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View Full Version : Who is liable for water charges and bills- L or T?



jboyle1
04-11-2009, 13:14 PM
Northumbrian Water Dispute

I am a landlord.
My two flats had no tenants and Northumbrian Water is pursuing me through the small claims procedure for water charges during this period.
My argument is that as no water services were used during this period there should be no charge. I told Northumbrian water that as a tradesman was doing some work in the property my understanding is that water should be available by law for health and safety reasons; though I understand from the tradesman that no water services were used in the property during the vacant period.

Any advice?

Thanks

John

Poppy
04-11-2009, 13:33 PM
Is the water supply on a meter or rates?

If it’s rates, the owner is responsible whether occupied or unoccupied, one drop taken or a whole lake.

subjecttocontract
04-11-2009, 14:02 PM
If it’s rates, the owner is responsible whether occupied or unoccupied, one drop taken or a whole lake.

Not correct.

Normally the tenant is responsible whilst there is a tenancy agreement unless the contract specifically states that the rent includes water charges.

Poppy
04-11-2009, 14:09 PM
I am responding on the basis of jboyle1’s statement "My two flats had no tenants".

Let’s clarify. During a void, the owner is responsible whether occupied or unoccupied for all ongoing bills water, gas, electricity, council tax, mortgage, service charge, maintenance, whatever.

banjo
04-11-2009, 14:52 PM
My rental property is in the Northumbrian water region and before I had tenants in I spoke to N'brian Water to confirm the property was empty, hoping to not have to pay any water charges.

Their clear answer was I had to make a choice: 1. they could turn off the water from their end - no further charge until it was turned back on or 2. I could keep the availability of water but I had to pay water charges, along with the standing sewage charge.

subjecttocontract
04-11-2009, 16:30 PM
Poppy,
Appologies...thanks for clarifying and it looks like we are both correct.

Moderator1
04-11-2009, 17:56 PM
Thread moved from "RESIDENTIAL LETTINGS" as that does not seem to be appropriate.

Tipper
04-11-2009, 20:33 PM
When I bought my conversion project property the water company billed me for 6 months water rates, an astonishing amount at c.£650 ie £1300 per year!!

I had already asked for a meter to be fitted and was told I would have to wait about 6 weeks. As the house was unocuppied awaiting renovation and building works I declared it unoccupied and the account was closed. After the meter was fitted they then started billing me for the water used. 1st water bill for 3 months was all of £40 due to the infrequent visits whilst we waited for planning permission etc and the limited amount of water used - we did a bit of pressure washing slippery paths and steps for safety.

Not been paying council tax either as it is unocupied. It will now need an 'inspection' to satisfy the council that it is still uninhabitable due to the building works.

Poppy
05-11-2009, 01:59 AM
A few questions for jboyle1:

Have you read a document published by Northumbrian Water entitled "Your Water Your Services 2009/2010 (http://www.nwl.co.uk/NW_Your_water_your_services%282%29.pdf)"?
Have you read page 4 subtitle "Do I pay water charges if my property is unoccupied"?
Is your property furnished?
Have you requested the water to be turned off?

jboyle1
10-11-2009, 10:23 AM
I read the booklet you sent, thanks.

The property was unfurnished while being renovated.

I told Northumbrian Water that as a buider was in there my understanding was that water should be available for health and safety reasons.

However the workman said he used no water.

The property is a ground floor flat and does have a water meter but it is shared with the flat above.

Therfore any water usage was fom the first floor flat.

Markonee1
10-11-2009, 11:17 AM
Extract of online booklet by NW:"Charges for water and sewerage services remain due in full whilst
a property contains furnishings and fittings or when a property is unfurnished
and water is being used for any purpose including refurbishment.
If a property is unfurnished and you agree to the water supply being turned
off by Northumbrian Water then water and sewerage services charges are
not payable.
If the supply of water is turned off and the property is furnished it is considered
ready for occupation and therefore sewerage charges in respect of surface
water drainage and highway drainage continue to be payable.
This policy also applies to rented properties
that are unoccupied for a period of time
between lettings."
Wot is that wot is highlighted in red?:eek:
If roof water goes into soakaways, and not drains or sewers, should there be a discount?

