Landlords have welcomed this voluntary water scheme.
Landlords are today welcoming the Government’s decision to proceed with measures for them to notify water companies on a voluntary basis of their tenants to prevent them from not paying their bills.
In a letter to water companies, Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson MP has outlined the Government’s plans to establish a new voluntary database for landlords to provide information about their tenants to water companies.
Households currently pay an extra £15 on their water bills to cover the cost of those who do not pay. Ministers believe that much of the problem rests with tenants who fail to settle their bills when they move to a new property.
Today’s measure is designed to get rid of this charge by making sure tenants cannot escape paying their charges.
The proposal is in contrast to that being suggested by the Welsh Government which wants to make landlords legally responsible for providing such information or face having to pay the debt left by their tenants.
A survey of RLA members in Wales found that all of those who responded opposed making such a measure a legal requirement for landlords. 63% however already provided information on a voluntary basis whilst almost 80% said they would support a voluntary scheme such as that being suggested by the UK Government.
Commenting on the Environment Secretary’s statement, Richard Jones, the RLA’s Policy Director said:
“Landlords recognise the cost of living pressures that tenants face. That’s why official figures show that rents have increased by less than the rate of inflation over the past 8 years.
“Making landlords legally liable for the debt incurred on water bills where they did not pass on their tenants details to water companies would serve only to add to the creaking weight of regulations already affecting the sector and lead to increased rents to reflect the greater risks involved.
“Whilst it is vital that the technology to implement the scheme is properly tested and thought through first, the RLA welcomes the Government’s decision to opt for a lighter touch, voluntary solution that the majority of landlords already abide by.”
The RLA represents over 20,000 private sector residential landlords in England and Wales.
Details of the Government’s proposals can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/action-on-affordable-water-bills.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show average rents across the UK have fallen in real terms over the last 8 years.
Source: Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (ONS, Published 25th September 2013) available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/hpi/index-of-private-housing-rental-prices/june-to-august-2013/iphrp-stb-julaug13.html.
Details of the Welsh Government’s consultation can be found at http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/tackling-bad-debt-in-the-water-industry/?lang=en.
Details of the RLA’s survey of members in Wales can be found at http://news.rla.org.uk/water-debt-who-is-responsible/.