Last week district council approved best practices for staff to follow regarding water bill reimbursement when a homeowner experiences a leak on their property.
The best practices would offer property owners some water billing reimbursement following a leak, provided the leak is repaired within 14 days of recognition or notification and documentation of the repair is submitted to the district along with a Water Leak Adjustment Request form within 30 days of leak recognition. The customer’s account must be in good standing at the time of the request, and if the request is approved, the utility account will be adjusted to mirror the previous year’s water use for the same period of time. If the property is new or has no previous water use history, district staff will use a comparative property’s water use history for the same period.
The issue came to the fore after a leaky pipe resulted in a utility bill thousands of dollars higher than expected for one homeowner, leading Peachland council to consider if the municipality should have a water loss reimbursement policy.
The property owner of 3912 Desert Pines Avenue came to council seeking a $3,391.09 reimbursement from the municipality following a significant water leak going back to problems that began last year. The leak was repaired as soon as the homeowner became aware of it.
“I think that this policy should apply from now on and that we should make an exception in the case of [the owner of 3912] Desert Pines because that was the problem that precipitated the whole debate, discussion and desire to fix the problem now and in the future,” Councillor Keith Fielding said.
Not everyone on council was confident that the policy direction was the correct route to take.
“What are the implications going to be financially for the district and our ability to deliver services and provide amenities moving forward if we wish to move down this road? Again, I’ve stated that I believe that private property should remain under the responsibility of the property owner, right? But I seem to be in the minority in that position,” Councillor Mike Kent said.
District council had returned the matter back to staff several times over the past few months to get more information or request adjustments to the policy being proposed. While council hasn’t yet come to a policy agreement, they were able to reach consensus about best practices staff should follow until a permanent policy is in place.
When considering how to proceed, district council reviewed what policies or practices neighbouring communities have adopted with respect to reimbursement for costs related to a private water service water leak and the majority of council members favoured a policy similar to what West Kelowna has in place.
As a result of this discussion, on the last round of utility bills district staff began including leak information that will serve as notification to homeowners.
By Joanne Layh