Poppy
10-11-2009, 12:49 PM
Problem is that you did not inform them at the outset. I don’t know where the onus of proof lays in these circumstances. Do any members know?

I must say jboyle1 that your argument so far on the forum is weak.

Markonee1
10-11-2009, 13:08 PM
The wife's mother died last Christmas. Glos council granted relief from rates for a year, but Severn Trent Water carried on charging. House was still furnished as her mother died after only giving a day's notice:eek:. Probate took a while. Other key benefactor lives in Spain, so slow going disposing of the chattels. Doesn't seem right to be charged for sewage etc IMO...

scribbler
26-11-2009, 11:46 AM
I''ve been contacted by a water company demanding payment of an outstanding water bill which was the responsibility of the tenant. The company is MIL collections. They have given me 72 hours to pay. What is my position?

P.Pilcher
26-11-2009, 12:21 PM
As far as I am aware, provided your AST makes your tenant liable for water payments and you notified the water company of this when your tenant moved in then you are not liable. The water company is trying to take the easy option which, I believe, they should not be doing.
I recently rented out a property to a tenant and got sick and tired of the appropriate water company telephoning me to ask to speak to my tenant who had not paid his water bill. Eventually, it transpired that my phone number was on their list of contact numbers for my tenant which they removed. However the water co. never attempted to get me to actually pay the bill.

P.P.

Poppy
26-11-2009, 13:01 PM
Give them proof of the date when you or your new tenant took up occupation of the property.

veryartysteve
26-11-2009, 14:54 PM
Is the company a debt collector? If so you may find yourself fighting on two fronts. The water company and the collection company.

johnboy
26-11-2009, 19:36 PM
Under Section 144 of the Water Industry act 1991 the "occupiers" are reponsible for any usage/bills.

tom999
26-11-2009, 19:43 PM
I''ve been contacted by a water company demanding payment of an outstanding water bill which was the responsibility of the tenant. The company is MIL collections. They have given me 72 hours to pay. What is my position?Name sounds like a debt collection company (not a water company). Contact water company offering to provide details of AST and T's liability; they may also ask for forwarding addresses.

kayak
26-11-2009, 20:02 PM
I would go directly to the water board and speak to them. A debt collection company will never change details, they will merely just chase what they have been given. I don't think you are going to have a problem.

TopNotch
27-11-2009, 10:02 AM
Debt collectors will always take the easy option through itimidation and threats, they don't actually care who they recover the debt from as long as its recovered (they normally get to keep a percentage of all monies retrieved) so its in their interest to 'legally harrass' whoever they can in the hope that someone will be distressed enough to pay.

Stick to your guns, inform the water authorities by sending the TA and also a letter demanding they stop haressing you for a debt which is not yours otherwise you will take legal action.

BTW MIL collections is a debt recovery agency

moocow
10-12-2009, 20:12 PM
i have just had a letter from our landlord showing us our share of the water bill. we live in a victorian conversion of 4 flats with no seperate meters and not a chance of getting them. LL owns the other three flats.

LL has decided to divide the bill up according to how many people live in each flat according to him. Two flats have one person only and one has 2, we have three as we have a small child.

So we have been charged 3/7th of the bill. interestingly i don't recall this clause in our lease. i am unable to find a copy just now so have ordered one from the LR. its a standard early 1980's lease if that helps.

i guess i shall have to wait for my copy of the lease to arrive before i send him a reply.

thevaliant
10-12-2009, 21:24 PM
You've already answered your own question.

The answer lies in the lease.

