The Residential Landlords Association is preparing to plug any move to make its members responsible for tenants’ bad debts to regional water companies.
The suggestion is one option said to be under consideration by the government’s ‘Walker Review’ of water charging and metering.
The suggestion has come from Ofwat as water companies face a flood of bad debts.
The companies complain that landlords rarely identify tenants to them as the people responsible for water charges – and being ultimately responsible for a defaulting tenant’s unpaid water bill would be one incentive to do so.
But this is likely to force up rents to cover the extra liability, says Richard Jones – lawyer for the Residential Landlords Association – whose members need things more watertight at over 100,000 private rented properties throughout the UK.
“Responsibility for unpaid water bills would come at a time when money is already being held up in tenancy deposit schemes,” he says, “and landlords would be unable to just produce the cash.
“It would just be yet another requirement on top of the crippling legislative burdens that have been heaped on private sector landlords in the last few years. It is important that the tenant who is the consumer has the direct responsibility for paying the account. This helps conserve water, particularly when the supply is metered.”
RLA chairman Alan Ward is another to get that sinking feeling.
“It would make landlords look like drips if tenants realised they could stop paying their water rates and leave them to pick up the bills when they leave,” he said. “And, if the floodgates were opened, landlords could drown in a deluge of other debts from electricity and gas utilities.”
• The Residential Landlords Association is a leading national organisation with members owning over 100,000 properties in the UK’s professional private rented sector. The range of members’ services – on www.rla.org.uk – includes legal advice, insurance, financial services, credit referencing and training.