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What's next after Y2K?: Water meter issues face deadline.

As specialists in evaluating the accuracy of water/sewer bills, we have been getting many phone calls asking us to explain what steps are needed to properly comply with the DEP metering, rules. There is some confusion, and with all the concentration on Y2K, we want to remind the real estate industry that there is a deadline for placing entire premise meters in all buildings.

As of June 2000, the DEP requires all buildings have entire premise meters installed or face a 100 percent surcharge on the water/sewer bill. Does this rule force you to install a meter and immediately be placed on meter billing? In order to comply, a meter must be installed. In the event your meter is larger than 1.5 inches, you can determine at a later time whether you elect to stay on frontage or be switched to meter billing. If a meter is less than 1 inch, the DEP will automatically bill you based on meter consumption and you will not have the option to remain on frontage.

You can either have the DEP install the meter or hire your own plumber and install under the Reimbursable Metering Program (RMP). You will only be switched from frontage if you fill out a form stating that you elect to be billed on meter charges. If your building has DEP-approved low-flow toilets, then you are entitled to stay on frontage an additional year.

The most important step is to get the meter installed on time. After the meter is installed, you can then determine whether frontage or meter billing is better for you. The DEP will place all new (1.5 inches or greater) installed meters on an I-monitor status - meaning the meter is functioning, but it is not being used by DEP to determine billable charges. It is there for your use to track consumption and to get you prepared for proper budgeting. A utility bill specialist can help you analyze the water consumption and determine which method of billing is best for your building.

The DEP recently issued another warning to owners: Pay outstanding balances or have your multi-tenant residential water shut off. Many owners doubt that the DEP will ever enforce this new rule, but the message is not lost. The DEP is taking a tough stance towards non-payment of water bills. We encourage owners to pay their water bills in a timely fashion. If you question the bill, let the DEP know that you are questioning it. Either review the bill yourself or have professionals review it on a contingency basis. Having bills reviewed on a contingency fee is a win/win situation for an owner. Errors can always be rectified, but finance charges for late payment are rarely removed unless associated with an error. However, if your challenge is incorrect, you will not only pay the original bill you questioned, you will also be required to pay the additional charges. Ouch!

Water/sewer bills should be like any other monthly utility bill. Bills should reflect charges based on actual reads. You should be able to rely on the accuracy of a bill. Unfortunately, the DEP's history has eroded the confidence of the owner. The owner questions every bill that comes their way. This creates a vicious cycle when every bill has to be carefully scrutinized. With so little time to accomplish all that has to be done in a real estate management office, reviewing DEP bills is placed on the bottom of the pile, thereby creating outstanding bills. Our firm combats this problem. Not only will we correct past bills, we keep you on track by monitoring every, bill for a nominal charge. This way the accuracy of each bill is verified and you don't incur late payment charges while you are "intending" to review the bill.

Outsourcing is becoming the norm within the real estate industry. With all the rules, regulations and paperwork, the standard workload is insurmountable to most. Recognizing the industry's need to get a handle on the water/sewer issues, our firm has incorporated a widespread array of services to answer any issue which deals with water/sewer. We advise clients on how to properly meter and sub-meter an entire building and remain eligible for DEP cost-saving programs. We review your past bills for the entire statute of limitations and look for and correct all errors. W will monitor all future bills to assure accuracy. We make sure that you are taking full advantage of all the cost-saving programs that the DEP has to offer. The most important thing we will do for you is to recommend ways that you can stop the cycle of errors from occurring in the first place. We are a water/sewer informational source. No matter what your question or need, we can resolve your problem.
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Article Details
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Author:Ginsberg, Debbie
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 10, 1999
Previous Article:Lincoln Property Company.
Next Article:Pergolis Swartz Associates, Inc.

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