Patricia Pearl - Small Claims Procedure - A Practical Guide


An excellent guide for the layperson in how to use the County Court - a must if you are intending to start a claim.

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  1. #1
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    Default Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Hi all, I posted a question on another thread but got my knuckles wrapped so starting my own thread as i was instructed to do.

    I have an urgent question and hoped someone can help.

    I am in arrears with my local water board. Long story but here is the honest short version...

    we rent a run down old farmhouse from a farmer, thru an agency. We have been here a fair while but didn't receive any water bills and honestly didn't even think of it until the water board van turned up one day and looked surprised that someone is living here. We couldn't believe that we had never thought of it before and feared the bill. We are soon to go bankrupt (forms filled in ready, saving up the money now 700 to do it?!) and have NO money whatsoever. We are struggling to eat. We receive benefits for our children and have 3 youngsters and my wife is pregnant, unplanned and preventative measures used but failed despite 0.07% chance, just our luck

    Anyways... it turns out the farmer told us there is a water leak on the farm and the bill has been shoved on our account for some reason, water board trying to find someone to pay i suppose. Problem is...... we got their bill (which they guessed i think) and it is over TWO GRAND. two hundred would have been a struggle but 2 grand is enough to say sod it, let's go bankrupt because we have no way of paying that and with credit card debts going back ten years which we can't pay we have no choice now although water is the only one giving us serious grief.

    When i got the bill i wrote to the water company telling them we have children and wife is pregnant, and that we are very poor and can't pay that bill immediately. Asked to come to an arrangment which we were negotiating but TODAY - received a letter from them saying "pay the bill or we will cut your water supply off in seven days".

    Forgive me if i am mistaken, but i thought they could not cut water supply off, especially if children involved. Am i right? What is the best approach to take here?

    Grateful for any advice. thanks

    P.S. the address they sent it to is not my exact address, first line is wrong if that makes any difference. The wording used is "in accordance with the Water Industry Act 1991 (Section 61) we will disconnect the water supply for the above premises unless full payment is made by return".


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    are you being written to as a residential customer, or a business customer?
    If you are residential customer then they cannot cut off your bill. However, it may be that they treat you as a business customer and if that is the case you will need to take rapid steps to show them that you are a private customer.

    I have a contact who works for a water company and who will be having a look at this thread tomorrow evening or Monday morning and will be able to give much better advice.
    In the meantime check the bill and see if you can see what they consider your status is. Start assembling evidence such as tenancy agreements etc to show that you are residential customer.
    I'm particularly concerned that you say that the bill for the farm has somehow been lumped onto your own bill. You better make some time to deal with this from Monday onwards. I'm not sure what will eventually be advised, that you may need to contact a solicitor, swear an affidavit and get the solicitor to fax it to the water authority.
    Can you let us know which water company you are dealing with.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Hi, thanks for replying. If you don't mind I would prefer not to say which company it is on a public forum in case it prejudices my case as this may go further now. I have written to them around 3 times before, each time recorded delivery. Can't actually find the proof now but I am sure I will if i need it, its in the drawers here somewhere.

    they wrote to me in April. I made a complaint about the way they talked to me in a letter, i just commented on it in a reply and they sent me complaints procedure which I didn't ask for but made use of anyway. The response to that complaint was a letter which was quite nice (different dept) and said: "We currently have your property as a non-domestic property. If you property is now purely a domestic supply the please let us know and supply proof such as a copy of your council tax bill."

    I DID EXACTLY THAT. I replied with council tax bill showing private dwelling, and I confirmed in my letter that we are a family only living here, it has NEVER been a commercial premises and that it is a rented farmhouse. I also filled out their VAT questionnaire to confirm same, and included a copy of one of our estate agents letters.

    I heard nothing back, until getting this threat to cut us off today.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    i am writing to them now to remind them that i complied with their request to supply evidence of it being a private dwelling and i have also told them I deem their threats to be vexatious and deliberately threatening, also that they are threatening to carry out an unlawful act which is causing my already ill wife undue stress. I hope they get the message, but if not I am at a loss as to where to go next and thats assuming they don't cut us off. If they do that I really will be lost!


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    firstly, I should stop keeping important documents in the bottom of some drawer somewhere. This is a serious matter for you and your family and if you want to take control of it then you better sort your paperwork out and get it all in one place and in order so you can refer to it quickly. It will also help you understand what is missing.
    Go to the Consumer Council for Water – http://ccwater.custhelp.com/app/answ...lkL01aQlB3aUFr and read up on how to make a complaint and start making a complaint through them. Do it this weekend. Start reading up now. I don't know how it works, but if they allow you to make the complaint online then make it immediately so they have it there on Monday.
    I see that they make a telephone number available so first thing on Monday, phone them and start making your complaint over the telephone and tell them how urgent it is and asked them for their immediate direct intervention.
    Keep it polite even if it sounds to use if they can't be bothered. You will have to be persistent – but stay polite.
    As you make your complaint – even online, take screenshots so that you have copies of everything. Don't leave them in the bottom some draw. On Monday morning send a letter to the water authority and point out that you have now begun a complaint to the consumer Council for water. If you have a complaint reference number then pass it to them. Try to contact the water company by telephone and tell them that you have made a complaint to the Consumer Council for Water.

    Don't leave anything to chance. Don't rely on verbal undertakings given over the telephone. You need everything confirmed in writing. When you speak to people get their names. Make notes are very conversation – time date who it was etc.

