Politics Information


Dealing With UK Water Rates Debts: What You Need To Know


UK Water Rates

YOU CANNOT BE DISCONNECTED FOR WATER RATES DEBTS

Water companies can no longer disconnect your water supply if you are in arrears. The rules changed on 30th June 1999. They also cannot install anything in your home that restricts the flow of water from the taps. If the water company threatens to disconnect you for being in arrears, complain to OFWAT, the body that regulates the water companies.

You can complain to OFWAT through your regional Watervoice customer service committee. See complaints section.

Warning: Some water companies are threatening to disconnect a property on the basis that "they think the property is empty".

Make sure you keep in touch with the company as they may attempt to do this if no one has responded to their letters for some time. If you have a threat of disconnection to your supply, ring the water company and make sure they understand that you are still in the property and they cannot disconnect the supply.

HOW DO I DEAL WITH WATER RATES ARREARS?

You should carry on including your current water rates in the STEP 2 OUTGOINGS section of your personal budget. This is because water is an ongoing bill. If you have water rates arrears then they no longer need to be treated as a priority debt. You can make an offer of repayment that you can afford using your budget sheet along with your other credit debts in STEP 6. If you are on Income Support/Pension Credit/Job Seeker's Allowance you can ask the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) to deduct a sum to cover current water rates and a standard amount towards the arrears from your benefit each week.

If you do not agree a repayment arrangement then the water company can issue a County Court Claim against you to ask you to repay the money you owe. You can make an offer of payment by filling in the Reply Form to the Claim (N9a) and sending this back to your water company within the time limit. If the court agrees with your offer then you will be told to pay the debt off in instalments.

RIGHTS TO WATER METERS

From April 2000 you have the right to have a water meter put in so that you are charged on the basis of the water you actually use. You can swap back to the usual non-metered system within 12 months if you don't like the water meter; e.g. your bills are higher than before. It may be cheaper to have a water meter put in if you don't use much water e.g. you are single or out all day. Contact your water company, as some suppliers will advise you if your bills are likely to be cheaper if you move to a water meter.

HELP WITH HIGH BILLS

There are new rights to get some help with water bills if you are on a low income and on a water meter. You will only pay the average bill that the water company charges overall so if you use a lot of water then your bill will go down.

To qualify for help you must be on a water meter, and someone in the household must be on one of these benefits:

Income Support
Income Based Job Seeker's Allowance
Pension Credit (from October 2003)
Working Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit (except families who receive the family element of Child Tax Credit only)
Housing Benefit
Council Tax Benefit

and

there are three or more children under 16 in the household,

or

someone in the household has a medical condition that means extra water use such as:

Flaky skin disease
Weeping skin disease, i.e. eczema, psoriasis, varicose ulcers
Incontinence
Abdominal stomas
Renal failure.

You can get an application form from your water company. You need to give proof of the benefit you are receiving and you will need to explain your medical condition in detail. You can stay on the scheme for a year and then have to re-apply.

COMPLAINTS

If you have a complaint about your water company you should speak or write to your water company first. Each water company should have a complaints procedure they can send you. Your water company should reply to your complaint within 10 working days.

If you are not happy with the outcome you can complain to OFWAT. Your regional customer service committee known as "Watervoice" will deal with your complaint. To find out which Watervoice Regional Office to complain to, contact:

OFWAT
Centre City Tower
7 Hill Street Birmingham B5 4UA
Tel: 0121 625 1300
www.ofwat.gov.uk

Watervoice
www.watervoice.org.uk

WATER TRUST FUNDS

A number of water companies operate charitable trust funds. Some offer help only with water and sewerage debt; others are prepared to help with other priority debts and even bankruptcy fees in certain situations. Others offer 'restart schemes'. These operate on the basis of you entering into a regular payment scheme, and payments made are then matched by the trust fund. If you maintain the arrangement, the remaining debt may be written off. You will need to contact the trust fund to find out how to apply. You will usually have to fill in a form. You may need an advice agency to help you.

CHARITABLE TRUST FUNDS

South Staffordshire Water Trust Fund
www.south-staffs-water.co.uk (water company website only) Telephone: 01922 63 82 82

Only pay for water debts. You must show some commitment to pay 1.00 or more a week for 2 months. To apply you need a personal budget sheet completed by an adviser and a covering letter.

Anglian Water Trust Fund www.awtf.org.uk
PO Box 42, Peterborough, PE3 8XH. Email: admin@awtf.org.uk
As well as water and sewerage debts they may also pay bankruptcy fees and any other bills you are having difficulty paying.

Hartlepool Water, Tendring Hundred Water, Cambridge Water, Three Valleys Water, Essex & Suffolk Water are either owned by Anglian Water or contribute towards its trust fund and you can also apply to the Anglian fund if you are a customer of one of these companies.

EOS Foundation www.eosfoundation.org.uk
PO Box 42, Peterborough PE3 6XH
Telephone: 01733 330 732
eos@charisgrants.com
Will help with water debts and other essential bills. You will need to fill in an application form with proof of income. You must be a customer of Portsmouth Water, Tendering Hundred Water, Folkestone & Dover Water, Mid Kent Water, Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water, South East Water.

Severn Trent Water Trust Fund www.sttf.org.uk
Telephone: 0121 355 77 66
Email: office@sttf.org.uk
As well as water and sewerage debts they may also pay bankruptcy fees and any other bills you are having difficulty paying.

WATER COMPANIES OPERATING RESTART SCHEMES
(Trust fund matches your payments on your arrears) Yorkshire Water
Community Trust www.ywct.org.uk
Telephone: 0845 1 24 24 26
info@ywct.org.uk
Only assist with water or sewerage arrears that are no more than two years old and less than 1000. You must be in a multiple debt situation.

United Utilities www.unitedutilities.com
Telephone: 0845 746 11 00
"Arrears Allowance Scheme" only assists with water or sewerage charges and application forms have to be completed by local CAB on your behalf. A customer counsellor may also offer a home visit.

Thames Water www.thames-water.com (water company website only)
"Customer Assistance Scheme" only assists with water or sewerage charges and they prefer that you are referred by a local advice centre/NDL/CAB/Social Services/Age Concern You may be visited in your home.

Welsh Water/Dwr Cymru
Telephone: 0800 052 0145
"Customer Assistance Fund" You must be referred by a money adviser and complete an application form. After you have made payments for 6 months, the fund pays half your water arrears. After another 6 months payments the rest of the arrears will be paid.

Bristol Water www.bristolwater.co.uk (water company website only) Apply in writing to:
BWBSL, 1 Clevedon Walk,, Nailsea, Bristol BS48 1WW.
You have to write to them to request to be considered for the restart scheme. You may then be visited in your home.

South West Water www.southwestwater.co.uk
Telephone: 0800 169 1133 (customer services)
"Special Assistance Scheme" helps with water charges only. Application forms from CAB's and Age Concern. You have to provide evidence that you are trying to pay or stick to a repayment programme.

The author, Michael Sherriff, has written 100's of articles relating to UK credit advice and rules of the UK finance industry. His UK best selling ebook "UK Credit Secrets" has been revised with the 2005 Edition now available. The most concise book ever written for repairing your credit history in the UK. Finally all the myths have been blown away and the truth revealed to the general public. Find out more at http://ukcreditsecrets.co.uk


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