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.