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Written Statement - Tackling Bad Debt in the Water Industry – introduction of the Water Industry (Undertakers Wholly or Mainly in Wales) (Information about Non-owner Occupiers) Regulations 2014

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Our Tackling Poverty Action Plan sets out what we are doing to build resilient communities and to help prevent and reduce poverty in Wales.
Carl Sargeant, Minister for Natural Resources

The Water Industry (Undertakers Wholly or Mainly in Wales) (Information about Non-owner Occupiers) Regulations 2014 were laid before the Assembly on 3 December 2014, under the negative resolution procedure. They will commence on 1 January 2015 and will assist the water and sewerage industry to reduce the level of debt in order to help lower bills.

In the Tackling Poverty Action Plan, published in July 2012, we highlighted a commitment to reduce the number of people who get into debt with their water supplier, which, in turn, will help to make it more affordable for everyone. The cost of trying to recover outstanding charges is believed to add between £15 and £20 to the average customer’s bill.

The regulations place a duty on all owners of residential properties served by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water or Dee Valley Water (whether in England or Wales), who let the property to someone else (e.g. a tenant) to provide basic information about the occupiers to the relevant water company. The regulations only apply if the owners don’t live in the property and therefore wouldn’t apply to people letting rooms in their homes, for example. If the owner fails to provide the required information within 21 days of the regulations coming into force, and subsequently, within 21 days of a change of occupier, they will become jointly and severally liable with the occupier for any water and sewerage charges incurred during the period that they failed to comply with the regulations.

Under the current, non-regulatory approach, there can be a considerable delay before the water undertaker is aware of who is occupying a property, sometimes leading to significant accruing of water and sewerage charges which the occupier then struggles to pay.

Occupiers will benefit from the new approach, as they will be made aware of charges earlier, helping them to budget accordingly and ensuring they receive information about support for paying their bills, such as social tariffs, assistance funds or payment plans. Through having accurate information about occupiers, the water companies will be able to identify potentially vulnerable customers earlier and offer targeted help and advice; we expect water companies to use this opportunity to improve the services they offer to vulnerable customers and this has been discussed with them.

In order to provide an efficient and simple process for property owners to provide occupier information, the Water Industry has developed an easy to use website called Landlord TAP (external link). Occupier details input to the portal are automatically passed to the relevant water company and property owners receive a unique transaction receipt reference for their records. The website can be accessed at www.landlordtap.co.uk or www.landlordtap.com and will be live from 15 December 2014.