Though I would challenge any split like that. If the lease is silent I'd be tempted to argue evens, unless he can prove you use more water than the other flats (which he couldn't unless he got proper meters installed).

jeffrey
11-12-2009, 10:01 AM
Besides the lease, consider the legal position re billing:
why is each flat not separately rated/billed by Water/Drainage Undertaker? Can't lessee simply contact it and so request?

moocow
11-12-2009, 19:47 PM
their is no seperate water supply to each flat. the building was originally comercial premises and much later divided into flats. pipes go everywhere and many are old and unused. we have asked the water company but they say it is to difficult and would cost a considerable amount to divide it up.

i can't wee how we use more water as we are very careful with it coming from a very dry country ourselves. also we are all out 5 days a week working. nutcase in the groundfloor flat does not work and has a bath tub in his flat (we only have a shower). i think the other two flats have bath tubs as well from comments made in the past by the LL. also being on the top floor we don't have that muh water pressure so everything comes out at trickle speed.

oh and the last time he billed us (he is not very regular) he split it in 4 evenly. I shall have to hunt arond for that copy but i suspect he just gave us a copy of his bill and asked for 25%.

jeffrey
13-12-2009, 13:25 PM
Irrespective of the problems associated with any splitting-up the supply, you should insist on each flat being separately rated/billed.

moocow
13-12-2009, 21:06 PM
the landlord does not charge his own tennents any bills as they are all renting and i think he includes it in the rent. i shall ask the water company about a seperate bill for our flat as that would be far better for us.

Gordon999
14-12-2009, 15:29 PM
It should be apportioned in the same way as the building insurance and hallway lighting bills.

jeffrey
14-12-2009, 15:32 PM
It should be apportioned in the same way as the building insurance and hallway lighting bills.
Why? Nothing in the leases binds the Water Undertaker.

25yrs as Managing Agent
16-12-2009, 20:26 PM
Check with your local authority...I feel this may breach Local Bylaws..and I agree with others comment insist on your own seperately rated water supply

BenLondon
08-02-2010, 12:01 PM
Hello

I am a new tenant in london (I own a few investment properties back in australia)

The flat I have moved into does not have a water meter, so thames water just charge a fixed amount based on the value of the property.

is this a charge that the landlord can make me pay ? as it states in my lease that I am responsible for counxil tax, electric and Gas, but it dosent say water.

there is a clause about paying all outstanding accounts with utility service providers at the end of the lease, and also to arrange for a reading of the electric and water meter (there isnt one) at the end of the tennancy.

by my understanding, I cannot arrange for a meter reading because there is no meter, and it dosent say that I am responsible for the water?

Does anyone have any ideas about this suitation ?

thanks

Ben

Snorkerz
08-02-2010, 13:15 PM
It is standard to pay for water - you notify the water company when you move in, you notify them when you move out, they bill you proportionately. In some areas you have 2 bills, one for supply and one for waste. The supply will be in your name, you are responsible for it :(

Non-metered water is generally treated in the same way as council tax - this is because many years ago, what is now 'council tax' was called 'the rates' and your water charge was 'water rates'.

Paragon
08-02-2010, 15:06 PM
You can request a water meter. If they are unable to install a water meter because the water flows into a central tank that provides water to other flats besides yours, they will then charge you the average usage rate of all their customers. This can be substantially cheaper than being charged on the rateable value of your property.

Summary: (1) Water Meter charge.
(2) Charged by rateable value of the property.
(3) Charged by average usage of all customer.

westminster
08-02-2010, 15:46 PM
You can request a water meter.

Yes, but ask the landlord's permission first.

asquithea
08-02-2010, 16:23 PM
Question: If the LL said they didn't want a water meter, do they have the right to stop you from having one installed? Why/why not?

This bearing in mind that a water company probably won't allow it to be removed, once it's there.

dominic
08-02-2010, 16:48 PM
The supply will be in your name, you are responsible for it :(

Not sure this is correct.

If the tenancy agreement sets out a list of utilities for which T is responsible, by implication does that not mean LL is responsible for the remainder? Happy for someone to confirm this analysis is wrong, but it's an interesting question of contract interpretation.

jeffrey
08-02-2010, 16:52 PM
1. Whoever is billed (X) by the Water Co. (W) has to pay W.
2. W is not bound by the Letting Agreement, of course.
3. If the Letting Agreement provides for payment to W not by X but by X's L or T, X has a right of recourse/set-off.

dominic
08-02-2010, 16:55 PM
1. Whoever is billed (X) by the Water Co. (W) has to pay W.

Only if there is a contract in place between X and W.

If W sends any old bill through my door for next door's water consumption, I'm not going to pay for it, unless I had agreed this with them under the usual rules of contract formation!

jeffrey
08-02-2010, 16:57 PM
Only if there is a contract in place between X and W.

