Mr D, a landlord, was contacted by his water company with a bill for one of his rental properties which covered a 12-month period.
The water company claimed it had not received payment for almost two years, and had not received notification of the change of tenancy. As a result of non-owner occupier regulations which came into force in 2014, the company claimed Mr D was now liable for the charges. Under non-owner occupier rules, landlords are now required to inform water companies of any changes of tenancy within 21 days or risk being jointly liable for charges.
Mr D strongly disputed this, arguing that the current tenant had been living there for three years and that he had informed his provider by telephone as soon as the changes had taken place. His water company argued they had no records of this call and as a result he would be liable.
What we found
We examined the case and realised that the company’s handling of the account in relation to a number of issues fell short and needed to be challenged. This included questioning why they had not tried to resolve the issue of non-payment much sooner, given that this had been going on over a two-year period. During the investigation, the company also admitted that it had been informed six months before contacting Mr D that the property was being used as a forwarding address.
Putting it right
As a result of our challenge, the company admitted that it could have done much more to identify the occupiers at an earlier date. In addition, the company admitted that it could not specifically deny having received contact from Mr D, only that they were unable to see any calls (as Mr D was likely to have called using a private number).
In acknowledgement of this the company removed the outstanding balance and provided a goodwill gesture of £30 by way of an apology for customer service failings.