Advice for landlords and tenants…..

I have a rental property, rented out through an Agent, in Richmond Vic. When Citipower reps arrived to changeover meters early in 2011, I was there and told them not to install it. I said the house was heritage listed….they eventually went away. I had a meterbox cover made and installed with a little hole for the meter reader, and put up a sign saying “no Smart meter” on it. In July 2012 Citipower sent Agent a letter saying a smartmeter was about to be installed. I wrote to CEO….

Now, here’s the fun bit…

The Tenant has a Lease contract and is not allowed to make (or permit another party to make) changes to the Landlord’s property, unless the L/L gives consent in writing. If a tenant does make, or allows another party to make changes without L/L consent, the tenant is in breach of their lease and can be taken to the Tribunal over the breach and the L/L can also apply for compensation. Furthermore, the Agent does not automatically have authority to allow changes to the L/L property. The Agent needs to have L/L written authority to do this. If the Agent permits changes to L/L property without L/L consent, then the Agent can be held liable for “Breach of Contract” (assuming there is the valid basic “letting authority” contact only in place) and the Agent can therefore not only be taken to REIV disciplinary committee, but also be sued under a couple of Acts for acting outside his authority and again compensation/ damages awarded.

Also, Heritage properties require Planning Permit applications usually from both the local Council and Heritage Victoria should there be anything proposed which would either alter the appearance of the building from the street, or which would/could result in damage to the “fabric” of the building…the Permit applications don’t happen quickly, nor are the outcomes guaranteed….but the Heritage Act does allow for large penalties to be applied for a breach (and ignorance of the provisions in the Act is no defence!) Added to that, if a Heritage permit DOES issue, then the works must be properly supervised by a recognised Heritage expert…

This all raises several issues:

1. The rental Agent has no authority to allow Smartmeter installation. Make sure you put that in writing to the Agent. Ask that the Agent sends the Electricity Company a letter stating that fact (naturally giving the L/L a copy) and in addition, sending a copy of that correspondence to the Minister O’Brien.

2. Make sure you as L/L also tell the Electricity Company in writing that the Agent does not have your permission to allow a smart meter installation.

3. The tenant has no authority to allow a smart meter installation, as it is to be a fixture (ie supposedly non-reversible) to the L/L property. Make sure the tenant is aware of this fact in writing. If the tenant is amenable, ask them to send the Electricity Company a letter informing that the tenant has no authority to permit changes to the L/L property and in the event of a smartmeter installation “without consent”, the tenant will seek full compensation and punitive damages from the Electricity Company. (Remember, that Tenants can end up with a bad record at VCAT and the other tenancy check organisations if they allow changes/damages to L/L property. This bad record can result in not being accepted for another rental property for years afterwards…This is what the compensation & punitive damages $$$ is for – ruining their name and rental prospects!)

4. If the property is Heritage listed, or in a Heritage overlay area, make sure you advise the Electricity Company of this in writing and include a copy of the HO map/listing. Tell the Electricity Company that they MUST apply for a Planning Permit, engaging a recognised Heritage consultant expert of YOUR choice (make sure you choose one from interstate, say W.A.) but at THEIR Company’s cost, costs which including preparation of all plans, photos, reports and site inspections and attendances which are normally associated with the lodging of a Heritage Planning Application and any subsequent work on Heritage buildings. Advise them that you require a written undertaking from them that they will comply with your request (ie plans, permits & consultant at their cost, but your choice of consultant) and give a written undertaking that NO WORK to swap meters is to be undertaken until such time as the necessary approvals have been received, and that should works be undertaken on your Heritage property without Planning and/or Heritage Permits, AND if any damage – no matter how small – to the “fabric” of the Heritage building occurs, you will seek a prosecution under both Council Planning processes and the Heritage Act,as well as seek full compensation and punitive damages from them.

Send a copy of this correspondence to the Energy Minister O’Brien. If they do send you a written undertaking, make a copy &send for Minister O’Brien.

The point of all this? The Electricity company and its Agents, employees etc are exposed to large compensation and damages claims from at least three parties – you, the Agent and the tenant. In addition, there could be two successful prosecutions brought about from your Council and also Heritage Victoria.

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12 Responses to Advice for landlords and tenants…..

  1. John Macey says:

    The ownership issue of meters should legally be challenged. I can’t get my head around the fact that power companies think they can place a device on ‘YOUR’ house without permission, leave it there and actually ‘CHARGE’ you for it. In my mind if something is in your possession and you paid for it, it belongs to you. Forced consumerism without ownership. These are private companies now and they should pay for their own infrastructure and means of operating their damn business. Making the tax payer pay should have stopped when public assets (SEC) was sold.

    The other thing that irks me is: I have no contract with the distributor, I have a contract with the retailer and it doesn’t say anything about dumb meters.

    The only way this will end is if enough people say NO and are prepared to go without electricity if need be rather than give in. Money, control, and power (no pun intended). All 3 can be taken away from them with a phone call to disconnect. When all the stalling tactics are over that’s what I will be doing.

