DEFRA hunting water bill dodgers

Water bills are on average £15 higher than they should be. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says those who dodge paying are forcing up bills for those […]

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By Tom Gibson

Water bills are on average £15 higher than they should be. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says those who dodge paying are forcing up bills for those that do pay them.

The level of outstanding revenue from domestic water customers in the UK was over £1.6 billion in 2010-11, according to DEFRA. The Government had to write off around £328 million of household debt in 2010-11, which leads to higher bills for those that do pay their bills.

Water Minister Richard Benyon said: “I want to tackle the problem of bad debt in the water industry as people not paying their bills cost those that do £15 a year. It is just not right that responsible people have to pick up the bills of those who are not paying.”

The majority of debtors are tenants in rented properties and, unlike for electricity and gas bills, there is currently no requirement on the owners of the building to provide information on the identity of the occupier to the water company.

The Government is launching a consultation in England which will consider two options:

– Making landlords liable for the water charges in their tenants’ properties if they fail to supply details of their tenants to the water company and/or

– a voluntary alternative which would ask landlords to share this information with the water company.