Water industry proposals 'mean relief for landlords'

by Daniel Jones

The government may pull back from powers that would force landlords to share information with water companies when a tenancy agreement comes to an end. Ministers are reviewing the Flood and Water Management Act, a move being welcomed by the property industry, which is pushing for reform on behalf of landlords.

Under the legislation, the government can make owners of a property liable for payment of water and sewerage bills if they fail to provide specified details of occupiers. However, the government is apparently looking at tackling the issue of bad debt with a voluntary and non-regulatory approach. According to the British Property Federation (BPF), such a move would be supported by landlords if the "correct" system is put in place beforehand.

BPF director of policy Ian Fletcher said: "Government policy in other areas is pushing for personal responsibility and the same should apply here that landlords should not be held liable for their tenants' debts, which is simply unfair.

"We therefore welcome this review and agree that water companies could do more to limit bad debts. Many landlords do already voluntarily provide information, but this could be made far easier and therefore encourage far more data sharing with the right systems in place."

The government believes that the lack of consequences of non-payment has contributed to unpaid bills from domestic water customers, rising from £705 million in 1998/99 to £1.635 billion in 20010/11. The water industry wrote off approximately £328 million of household debt in 2010/11, up from £168 million in the previous year.

When the Flood and Water Management Act was enacted, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it provides for a "better, more comprehensive management of flood risk". It also said it will protect individuals and businesses from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges and safeguard water supplies to the consumer.

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Published on: January 25, 2012

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