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to hope/plead for advice on water problem (v urgent and worrying)?

(11 Posts)
AnneOn Sun 28-Apr-13 15:44:27

My wife is a regular poster on this forum and has often told me about how knowledgeable and generally fantastic MNers are in times of trouble, so I’m hoping that somebody will (please!) be kind enough to give me some reliable advice on a problem we’re having.

My DW and I are preparing to move out of the flat we have been renting for the past four years, and we have just realised that we have never had a water bill. I remember calling to inform them that we had moved in, and they had no record of the property’s existence. I know that during the first year we were living there an engineer from the water company (Severn Trent) came in and attempted to remove the side of the bath, but wasn’t able to do so. I think he intended to check whether there was a water meter and install one if necessary. The panel was stuck, so my DW told him who our lettings agents were and advised him to contact them. We waited for the outcome, but never heard anything and forgot about it as there were many other problems with the flat that needed urgent attention. We’re both students, so were away from the property for roughly 1/3 of each year.

I’ve done some reading and found that the apartments are too new to be eligible for Rateable Value Charges, but might be eligible for Assessed Volume Charges (which covers Rateable Value properties which have been modified, or properties where water meters could not be fitted for practical or economic reasons). The trouble is, we would be overpaying by about £800 if we pay Assessed Volume Charges (it would also be within our rights to contest their refusal to fit a meter, and move us on to this charge). I’ve done some googling, and have found cases of other flats not covered by either rates or meters, and the water company fitted a meter and negotiated a backdated Metered billing period based on 1 month’s usage, but this might not possible in the kind of time limit that we have - we’re now 2 months from the end of our tenancy, and they require up to 3 months to fit a meter. People had different experienced – some spoke of having negotiated a bill, whilst others found it impossible to get the water company to even acknowledge/address their problem.

I’m not sure what to do now – nothing I can find online deals with these circumstances. If anybody has any experience/professional knowledge (not speculation), I’d be grateful to know:

a)What happens if there is a water meter, and we don’t have a reading from when we moved in? I’m worried about ending up paying previous tenants’ water bills!

b)If there isn’t a water meter, and there is not enough time to install one and backdate the average usage, how would this be negotiated?

c)Is there another alternative that I haven’t considered?

Apologies for the long post, I’d be really grateful for any information!

jacks365 Sun 28-Apr-13 15:51:58

Check with your landlord as they should know the situation re water meter and previous readings. It may well turn out that this is covered in your rent i know students in private lets and they all have it included in rent.

AnneOn Sun 28-Apr-13 15:56:01

Thank you for the advice, Jacks365 - we've sent him a message (and flagged up this problem to the lettings agents before), but it's very hard to get a response as we can't contact him directly and the lettings agents are slow to sort anything out. The water definitely isn't included in the rent, sadly sad.

andubelievedthat Sun 28-Apr-13 16:26:23

Well, as you are leaving the property i expect they will have to send you an estimated bill ,one from a similar size home with same amount of people in it ,and i bet the amount will be the cost of a semi in the south-east ,then you will have to get into negotiation with them ,they will at some point threaten you with bailiffs so screwing your ok at present credit rating ,(ok if leaving Britain for country with no extradition treaty agreed with G.B.) and then ,just for return of your sanity , you will agree to pay .thats how it usually goes fromwhat i read in papers ,not nec. tabloids either.

AnneOn Sun 28-Apr-13 16:50:22

Gracious, andubelievedthat - I really hope not! All I want to do is pay what we really owe (or as close to that amount as possible) and have done with it. I'd cheerfully pay the published water rate for the property if they'd let me, even though an accurate meter reading would definitely work out cheaper since we've been away so regularly...

AnneOn Sun 28-Apr-13 16:53:33

Oh, and another thing - we're not moving very far away and would be happy to find somewhere within the water company's "zone", if they would agree to use the meter readings from our next place to estimate a back-dated bill for this one. Does anybody know if they'd do that, since it's the same 2 occupants (and the next property would be the same size or larger, but definitely not smaller)?

CajaDeLaMemoria Sun 28-Apr-13 17:02:13

No, they are unlikely to allow you to use your new home to decide your old rates. There's too much risk of you using minimum water!

Does none of the paperwork state the aster meter readings when you moved in? Legally it's your responsibility to check, and you don't have much of a basis to argue, so your best bet is to try and negotiate down the bill they send. How successful you are will depend on whether they have submitted readings from before you moved in, and how they are calculating your bill.

Do you have enough to pay 4 years worth upfront? If you've got a lump sum, you'll be much more likely to be offered a reduction than if you need to set up a repayment plan.

AnneOn Sun 28-Apr-13 17:12:59

CajaDeLaMemoria - no, there was nothing about it on the paperwork. I did call them when we moved in, and I'm 99% sure they said they couldn't find me on the system but they'd deal with it (and then sent an engineer much later, who I referred to the lettings agency, and then forgot about because I was chasing up so many other problems with the agents). I wish I'd remember to follow it up - I've never stayed in a rental property for more than a year before and the reading and bill has always been annual (and came in just before we moved out), so it just hasn't occurred to me until now.

As long as what they ask for is similar to the water rates for the property, we shouldn't need a repayment plan.

CajaDeLaMemoria Sun 28-Apr-13 18:04:23

Make that clear when you speak to them: that they failed to follow up your initial contact, and that you are able to settle the average amount for the property in full. I'd be surprised if they didn't accept that!

BloomingB Sun 28-Apr-13 18:06:18

How did you forget to pay water rates for 4 years - seems to me you should have sorted thing out long ago - forgetting for 4 years is not realistic!! You are just going to have to pay whatever the final average bill is and refrain from moaning about it - it's your own fault after all!

CabbageLeaves Sun 28-Apr-13 18:08:03

Back billing beyond 12 months is not allowed for energy bills. See if you can find anything for water.

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