Landlords of properties served by water companies in Wales risk falling foul of a rule change which means they need to keep their tenants’ details up-to-date with them – or face becoming liable for their charges.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, which serves more than 1.4 million households and businesses across much of Wales, Herefordshire and parts of Deeside, issued the warning as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the change, brought in by the Welsh Government.
Welsh Water estimates that all in all it serves over 350,000 rental properties. Welsh Government estimates that there are around 100,000 private landlords in Wales, as well as the 60+ Residential Social Landlords, so the change affects a large number of people and organisations.
Welsh Water wants landlords to register themselves and their properties with them. Ideally they should also take advantage of the water industry’s online system, Landlord TAP (www.landlordtap.com), to let them know of changes in tenancy details. Alternatively they can be given through the Welsh Water website (www.dwrcymru.com).
The not-for-profit company said work it had done on cases of ongoing non-payment revealed around 15% of these customers were no longer living at the property but remained registered for charges. These inaccuracies make it difficult to recover its charges, and can also affect the credit rating of unsuspecting past tenants.
Each year the equivalent of around £20 for every customer is spent pursuing customers who don’t pay their water and sewerage charges – money which is needed to maintain services and keep bills lower.
All landlords are required by Welsh Government regulations to let the water company know of a change in tenants within 21 days of the change. They need to ensure the water company have the details of new tenants, including full name, address, date of birth (when known) and the start date of the tenancy.
If they don’t have this information landlords can be held liable for the service charges for the property.
If landlords believe their tenants may genuinely struggle to pay their bills, Welsh Water will work with them to reduce charges and apply social tariffs. The company already supports more than 80,000 of its lowest-earning households and is very keen to increase the number pf supported households, with its range of social tariffs.
Julia Cherrett, Managing Director of Retail Services at Welsh Water, said: “It is really important that we have accurate and up to date information about who is responsible for paying our charges. Some landlords may not be aware of this important change in regulations, which can lead to months of charges falling to them, rather than the tenant.
Unrecovered charges lead to a reduction in the amount of investment we are able to make as per our not-for-profit status. This is something we want to put right, we want to maximise our collections performance so we can invest more in supporting those who genuinely struggle to pay, and in improving our network.”
Councillor Lynda Thorne, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities at Cardiff Council, the single licensing authority for Rent Smart Wales, said: “Rent Smart Wales was established to improve the private rented sector and with almost 80,000 landlords now registered, we’re pleased to be working with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to raise awareness of the changes in these regulations.
“This partnership will enable us to promote compliance with both sets of legislation and enhance the sector both for tenants and landlords by ensuring water charges are billed correctly.”
Douglas Haig, Residential Landlords Association Vice-Chair and Director for Wales said: “The Residential Landlords Association strives to continue to raise awareness of private landlords’ legal duty to share their tenants’ details with Welsh Water. Guidance about how to comply is available on the RLA’s webpage to all landlords, as well as in the RLA’s Rent Smart Wales training course.
“We welcome Welsh Water’s willingness to work with both landlords who may not be aware of the requirements, as well as with tenants who struggle to keep up with their payments. Collaborative working is necessary to the success of any regulatory measure, and we are happy to work in partnership with Welsh Water to raise awareness.”