  2. blairstreet says:

    Further to my previous post, and in reply to darkdirk of Aug 10 , 4.22pm, re my covering the analogue meter with a box, etc. You have made a couple of assumptions!
    Firstly, I only TOLD the installers the house was Heritage listed, when in fact the official listing had not come through at that time. I can tell you, it certainly took them aback…obviously their Training sessions did not encompass that aspect of objection or refusal to accept an installation.
    Secondly, the box made is painted the same colour as the house and the hole is exactly the same size as the dial – so at first look, the box is virtually “invisible” from the street. Besides, its only temporary until the full polycarbonate perspex one is built!
    As to the other content of my post, perhaps you need to double-check Contract Law, Town Planning Law, Building controls, how Legal Precedents are applied or used, and the rights of individuals (yes, even tenants) under Common Law to “conscienciously object” and seek damages…

    I was interested to read in another person’s post that antennae have been installed on properties in conjunction with installed smartmeters….to my knowledge, that antenna is classified as a fixture or fitting to a property (Just like a TV antenna). Thus, as it is “something new”, (ie not pre-existing and just being “repaired”) it technically requires a building permit, and property owner’s consent (also Landlord consent) and therefore a tenant is NOT allowed to say it can go on the property. Further, if that property IS Heritage listed, then a separate Permit application MUST first be lodged with Council and/or HV.

    • Con says:

      Very interesting information blairstreet!! I have just found out that my property is Heritage Listed and or under a Heritage Overlay.
      As I am not familiar with the Heritage act are they two different things or one and the same?
      Have you used that argument, if so what was there response.
      Looking forward to your response, thanking you in advance!

  3. Archie Burke says:

    VE OWN DE METERS,YOU VILL ACCEPT ZEM & PAY FOR ZEM! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO REFUSE! Sounds like …..aaahhhmm.. HITLER or PUTIN?

  4. Christian McDonald says:

    Darkdirk,

    You are obviously been paid by the electricity companies, your answers are very open. Whilst I don’t know who actually owns the meters, it is obvious that electricity companies cannot do what they want at the moment. The above article is great and very informative. If the companies had a legal right today as we speak to change the meters, they would already have done it. The electricity companies are sneaky and YES they ask tenants if they can change the meters just as they have did to one of my properties. Had I read this article I could have informed my tenant and helped them make the right choice. My mate Kosta put signs everywhere and while he was shopping they not only changed his meter but they let his dog out, now he has a smart meter he hates and no dog (Roxy)

    As the previous poster said, I’m happy to pay money to take them on, I’ve had enough of these dirkbags! Bring it on!

  5. FightingBack says:

    After moving into an area in the northern suburbs. I have found that they have not put smart meters in a lot of this area yet, five minutes away where we were they have. I thought that it was a relief from the constant heart palpitations, ringing and tension.

    In our near by streets yesterday and today I have seen the antennas on some homes and others including mine that don’t have them including my next door neighbour (I was also going to do a leaflet drop to let everyone in my court and behind before they were put in, too late).
    I was out for a few hours and I come back today and was shock to see an antenna on my next door neighbours box (near our bedrooms, arrr), I quickly put a lock on our box today and sign to stop them.
    I have not been informed by any letter in the last 4 weeks of any date to install them. Are they now not informing the people of a time frame to install them ? They are sneaky because they seem to be hitting homes when no one is home. I have been looking out for them but I have not really seen them around our streets except about 4 vans together today in one main street a few blocks away probably harassing people in numbers. They will be knocking on my door very soon. I am going to film everything they say and if they make threats then I have it for a lawyer.

    We are also renting our home. They seem to be above the law, isn’t it time now for class action as they are breaking many laws now. The only way to stop this is in the courts just like people that take on speeding fines or bank fees. Can we get a lawyer who will help us make a stand and also make a profit and name for themselves. Any lawyers step forward and help us stop this.
    I am happy to put my money into it. Lets go!

  6. darkdirk says:

    This is all not true. The electricity company owns the meter and has legal authority to replace it even without consent. And adding your own meter box would probably be more of a breach of a heritage overlay than replacing a meter. There is no way a tenant could be help liable for an electricity company replacing the meter they own. The tenant actually has no legal right to stop them from doing so.
    When this website gives wrong information it is doing all its constituents a disservice.

    • keith says:

      To Darkdirk, You are right, the distribution cos. do own the meters; however their right to change them to smart meters ends, with the right of occupants not to have a piece of equipment on their property that may endanger their health.

      • Ms Rebel says:

        darkdirk, the only thing I see as being ‘wrong’ is the way many people are being treated by these electricity control freaks of industry. Their cushy existance is being challenged and rightly so! Why should we have to accept their choice of equipment on our property, without ANY consent? They stand to make billions in profit from these dodgy, dangerous devices and at the absolute EXPENSE of ours, and our children’s health and well-being! THAT IS WHAT IS WRONG, DON’T YOU GET IT???

  7. Pam Densley says:

    Great we are WINNING IN ALL DEPARTMENTS. I sent a letter to my Local Councillors today together with a copy of East Gippslands Council Success . Be interesting to see what sort of a Reply I get. Maybe we should all write to our Councils for those of us who are not lucky enough to have Groups in our areas…………………Hope you all have a Great Weekend and for those of you who have Meetings to go to.Good Luck……………………..Cheers Pam 🙂

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