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Landlord Liability for Water Bills

Article by Adeela Ahmed on Dec 02, 2011 View in browser

Landlord Liability for Water Bills

The Water Industry Act 1999 banned water suppliers from diconnecting water supplies from consumers, even if they were failing to pay their bills. This has led to a growing problem of unpaid water bills that far outstrips the outstanding debts owed for other types of utility.

According to industry figures, in 2007 19% of domestic water customers were in arrears with their water bill as compared to 5% of electricity customers and 3.7% of gas customers. It is believed that tenants represent a significant number of these overdue bills and the water companies complain that the lack of information about their future whereabouts makes it is very difficult to pursue those debts.

All this may be about to change however. Section 45 of the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 contains provisions which require landlords to give information about their tenants to the relevant water company. A failure to do so will leave the landlord jointly and severally liable for the water bill alongside the tenants.

At the moment the section has been brought into force (in October 2010) but only for the purpose of making secondary legislation to set out how it will work in practice. It is believed that this will include the setting up of websites by the various water companies to make the provision of the necessary information as simple as possible. There is scope for landlords to be exempt from liability for the provision of false or incomplete data provided that they have taken such reasonable steps as are specified in the regulations to ensure that the data is accurate. The secondary legislation will probably be in force from October 2011 and the obligation will therefore come into effect from that date.

The section contains an exemption which means that no liability will fall on an agent or trustee due to their position. The responsibility is solely that of the principal.  However, agents will need to be aware of the changes and should consider how best to adjust their procedures and documents to assist their clients in dealing with the new obligations.  Consideration should be given as to what information is likely to be required (full names, previous and forwarding addresses are the most probable candidates) and how this can be collected and verified for accuracy.

EMPO recommends that you email Severn Trent at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at both the end and start of any tenancy. “Following vacation by the tenants, no water services are required and the internal stop tap has been turned off.  Please apply the void policy for domestic use.  We will notify you as and when a new tenant moves in and water services are to be reinstated.  As we are proposing to reinstate the supply when the property is re-occupied, we would be grateful if could ensure that you do not take steps to disconnect the water service.” 
By stating this Severn Trent should put the account in to void in which case no charges should apply to the property.