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Tenant charged for landlord's water bill

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980 views 3 replies latest reply: 22 April 2016
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Tenant

Hi there,

I am currently having a problem with Southern Water who hold me liable for unpaid water bill which goes up to around £1000!! I lived in a student property owned by a private landlord and I was renting a room within the house, sharing kitchen and the rest with couple of other students. I paid rent monthly in cash directly to the landlord and, as covered in the tenancy agreement, the rent included all bills (water, electricity, gas, etc). I lived in the property for 10 months and the last time I saw the landlord my boyfriend let him borrow our copy of the tenancy agreement for him to make copy of. Then I moved out quickly and didn’t have a chance to get the copy back. I left the property in August 2013 and around February 2014 I suddenly got a letter from Southern Water that I owe them money for the water bill. Later on they even passed my details onto a debt recovering agency. I was shocked because I didn’t even know they opened account in my name for something I was not responsible to pay because all the bills were included in my rent payment. I didn’t even know where they got my details and how did they ascertain that I was the one responsible for the water bill. After couple of emails they told me that Power to Contact, a company working on their behalf (which I’ve never come into contact with before), had advised them that I was responsible for the water. They also said that as one of the beneficial occupiers of the property I would be responsible for the water unless it is stated otherwise in my tenancy agreement. I am now in a difficult situation because I don’t have the tenancy agreement on me anymore (HUGE mistake, I’m never giving any contract out of my hands again!!) and the landlord is not replying to my emails and his phone number isn’t working anymore. I’m out of the country as well at the moment so I’m pretty much running out of ideas how to stop this mess. I was not responsible for paying the water bill and I don’t know how they came to the conclusion that it was me, out of all the other 4 people living in the same property.

What is the current legal position on this? What can I do? How can they just assume responsibility on me without first investigating who’s really responsible or contacting the owner of the property?? I’ll appreciate any good advice on how further handle this.

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Tenant

Thanks for posting in our forum. What a stressful situation for you. It sounds as though your landlord has been very underhanded and it is extremely unfair of him/her not to pay the water bills and remove your personal copy of the tenancy agreement.

The Citizens Advice website states:

‘Responsibility for water bills – Whoever lives in the property is normally responsible for paying water charges. If more than one person shares a property, everyone is responsible, even if the bill is only in one name. For example, if the bill is in your partner’s name and you separate and remain in the home, you are likely to have to pay the current bill and any money owed on past bills. The water company could try and recover money from your partner, but is unlikely to do this if you’re still living in the property.

If you’re a tenant, you are responsible for paying water charges, unless your landlord has made another agreement with the water company. Check your tenancy agreement to see who’s responsible. Even if the landlord is responsible, if they don’t pay, the water company may try and recover the money owed from you instead.’

As you do not have a copy of your tenancy agreement, and the landlord is refusing to acknowledge your attempts to get in touch, I would advise you to contact Citizens Advice to speak to a trained advisor. Follow this link for relevant phone numbers as well as an online enquiry form you can fill out if that is easier considering you are not in the country:

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/consumer_w/consumer_protection_for_the_consumer_e/consumer_citizens_advice_consumer_service_e/if_you_need_more_help.htm

We wish you all the best and hope the situation can be resolved quickly for you.

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Other

You Should have retained a copy of the agreement, then you can send it to Southern Water as proof that the Landlord was responsible for Water and all Utillities, Sounds as if he was collecting cash so no paper trail and not paying bills? If you claimed housing benefit, the council will have a copy of your agreement.. To be honest without documentary proof, the responsibility of the Utility bills is with the tenants unfortunately.. You will have to pay then take the Landlord to a Small Claims court and hope it goes in your favour

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Landlord

I was reading here that if you are the occupant of house and the tenant has not paid his water bill, you are not bound to pay his water bill.  Your account will start on the day you move to the new house. 

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