If W sends any old bill through my door for next door's water consumption, I'm not going to pay for it, unless I had agreed this with them under the usual rules of contract formation!
True, but a letter addressed to Mr Neighbour is not payable by you even if erroneously delivered to you.

dominic
08-02-2010, 17:00 PM
Right, but what if it's addressed to me? I am still not liable to pay it.

jeffrey
08-02-2010, 18:06 PM
Right, but what if it's addressed to me? I am still not liable to pay it.
You are, if it's you whose household is consuming water and producing effluent.

Paragon
08-02-2010, 20:36 PM
Question: If the LL said they didn't want a water meter, do they have the right to stop you from having one installed? Why/why not?

This bearing in mind that a water company probably won't allow it to be removed, once it's there.

In general, I think that a LL would be overjoyed if a tenant bothered to apply and be present at the engineers visit and then the installation of a water meter. A LL has to pay the water bill during voids and re-decoration periods whether he uses any water at all. So, a meter would be beneficial and, potentially, save him some cash.

Paragon
08-02-2010, 20:41 PM
Yes, but ask the landlord's permission first.

Yes, definitely ask first. That gesture makes for a good relationship. The LL probably can't unreasonably refuse and, at the moment, can't think of any reason why he would.

quarterday
08-02-2010, 20:53 PM
funny how there are always two points of view. If you haven't covenanted to pay for water/sewerage then I think you can quite reasonably say that consider same to be a landlord liability as a cost of letting. If the water bill stays in the landlord's name the water company doesnt have the right, as yet, to install a meter (that arises only on change in bill payer).
We -usually- but not always, when granting tenancies, make it a tenants' covenant, but not universally so. Larger blocks of flats typically old fashioned ones sometimes include water and sewage charges within the service charge and that is not passed on as a separate liability to occupying tenants.

Paragon
08-02-2010, 21:21 PM
funny how there are always two points of view. If you haven't covenanted to pay for water/sewerage then I think you can quite reasonably say that consider same to be a landlord liability as a cost of letting. If the water bill stays in the landlord's name the water company doesnt have the right, as yet, to install a meter (that arises only on change in bill payer).
We -usually- but not always, when granting tenancies, make it a tenants' covenant, but not universally so. Larger blocks of flats typically old fashioned ones sometimes include water and sewage charges within the service charge and that is not passed on as a separate liability to occupying tenants.

Actually, according to the CAB website, the occupier is normally responsible for the water bill. It goes on to say that the water company may seek to recover any money owned by that person who has left the accomodation.
Note: normally

LesleyAnne
22-08-2010, 13:32 PM
Our flat is currently vacant pending getting a new tenant. Spoke to the water company giving meter reading when last tenant left. He was apparently in arrears and they were threatening to cut off supply because of this, but we have given forwarding details for the outstanding bill and taken on the lastest sewage charges ourselves, so that is settled.

Now received a letter from them saying they are aware property is empty and it is their policy to cut off supplies to empty properties for security of their system and to prevent leaks.

They use the excuse its to reduce the risk of leaks in the unoccupied property, but the amount of unrepaired water leaks we see running away down the roads locally makes us question whether this is really necessary. Although not currently occupied, I visit property atleast weekly, to collect post etc. It is in a block and the freeholder lives on the premises so he keeps and eye on the place anyway and has a key. I am reluctant to let them cut off the supply as I want to maintain water in case we get a viewing and need to freshen up the place, and I also obviously sometimes use the loo when I'm there. Planning to ring them tomorrow and discuss the issue and hopefully deter them from suspending the supply, but has anyone else come across this and can you talk them out of it?

Thanks in advance.

Ericthelobster
22-08-2010, 13:40 PM
Our flat is currently vacant pending getting a new tenant. Spoke to the water company giving meter reading when last tenant left.Standard practice with voids is that all utilities are put in the name of the landlord until a new tenant moves in, so haven't you done that? As you have a metered supply, you'll be paying them a small amount of money to cover the small amount of water used during the void. End of problem, surely.

