disconnection has nothing to do with me.

 

Everyone is pointing figures at body corporate. Body corporate first insisted the only solution was for me to take on the $1,900 bill, pretty much ignoring the details of the situation. Now they're claiming to just be the body corporate managers, and it's not their responsibility.

 

The real estate agent and Origin have dusted their hands of the issue, so it looks like the only option I have left is to go to the RTA or QLD Fair Trading.

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So, you pay body corp fees to cover "shared" expenses for everyone but they cannot be bothered to pay the gas bill?

Edited by Jeruselem

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The fun and games continues. Turns out the gas hasn't been paid since July last year, and the disconnection has nothing to do with me.

 

Everyone is pointing figures at body corporate. Body corporate first insisted the only solution was for me to take on the $1,900 bill, pretty much ignoring the details of the situation. Now they're claiming to just be the body corporate managers, and it's not their responsibility.

 

The real estate agent and Origin have dusted their hands of the issue, so it looks like the only option I have left is to go to the RTA or QLD Fair Trading.

Yup do that. Body corporate is a royal PITA in most cases and need a good kick in the you know where. So just to be clear you were paying your gas bill to the body corp and not the gas company?

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At my unit, the power is separate to each unit but the water is connection is shared because one meter for the whole complex.

Water bill is integrated into the body corp charge.

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Is this a rental or paying off/own situation?

 

If you're renting then the real estate agent and ultimately the owner should be sorting this out.

If you're owner then you're in essence part of the body corporate anyway and can rattle cages on your own behalf.

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If its unlocked, I'd turn it back on.

 

"Damn local teens, backfired on them this time! They keep turning my Gas off on me whenever they find this unlocked"

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The fun and games continues. Turns out the gas hasn't been paid since July last year, and the disconnection has nothing to do with me.

 

Everyone is pointing figures at body corporate. Body corporate first insisted the only solution was for me to take on the $1,900 bill, pretty much ignoring the details of the situation. Now they're claiming to just be the body corporate managers, and it's not their responsibility.

 

The real estate agent and Origin have dusted their hands of the issue, so it looks like the only option I have left is to go to the RTA or QLD Fair Trading.

 

So Exactly who is Body Corporate? You need find who is actually in this Body Corporate ,is it Clive Palmer or some other politician?

 

Normally when they register they use names like this for taxation it could be a group of investors using this banner. I would grab a copy of the Strata Title for UNITS or visit the Lands office in your state to check on it.

 

But you should make a call to the FREE legal advice line in your state they can direct you to a Law Firm that can deal with it.

 

Next thing i would be asking what else is Body Corporate not paying? Council Rates? Property Insurance and such. It really opens up a legal land mine when someone stops paying without notice.

 

Is the Water Supply still ok ,is the Electricity supply still ok ?

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So Exactly who is Body Corporate? You need find who is actually in this Body Corporate ,is it Clive Palmer or some other politician?

If you don't know what "Body Corporate" is, maybe this isn't the best thread for you.

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The fun and games continues. Turns out the gas hasn't been paid since July last year, and the disconnection has nothing to do with me.

 

Everyone is pointing figures at body corporate. Body corporate first insisted the only solution was for me to take on the $1,900 bill, pretty much ignoring the details of the situation. Now they're claiming to just be the body corporate managers, and it's not their responsibility.

 

The real estate agent and Origin have dusted their hands of the issue, so it looks like the only option I have left is to go to the RTA or QLD Fair Trading.

 

So Exactly who is Body Corporate? You need find who is actually in this Body Corporate ,is it Clive Palmer or some other politician?

 

Normally when they register they use names like this for taxation it could be a group of investors using this banner. I would grab a copy of the Strata Title for UNITS or visit the Lands office in your state to check on it.

 

But you should make a call to the FREE legal advice line in your state they can direct you to a Law Firm that can deal with it.

 

Next thing i would be asking what else is Body Corporate not paying? Council Rates? Property Insurance and such. It really opens up a legal land mine when someone stops paying without notice.

 

Is the Water Supply still ok ,is the Electricity supply still ok ?

 

The body corporate is made up of unit owners in order to manage a block of units/flats/whatever, it gets more complicated legally but that's the gist of it. Nothing to do with Clive Palmer or other politicians but just like government it was initially a good idea that got stuffed up along the way. :)

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