Water meter shock for families

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Residents living in a north London housing development are furious at being moved into new homes without being told first they would have water meters fitted.

The families on Meridian Walk, close to the Tottenham Hotspur football ground, switched from their old Sixties council properties into newly refurbished homes owned by a housing association earlier this year.

So far, about 25 families have been moved.

Water-saving devices such as showers and dual flushing toilets have not been fitted to the new dwellings and residents, many of whom receive income support, fear that their bills will rise dramatically.

According to the National Campaign for Water Justice, a typical family of four would find its water bills increase threefold by going on a meter.

The families were only told on the day they signed their tenancy agreements that their new homes would have meters.

They say they received no information from either Thames Water or the housing association about the implications of the changeover.

Joan Impey, who has lived on the estate for 16 years, said: 'People here are mainly on income support and unemployed. It's not on.

'If they knew people were going on these meters they should have asked if they wanted a shower rather than a bath.

A spokesman for Metropolitan Housing Trust said they were not aware the meters would be installed when they first embarked on plans to renovate the estate in 1990.

'We only informed tenants when they signed up for the new properties', he said.

It was not the trust's responsibility how services like water were put into the properties, he added. That was down to Thames Water.

Although the trust had fitted smaller size cisterns to the toilets in line with new building regulations, he admitted showers had not been fitted as standard in the homes.

'Shower units cost a lot of money. We have to take a balance between what we can afford to provide and what the rent level should be. Every extra penny we invest in the home we have to recover in the rent.

A spokesman for Thames Water said it had been dealing direct with the housing association and it was up to the association to tell residents they would be on meters.

Until it was replaced by the poll tax, the local authority rating system was used as the basis for water rates.

Since then, water authorities have had no way of assessing a property's water rate value.

Newly built residential properties and conversions of older properties are automatically put on to meters.

But they cannot be installed universally, and Thames Water has been given until 2000 to come up with another system on which to base its charges.

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