LesleyAnne
22-08-2010, 13:59 PM
Yes, and have had the "sewage" portion of the payment for the empty flat sent to me at my home address, and will account for any metered water used when I hand over the new tenant, whenever that occurs.

They are not questioning who is now liable for the bill, but stating it is their company policy to "suspend" supplies to all unoccupied properties. I agree that is is unoccupied, ie no one living there 24/7, but I still need water connected for maintenance. That is my question - can they enforce suspending the supply as the property is not actually being lived in? Never heard of this before and wondered if anyone else has had the same?

Ericthelobster
22-08-2010, 15:53 PM
They are not questioning who is now liable for the bill, but stating it is their company policy to "suspend" supplies to all unoccupied properties. I agree that is is unoccupied, ie no one living there 24/7, but I still need water connected for maintenance. That is my question - can they enforce suspending the supply as the property is not actually being lived in? Never heard of this before and wondered if anyone else has had the same?Sounds very odd then. Which utility co, out of interest?

A few years back I renovated a property which was empty for very many months, with the full knowledge of United Utilities: the property wasn't metered but they left the water on and charged me a fixed amount for "Builder's supply" - at a rate of something pretty paltry like 30 quid per year. The only minor irritation was that they kept writing to me along the lines of 'aren't you finished yet?!' :o

LesleyAnne
22-08-2010, 17:21 PM
Its South West Water. They are trying to reduce wastage (one of the highest water rates in the country), and their excuse is that unoccupied dwellings run the risk of burst pipe or leaks not being noticed. As I said, freeholder lives on the premises and keeps a regular eye on properties that are vacant (has a key), and I am regularly visiting. I'll ring them tomorrow to see what they say, but not happy about it. Stop tap is outside the property to if they chose to they can isolate it without gaining access. Regardless of me needing water for maintenance, don't want anyone viewing to turn on a tap out of interest and find its dry!

mind the gap
22-08-2010, 17:27 PM
A few years back I renovated a property which was empty for very many months, with the full knowledge of United Utilities: the property wasn't metered but they left the water on and charged me a fixed amount for "Builder's supply" - at a rate of something pretty paltry like 30 quid per year. The only minor irritation was that they kept writing to me along the lines of 'aren't you finished yet?!' :o

You should have told them it was none of their business how long it takes you to have a bath!

gullarm
22-08-2010, 20:18 PM
Had the same letter around 2 months ago from Severn Trent Water.

Chucked it in the bin and the water still flows despite the property being empty up till today. The new tnt moves in mid sept.

They send these letters to scare people into action!

Had one last week from the TV licence people who apparently are going to send round the enforcement team and if they find someone watching TV they will fine them X pounds etc etc. They want ME to call them to update their records! That one went straight in the bin as well.

If they come round, and thats a big IF, they will find an empty house with nothing in it.

You cant be forced to pay for something you are n't using.

LesleyAnne
23-08-2010, 18:39 PM
Update - Rang them this morning and chap said this was an automatically generated letter, prompted by my giving reading at the end of the last tenancy and I should ignore it! No wonder our water rates are so high if they send out unecessary cr@p like this.

tsu3000
07-09-2010, 09:48 AM
Hello

Does there need to be a specific clause in an AST to say who is responsible for water bills? Is it always the "occupier" who pays for the water usage regardless of what the AST says?

Thank you.

Snorkerz
07-09-2010, 09:54 AM
Unless otherwise stated, I think you can assume that whoever uses the water has to pay for the water. In HMOs of course, you may not be able to identify who has used the water (if metered), so that complicates matters.

tsu3000
07-09-2010, 10:50 AM
The AST does not mention the T has to pay for water, only gas/electricity. So is it assumed the LL has to pay?

jeffrey
07-09-2010, 10:53 AM
1. Between Water Co. and L/T: WC decides whom to bill. The bill's addressee has to pay.
2. Between L and T: unless there's a clause making T responsible, L is.
3. If the bill's addressee is the 'wrong person', according to the Letting Agreement, that person has a right of indemnity from the other person.

Moderator1
12-09-2010, 17:49 PM
Several largely similar questions on separate threads have been merged into this thread (hence the repetitive nature of answers).