Want to cut your water bill?
Water is the staff of life – so says the old saying! So it is no surprise that the cost of their vital water supply is a key issue for many Westminster tenants.
Last year’s successful legal challenge to overcharging by Southwark Council in the case of (Jones v London Borough of Southwark (2016) EWHC457 (CH) ) demonstrated that many social housing tenants may be overpaying for their water. And even more worrying, many are not aware of their rights to switch to a lower cost provider. Since that case, we have been campaigning to ensure that local residents get the best deal.
One such resident asked for our help to deal with his landlord over the level of his water rate which is part of his weekly rent We have been championing his case since last October and are still trying to get answers from his social housing landlord.
Our client is a single man living alone who receives Council Tax support and his rent and service charges are covered by housing benefit. His annual water charge is £504 a year, but when he entered his water consumption information into an online calculator, the cost came out at around a much lower £150 a year.
We pointed out to the landlord that, given the level of discrepancy, even if the figure from this calculator were a rough estimate, he was very concerned, especially as he is very careful with his use of water. We asked the landlord to look into the level of the charge and to explain how the figure had been calculated.
Our client had applied to Thames Water’s WaterSure Plus scheme last October to try and reduce his bill. Since he had not heard from them, and we had not received a satisfactory response to our letters to the landlord, we contacted Thames Water on his behalf at the beginning of December. They told us that they had agreed to his application on 18th October and that it takes them up to 10 working days to contact the landlord who should then notify the tenant about the reduction. The client had still heard nothing from the landlord by the middle of March. It was only when he received his annual rent statement for the coming year that it did show the 50% water rate reduction would be applied for 2017.
However we are still following up with the landlord to ask why the reduction was not passed on immediately, as it actually took effect from October 2016 when he first applied.
This client story illustrates what may be a wider problem for other tenants, so as part of our Putting it Right campaign we have made a formal complaint. We have asked the landlord to explain what procedures he has in place for processing a water tariff award promptly and for letting tenants know the outcome. We are also asking for a backdated reimbursement as the award took effect from October.
How can I reduce my bill?
If you want to find out whether can reduce your water bill take a look at Thames Water’s WaterSure and WaterSure Plus schemes designed to reduce qualifying customers’ charges.
If you do meet the eligibility criteria for WaterSure, it will cap your annual bill at £374 a year, and with WaterSure Plus you will receive a 50% reduction to your future charges from the date your application is received.
All you need to do is to send a completed application form along with supporting documents. You can find out more information on the Thames Water website and download the relevant form https://www.thameswater.co.uk/my-account/billing-and-payment/help-paying-your-bill/watersure-scheme, or you can call them on 0800 009 365.
You can also call Citizens Advice Westminster if you need advice on your water bills or on switching your energy supplier to save money on 0300 330 1191.