LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

How would you like to be responsible for your tenant’s water bill? Changes in law are on the horizon.

How would you like to be responsible for your tenant’s water bill? Changes in law are on the horizon.

A consultation on changes in law that will place a duty on landlords to provide details of the tenants to water companies is ending on 06/11/2013. This, as you will read below, will have quite serious implications for all landlords with properties in Wales.

The way it is explained is this. Right now, as the law stands, the water companies have no statutory power to require an occupier of the property (for example, a tenanted property) to provide their details. This actually goes further than that – the landlord of such property has no obligation to provide his tenant details to the water company. This means that water companies find it difficult to bill them and over the last decade bad debt in the industry is on the up. The law forbids water companies from disconnecting water supply. They can take court action but this can only be actioned against named individual – which, as mentioned at the start, they have no power to force an individual to provide them.

It is not a surprise that those seeking to address this problem realized that landlords and letting agents of rented properties would have details of the tenants who occupy those properties. And so Welsh Government, within its ‘Consultation on tackling ‘bad debt’ within the water industry in Wales’, is proposing to make landlords jointly and severally liable for water and sewerage bills on failure to provide specific details within a specific timeframe.

The changes in law will require landlords to provide details within 21 days of receipt of notification from water company:

•full name;

•date of birth (yes, that’s right – you will need to ask your tenants for their date of birth);

• the date the occupier moved into the residential premises.

 

This, as everyone imagines, will have very serious implications for landlords with properties to let in Wales. There are quite a few details that mean things may go very wrong for landlords. Fortunately, if your property is managed by Martin & Co (Merthyr Tydfil) you have nothing to worry about. We have already been providing details of tenants moving in and out of property to water companies.

One example of how this could go wrong – if water company sends request for information to you to an address where you no longer reside, it means you may never receive such letter. So, you will not know about the request from the water company and will fail to meet your obligation. The first you may found out about it is when you will receive a letter from debt collection agency asking you to pay a water bill for your tenants that have moved out from the property long time ago. You will have no defense.

Second example actually involves a letting agency. If anything goes wrong at the agency side who will fail to provide the necessary details to water company it will be you, the landlord, picking up the bill (by the way, the same is true with regards to obligation to protect the deposit within 30 days of it being received – if an agent you are using will fail to do so, it is the landlord who will face the consequences).

As usual, we will keep you updated about what the Government will decide to do after the consultation period ends.

If you wish to check the Government website for more details look here.

And the full consultation document can be found here.