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Where does the liability for water usage lie?

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 is expected to come into force in October 2011. Section 45 of the Act amends the Water Industry Act 1991 to place an obligation on the Landlord to provide the tenant’s contact details to the relevant water company. The rationale behind this is to prevent tenant’s departing properties without providing water companies with appropriate forwarding addresses and leaving unpaid bills. Should the landlord fail to comply with this provision he will become jointly and severally liable the invoices of the water usage at the rented property.

The supplemental regulations that the government has created to bring the provisions into force are still in draft. However we understand that they will require the water companies to set up appropriate websites for landlords to provide the necessary information.

These changes place a significant new obligation on landlords. It also gives the water companies a substantial benefit over other utility providers who do not have the benefit of this kind of statutory protection. Landlords and agents should consider amending their tenancy agreements to specify that tenants must provide evidence of the water bill being paid to date otherwise it will be deducted from the deposit.

7 thoughts on “Where does the liability for water usage lie?”

  1. As I understand it then….

    Even if the landlord or agent provide the tenants details to the water company, they could still be responsible for the tenants not paying their water bill?

  2. Whilst the water companies will enjoy the benefits of this legislation, I wonder if the legislators will go further and put the onus upon the water companies to finalise a bill within 24-48 hours of the end of the the tenancy so the tenant could actually pay it.

  3. My interpretation of Subsection 5 of section 45 is that if the owner has made a reasonable attempt to comply with subsection 2 (to arrange for the undertaker, ie the water company, to be given information about the occupiers), then the owner isn’t liable for the tenants charges.

    My interpretation of subsection 2, ‘to arrange’ is that it doesn’t have to be the owner. Part of my letting agreement was that the agent would take the readings and inform the services. Easy.

    The information is available on legislation.gov.uk.

    1. We refer you to subsection 7. Arranging for the agent to do it will not be sufficient if the agent fails in their duty because the responsibility devolves back to the landlord. You may of course be able to sue the agent for breach of contract or negligence but this is costs and time……

  4. If this is meant to be in force now, what should we be doing as agents? Do we just hold fire until we hear from ARLA/water companies about how they are requiring this information, at the moment we do get forwarding address for any tenant due to the current deposit guidelines so I am assuming this can be used as a forwarding address?

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