A Nanaimo property owner received a rude shock this week after receiving a large electricity bill for a home that is not yet connected to electricity.
Stella Botto is building a new home on Woodhaven Drive in the city's north end. Electrical wiring for the house is not finished, so there is no source of electricity on site. Botto said she has paid neighbours for the use of their electricity and used on-site generators to provide a source of power for construction of the building.
Botto said she was dumbfounded when she received a letter from B.C. Hydro claiming she owed $1,923.57, including a balance from a previous bill she said she never received.
B.C. Hydro installed a meter at the residence in March, but the device has been locked and does not appear to be activated, since electrical wiring in the building has not yet been approved by the B.C. Safety Authority, Botto said.
The balance also includes a hookup utility fee of $957, which she is not disputing. However, the size of the bill took her by surprise.
"I just went, like, 'Wow,'" she said. "I actually had a shock."
"I was told the connection fee would be about $866. (I thought) has there been a change in the connection fee, what has happened here? I was absolutely shocked."
The amount on the bill is an estimate, including electric and other charges between July 13 and Sept. 13 amounting to $315.53.
"And I thought, 'Oh wait a minute, I'm not consuming anything, so how can they charge me?'" she said.
"And the other thing that shocked me was that it said the bill was past due," she said, adding that she never received a previous bill.
Botto called B.C. Hydro to find out why she was being charged for electricity she hadn't used. She said she spent two hours on the phone talking to three people before she was told the Crown corporation would not be able to cancel the charges until crews read her meter in November or December.
"No one could comprehend that I had a meter, but I didn't have power," she said.
B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said the meter at Botto's property was installed, but never hooked up to power. However, the corporation's system showed the device was connected, and billing to the customer began.
"There was probably some confusion along the way," Olynyk said.
Olynyk said that when Hydro sets up a new meter, the corporation will provide initial estimates based on what anticipated electricity consumption will be for the property. The estimates are based on the heating system used and other factors, such as the size of the building.
When the new meter is connected to the building and readings come in, Olynyk said
the amount a customer paid for estimated use would be weighed against actual usage.
"We're not going to charge you for something you don't consume,"
Olynyk said. He said that when Botto's meter is eventually read, it will show zero consumption and she will not be charged anything.
Botto said she is satisfied with service from B.C. Hydro overall.
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