At our recent public meeting in Wrexham we talked about specific legislation introduced to help reduce water debt amongst renters in Wales, four years ago. Since the 1 April the legislation also applies to some new parts of mid Wales and customers serviced by Hafren Dyfrdwy. So this is a good time to stop and ask yourself. What are the rules? As a landlord, are you up to date with everything you need to know? Let’s take a look:
Non-Owner Occupier regulations were implemented by Welsh Government as a way of tackling high levels of water debt among renters. For many years, water companies have been faced with supplying their services without always knowing who they are providing them to, particularly in relation to rented properties, where changes in occupancy can be frequent.
The level of water debt for rented properties remains disproportionately high in comparison to the home ownership market. Current data shows that more than £2 billion is owed to water companies as a result of unpaid bills, with companies often recouping this shortfall by adding it to the cost of the average household bill. In order to overcome this problem, Non Owner-Occupier regulations now place a responsibility on landlords to make sure the relevant water company knows who they should be billing. In England, so far, the government has decided to take a voluntary approach to the provision of tenants’ details by their landlords.
What does it mean in practice?
The regulations were designed to reduce the impact water debt is having on all households. If the landlord does not provide the correct tenant details they could find themselves paying for the debt left behind. It is what is called joint or several liability for that debt.
As well as recovering debt the legislation seems to have had the benefit of helping identify those customers that need help most. Accurate information about occupiers means bills are sent to the correct tenants and also allows water companies to more quickly identify customers who they could offer targeted help and advice to.
Advice for landlords
Landlords in Wales must give details of all their tenants within 21 days of a change in tenancy or risk being made jointly and severally liable for for any outstanding water charges – not something anyone wants to risk!
You will need to communicate this to your tenants, so first and foremost, make sure this information is included in your tenancy agreement. If you can, have your agreement drafted professionally to ensure these details are included.
If you are a landlord, providing details to your water company is an easy process, thanks to the Landlord TAP portal. Once you have signed in, you can provide details of the change of tenancy, which is then automatically passed to the relevant water company.
Make sure you keep up to date with all the latest news affecting landlords in Wales by visiting the Residential Landlords Association website. And remember if you are a registered landlord information on these regulations were included in the terms and conditions of your own landlord accreditation process and is the training packs provided.
For more information on the regulations visit the Welsh Government website at http://wales.gov.uk