Switching to Residential Metered Billing

Which Comox residences are metered?

The properties that have received meters to date have generally been residences that were meter-ready or where we could affordably install meters, residents who requested meters, and residences where we have upgraded water connections (in which case we install the meter when we work on the connection). This amounts to almost half of our residential customers of all types (single-family, duplex and multi-family). We read those meters monthly and post the readings to the water service page of our website for property owners to monitor their water use. (2015 Map)

How many residences have switched to metered billing?

Since we established a metered residential rate in 2012 and offered property owners the opportunity to switch over to metered billing, more than 150 homes and twelve strata developments have switched.

Why would customers want to switch?

To save up to $171 or 48% (in 2017) per year on the cost of their municipal water. $171 is the difference between the minimum payment per year for metered residential customers (of $180) and the residential flat-rate of $351 (in 2017) that other residential customers pay with their taxes. To achieve the maximum saving of $171 customers must keep their water use at or below 56 cubic metres (m3) per billing period (every 4 months) through the year (168 m3 for the whole year). But even if use is above this level, a customer can still save (although less) by switching to metered billing – saving up to $135 for a customer who uses 200 m3 of water, and up to $99 for a customer who uses 250 m3. Most of the 2,400 metered single family homes in Comox already use less than 250 m3 of water per year, so the potential for savings extends to a majority of metered residential customers.

Who should consider switching?

Customers who have at least one full year of meter readings showing that they are low-volume users of water – typically homes using under 250 m3 of water per year. For a strata, that would be under 250 m3 times the number of units in the strata, for the year.

How do I find out how much water I use?

A report showing monthly residential meter readings and water use for the past year is posted to our water service webpage monthly. If you know your MXU # or (if applicable) your strata plan number you can look up your month-by-month water use during the whole of the past year. Add it up and see how low that is, and note how many months you use over 14 m3 of water (or for a strata over 14 m3 per unit). If you don’t know your MXU # contact us at Town Hall to find out what it is and how much water you have used over the past year.

What is the metered residential rate?

We now bill water use every four months (Jan-Apr, May-Aug, & Sep-Dec). Our metered residential rate is a minimum of $60.00 (including 56 m3 of water) per period, plus $1.12/m3 for water use over 56 m3 in the period. For a strata, those minimums (and included volumes) are multiplied by the number of units in the development. To discourage excessive use, there is a higher rate ($1.45 / m3) that applies to water use exceeding 500 m3 per year (a limit that is more than double the use of a typical single family home in Comox).

When can someone switch?

The change will be effective at the start of any calendar year (so we need to receive your request by March 14th). That way we can bill you for the first period of the year with our April 30th billings, and make sure that when tax notices go out in May they do not include any water user fees for the year.

Who shouldn’t switch?

Customers who have less than one year’s data from their meters since they don’t really know how much water they use year-round. Customers who think their circumstances might change, since they may use more water in future years than in the past. Generally speaking, we do not recommend switching to metered billing for customers who use more than 250 m3 of water per year, since their potential annual savings are relatively small.

How does the billing process work?

We read residential meters monthly and post the monthly readings report to our website. We bill after the end of each four months in the year. The bills are generally mailed out within 3 weeks after the period is ended, and we give until the end of the next month for people to pay. An invoice for the period ended April 30th would generally be mailed out the third week of May and payment would be due at the end of June. If it isn’t paid on time then we add a 10% penalty to the invoice and include the new balance with the next period’s billing. And any overdue amounts at year-end are added to taxes in arrears at the start of the next calendar year.

What if I have a leak?

If a leak occurs underground on a metered property, there can be a significant increase in water use, and the bill that the owner receives. Our water bylaw provides a reduced rate in cases where the property owner has repaired an underground leak. Property owners have to ask for this relief and provide documentation that they had the leak repaired.

What about excessive use?

Since 2008 we have noted that some customers use excessive amounts of water for a single family home. Our flat water rate was never intended to provide unlimited amounts of water to home owners. When metered residential water use exceeds 500 m3 of water per year the Town will charge the owner $1.45 / m3 for all water use over 500 m3, regardless of whether the owner pays for water used on metered or flat-rates. The Town attempts to contact property owners if we see excessive use begin, so that they can can avoid this billing.

Do watering restrictions apply?

Yes – the Regional District’s watering restrictions will continue to apply to all customers of the regional water system (including Comox residents) whether you have a meter or not, and whether your billing is metered or flat-rate.

How are stratas billed?

If a strata switches to metered billing, we will bill it every four months too. Their minimum per period is also $60.00 per unit, and it includes 56 m3 of water per unit. Use over this is also at $1.12 / m3. Bills are sent to the strata corporation, and it then includes the cost of water in its monthly strata fees. In order to switch to metered billing, a strata must pass a resolution endorsed by a majority of owners in the development.

How are duplexes billed?

While legally strata duplexes are strata corporations, they typically do not operate with the same formalities of a larger strata – the owners share few common costs. Despite that, most of the duplexes built in Comox have only one water connection and so there will be only one water meter to measure water use on both sides. In this case, if the owners of both sides of the duplex want to switch to metered billing, then the Town will bill each owner quarterly for one-half of the total water use.

What if an owner changes their mind?

Council has decided that owners can withdraw from metered rates on a year by year basis. Owners can therefore apply in writing to switch back to flat rates in any year if we receive their request before March 15th. To make this process easier, there is an enrollment / withdrawal form.

How do I enroll in metered residential billing?

Single-family home owners can switch to metered billing using the enrollment / withdrawal form. Please make sure we receive your form before March 15th of the year you want to switch. If you live in a strata building or development, then the members of the strata have to jointly make the decision that all its members switch over. Please contact Town staff to learn more about this process.

How do contact Town Hall if I have other questions?

Email: town@comox.ca

Phone: 250-339-2202

Fax: 250-339-7110