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Who owns water meters?

RECENTLY, for two rented properties, we received letters from the Harare City Council saying that “your water meter is stuck” and that we must replace them with new ones and pay a penalty of $3 000 each. This has a lot of implications which I doubt the council has thought

about in its headlong rush to extort money from us.

Firstly, who actually owns these water meters? Are they owned by the council or by the consumer? If the council owns them then why is the consumer being penalised for their poor state of condition and why does he have to replace a meter that is not his? How legal is this if he is not the owner?

Secondly, if a new meter is purchased by the consumer, as is demanded by the council, who will own this new meter? And who becomes the owner of the old replaced meter? 

To prevent a recurrence of the same problem the consumer will probably declare his rights and take his new meter with him when he changes address thus leaving the previous address without a meter! When you consider that people changing addresses happen several hundred times monthly in Harare there could be real chaos in the making.

Thirdly, I have always understood that there is a very strict requirement that meters, being council property, are strictly not to be tampered with. Now they seem to be asking all and sundry to remove and install their own meters. Will this seriously work?

Fourthly, faulty meters can be repaired for about $9 000 whereas a new one costs in the region of $27 000.

Obviously if you are the owner of the meter you have the right of the cheaper option. So what gives the council the right to demand that you supply a new meter?

On top of that they also threaten us with penalties if we do not comply with this totally illegal, in my view, demand.

Basically the council needs to make very clear who owns the meters, old and new, thereby determining who is responsible for their maintenance and, if necessary, replacement. In order to prevent a lot of disputes and confusion it is abundantly clear that the council should own, maintain and replace the meters and the cost of this should be covered in the cost of the water.

Alternatively, the council could levy all consumers and keep a separate fund to maintain all water meters.

Has the council really put any thought into this or it is so broke it just has to try anything to get money out of us which is really to pay for its own incompetence?

Is this the real reason why the council has got no money to pay for an obvious requirement like maintaining water meters?
 
Iain Jarvis,
Harare.

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