LIABILITY FOR WATER PAYMENTS
Attention Landlords in Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire!
You could be liable for your tenants' water debt from 1st January 2015
From the 1st January 2015 there will be a legal obligation on private landlords with properties located in the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) and Dee Valley Water areas to inform their water company of the following details at the start of each tenancy:
- the full name of every occupant in a rented property;
- the address of the property;
- date of birth of the occupant (s) (if you have this information - however you must notify them that you do not hold it, if that is the case); and
- the date the tenancy started (when the occupant moved in).
Please note that all of this information is mandatory, meaning you are legally required to share this information with the water company from 1st January 2015.
For existing tenants you must do this by 21st January 2015. For any new tenancies starting after 1st January you must inform the relevant water company 21 days from when the tenant is entitled to move in. However, you do not have to do so if the Companies already hold this information but you will need to tell them once there is any change of occupier.
Does this affect me?
The new obligations affect landlords with properties in (only) the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) and Dee Valley Water areas. This includes most of Wales, but also parts of England such as the border-areas of Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. It does not apply to those properties in the Severn Trent areas.
It is important to note that even if you are a landlord living in England with tenanted property in the Welsh Water and Dee Valley Water areas - you also have to share your tenants' information with the water board for these property (ies). You do not have to provide the details for any properties you own outside of these areas.
You can look at which company supplies your area on the Ofwat website (http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/consumerissues/watercompanies/map/)
Why do I have to share this information?
The Welsh Government hope that by collecting a database of tenantsí details and occupation of properties, bad water debt in Wales will reduce, as it makes it easier for the Water Company to locate tenants who fail to pay their bills.
What if there is more than one tenant in the property?
Under the new regulations you need to share the details of all occupants in the property where tenants are responsible for payment of the bills. If any new tenants move in you must also notify the water company.
What happens if the landlord pays the bill?
If you, as the Landlord and owner of the property pays the water bill as part of the tenancy agreement there is no need to notify the water company of the tenant's details as you are liable for any water debt that may accrue anyway.
How do I share the information?
We recommend that you pass on the details to the Water Authority via the new online landlordtap, https://www.landlordtap.com/ and follow the on-screen instructions. This should be a simple process and once you submit the details of your tenants the portal automatically works out which water authority they fall under and notifies them of who to bill. Landlords will be able to register with Landlord Tap in December and download a full user guide, if needed.
You are also permitted to notify Welsh Water/Dee Valley Water directly by phone, e-mail or post.
To contact Welsh Water please click here (http://www.dwrcymru.com/en/contact-us.aspx)
To contact Dee Valley Water please click here (http://www.deevalleywater.co.uk/article.php?id=54)
If your property is located in the Dee Valley area if you tell Dee Valley Water Company they will automatically notify Welsh Water for you.
Can my agent register this information on my behalf?
Yes. The Water Industry Act allows for the information to be provided by agents on behalf of landlords. However, the landlord must make formal arrangements for the agent to provide the information on his/her behalf so we would advise that this arrangement is set up in writing with your agent so it is clear who the liability is with should the information not be shared in the 21 day timeframe. The portal has been set up to allow this arrangement as well.
Do I need to tell my tenant(s)?
For data protection purposes, you should notify the occupants that you will be sharing their details with Welsh Water/Dee Valley Water Companies. We recommend that you do this in writing or include as part of the tenancy agreement before you share the information. You can do this using a 'Privacy notice'; the RLA has produced a template Privacy notice, click here to download it now.
What happens if the tenants' information turns out to be incorrect?
You have a duty to pass on any information honestly and in good faith. If you have reason to think that the details provided may be incorrect then you should inform the Water Company that this is the case to protect yourself.
What happens if I don't share the information?
Landlords will become jointly-liable for occupants' water debts if they fail to pass on the information within 21 days from when the tenant is eligible to move into the property.
For existing tenants the cut-off date is 21st January 2015. The regulation will not apply retrospectively, and there will be no liability for debts built up before the 31st December 2014. If, before, the regulations come into effect, you have voluntarily passed on the above information; you are under no obligation to provide the information again. However, we recommend that, if this is not documented, you do so again through the Landlord Tap to protect yourself.
Is there a cap on the amount I can become jointly-liable for?
If you fail to register all of the tenants in each of your properties, you will become jointly and severally liable for the water/sewerage charges each individual household.
The water company can then sue you as landlord for payment instead of or in addition to the tenant/s.
What happens if I am late notifying the water company?
If you miss the 21 day deadline you should still notify the water company as soon as you can. You may still have to pay the tenant's water and sewerage bill however you can stop being held responsible for the debt by notifying the water company late. However, this will only stop your liability going forward from the date you notify.
A tenant moves in on the 1st January 2015 and the landlord misses the 21 day deadline but notifies the water company on the 1st February. In this case the landlord could be liable for all of January but will cease to be liable going forward.
To avoid becoming jointly-liable for your existing tenant's water debts ensure that you act by 21st January 2015 at the latest!
For new tenants register their details within 21 days of the date they are entitled to move into the property.
Both companies have announced that they will give landlords further time for the initial notification. For more information about this click here.