Landlords May Have to Pay Water Bills for Runaway Tenants

by Property118.com News Team

16:52 PM, 26th January 2012
About 9 years ago

Landlords May Have to Pay Water Bills for Runaway Tenants

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Landlords May Have to Pay Water Bills for Runaway Tenants

Buy to let landlords could be made to pay water bills for departing tenants if they fail to pass on their details under a proposed new law.

Water companies write-off around £328 million a year in unpaid bills – costing every consumer £15 a year, says the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Although landlords have a legal obligation to tell gas and electricity companies the identity of any occupiers, no such requirement exists for water companies.

DEFRA has launched a consultation on the proposal which brings water bills in line with other utilities.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “We will consider the consultation responses before making a final decision but we must find a way to fill the information gap which is at the heart of this problem.

“It is just not right that responsible people have to pick up the bills of those who are not paying.”

The consultation proposes introducing either regulations or an option to volunteer the information.

Regulation would make landlords liable for the water charges in rental properties if they fail to supply tenant contact details to water companies.

The other option calls for landlords and to share this information voluntarily.

The changes will only apply to England.

Meanwhile, councils are ready to carry out mass credit checks on homes to find out who lives there to prevent council tax fraud.

Credit reference firm Experian says the councils can check identities without permission because they are trying to detect crime.

Lewes Council, Sussex, tested the process and found council tax fraud in 2% of cases – in total around 350 cases were uncovered that resulted in collection of £125,000 in unpaid tax.

Data protection laws let councils and other official bodies carry out the checks without informing householders, providing they announce their intention in a general leaflet, poster or newspaper advert.



Comments

Mary Latham

11:14 AM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

Landlords there is still time to stop this, please make your comments as part of the consultation here http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/files/bad-debt-consult-condoc-120123.pdf

We have until April to make our views known.

In the meantime we should ensure that our AST's carry a clause that allows us to share tenants details with utility companies and local authorities (council tax) and then ensure that we pass on the information for every new tenant.  If we co-operate with utility companies they will have the opportunity to get their bills paid
and this will remove pressure to make landlords responsible for outstanding bills.

The information we all need to record is the full name, date of birth and national insurance number of each tenant - make certain that you see a document to prove this information is correct.

In my opinion a Government that constantly reminds landlords that tenants are financially savvy enough to receive their LHA and pass it on to the landlord cannot then expect landlords to accept that they are not savvy enough to pay their own utility bills.

Mark Alexander

11:32 AM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

For landlords who don’t have the time to read the full consultation document, find the email addresses and draft/send an email the following email addresses and email template may prove useful:-

Email to:

baddebt@defra.gsi.gov.uk,
consultation.coordinator@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Subject: Tackling Bad Debt in the Water Industry

To whom it may concern
In response to the consultation paper in respect of “Tackling Bad Debt in the Water Industry” I would like to make the following point.

A Government that constantly reminds landlords that tenants are financially savvy enough to receive their LHA benefits and pass them on to their landlord cannot then expect landlords to accept that people are not savvy enough to pay their own utility bills.

Yours faithfully

16:10 PM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

The proposal sounds good, what have landlords to fear?

16:27 PM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

Perhaps I am a bit of an anorak here; but I always inform the water company of new tenant details and meter readings as appropriate.
ALL appropriate meter readings of anything suplied to the property should be taken and advised by the LL to those respective companies.
Regarding water please remember that some properties bizarrely have 2 water companies; 
1 for supply
1 for sewage etc.

17:01 PM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

If such a proposal comes in the effect will  be to ensure that ALL  LL unless they are stupid will inform ALL utility prioviders of whom are the new tenants.
I for one would NEVER trust a tenant to inform utility providers.
So such change will enforce somthing that any LL with any common sense should be doing now.

Mary Latham

19:40 PM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

Sense is not common Paul but I am very glad that you are "an anorak".  My guess is that landlords will do as you do once they have paid a bill for a past tenant.

I learned my lesson the hard way, as usual, when a group of students put all the utility bills into my name and you do not want to hear the hassel that caused me.  This was is my youth when the world was full of lovely people who always played fair and two socks came out of the washing machine when I put two in......... then I woke up

23:21 PM, 27th January 2012
About 9 years ago

Yes I have experienced the sock problem;  where do they go to!!!?

14:50 PM, 2nd February 2012
About 9 years ago

My tenant doesn't seem to be paying the water company.Even though the account wasn't in my name, the have sent me a back-dated bill. Can they make me pay for his utilities?

11:18 AM, 4th February 2012
About 9 years ago

I feel sure the water companies are, or should be responsible for collecting their own bills. I am  a Landlord not a debt collector. I have had tennants register their bills in my name and office address! I challenged the bills when they came and it took months to get things changed. I still get the odd bill and it was years ago.
How are we supposed to find the provider of the services supplied, if the tennant doesn't disclose them, prior to any difficulties. The Data Protection act stops the providers from disclosing the details of their customers to us?
Surely all the water companies have to do is the same as all other service providers, closer mainenance of their accounts and greater management of their customers. Kev

16:38 PM, 4th February 2012
About 9 years ago

The problem is that when a tenant leaves, they never, ever have their mail forwarded at the Post Office. They are all trying to run away from their debts. The Gov't shd pass a law forcing everybody to have their mail forwarded. Utility Companies could then chase their debtors from the Post Office records, which should be available free to them.

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