    What is actually happening here? Do we understand that you are being billed for the water that is being used by the farm? With this mean that the farmer is not paying any of his water bills?
    It's all a bit of a puzzle and a bit suspicious.
    Anyway sort this crisis out to begin with and then once things have calmed down can start trying to do an investigation as to quite what has happened.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    by the way, I don't see in what possible way it could harm you to tell us which company it is. It can only help. These people are like vampires and they hate anything coming out into the open. You should let us know what the company is. It will make it easier to help you.
    Or are you trying to protect them


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Hi, I am just a private person and don't like my personal life being known about. You say you have a friend who works for a water board, if that was mine then with the specifics of the case it would be possible for your friend to trace the case very easily. i have nothing to hide, but i do think things like that can prejudice a case and either way I prefer to write to these people direct and not have them pick things up from elsewhere. Having said that, its a small risk and since you want to know i can tell you its Anglian Water.

    It certainly is suspicious. Their original letter even said that the amount of water used monthly looks nothing like a private dwelling so even they suggested it can't be my fault or my usage! That was the letter when they asked for proof that I am a private customer, which i did and nothing heard since except this threat.

    I will follow all your excellent advice and lodge a complaint online tonight. Thanks very much, will keep you posted. Something is very amiss here but keeping the water on for now is the most important thing.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Quote Originally Posted by BankFodder View Post
    These people are like vampires and they hate anything coming out into the open.
    Acute observation, BF.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Quote Originally Posted by A+ View Post
    ... its Anglian Water.

    It certainly is suspicious. Their original letter even said that the amount of water used monthly looks nothing like a private dwelling so even they suggested it can't be my fault or my usage! That was the letter when they asked for proof that I am a private customer, which i did and nothing heard since except this threat.
    I'm afraid that you have misunderstood what they are trying to say by making this statement in a letter to you.
    They aren't trying to agree with you that "yes it looks like there's a mistake because certainly it's an awful lot of water which is being used just for you…"

    What they're saying is more like "well you may say that you're a private individual but you're using enough water for an entire farm so that the evidence is that you are trying to pull a fast one on us…"

    Thank you for letting us know that it is Anglian Water. Believe me, the truth can't hurt. You never know, maybe someone from Anglian will see this thread and suddenly realise that something is going badly wrong in their procedure and decide to have a personal look.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Hi,

    Have a read here: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_196942

    There is help for people strugling with water bills.


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    Thanks. I see what they were saying, but they asked for a specific list of items to provide evidence that it is a private dwelling. I FULLY complied by providing the evidence they asked for, so their claim can surely no longer be continued otherwise why ask for the evidence?!
    I will get cracking on this tomorrow and ring them (recorded)


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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    from my water company contact

    I'm afraid the complainants haven't really provided enough information about their circumstances to be absolute, but it sound to me as though the property is actually a farm supplied through a single metered supply. When the complainants took on the tenancy this should have been addressed so that the metered use could be allocated part to the farmer (for whatever “farm” remained - and this would include loss through leakage to field troughs, barns or similar) and part to the residential use in the farmhouse.

    This is not an uncommon situation and I would guess that the water company is assuming that the occupier of the farmhouse is by default the farmer and is therefore liable for all use through the metered supply.

    The company has absolutely no right to disconnect the supply. It may well be a commercial supply on their records but they cannot disconnect a commercial supply if by doing so they would also deprive a residential consumer of water. Ofwat would take a very dim view of this.

    The complainant should contact the water company and explain the situation clearly and also explain that they are prepared to pay for their use of services provided that the bill is for use at the farmhouse only. The water company can then assess a bill based on typical family use, rateable value (if there is one), or simply by negotiated agreement. They should then check their records and establish how they came to transfer liability for the whole farm to the occupier of just one part of it.

    I would also suggest that the complainant has a look at the tenancy agreement to see if any mention was made of payment for water services, whether the tenancy was inclusive or exclusive, and so on. Surely the lessor must have thought of this before he/she actually let the premises.

    All this of course is based on the assumption of the common supply. But it is a very common situation and usually one where the initial fault lies with the original owner - for not making appropriate arrangements when disposing of part of the property - and is then compounded by the water company in their not stepping aside from their usual procedures when they have trouble in getting payment for water used.

    I think if I were this complainant, given the circumstances, I would telephone Ofwat first thing Monday morning to get their help in resolving matters. They are usually pretty good at this and would at the very least be able to reassure the complainant that the supply would not be disconnected.



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    Default Re: Can the Water Board disconnect a family's water supply?

    BF, thank you very much and please thank your contact for his/her time donated in responding in detail.

    For the record I can see why it looks how it does, but its actually not the case. This is a farmHOUSE, but the farmer has his own supply which is on a separate meter (so he told me and that would be consistent with usage and bills etc). I tell you what I think it is, they are trying to pull a fast one. They have written before to us as PRIVATE FAMILY customers, they have turned this commercial crap on in my view to threaten us into paying the massive bill, even though they know it won't be ours because I have written and told them that and they even wrote back saying it doesn't look like family usage. My address is xxxxx Farm, town, county, postcode. They wrote to us originally at this address and several times since. However this threat was addressed to SMALLHOLDING, town, county, SAME postcode. This is a different address used for the threat so i think they are playing games.
    My letter will go tomorrow recorded delivery. It states in BOLD and CAPS that this is a private family dwelling and NO commercial enterprise takes place here, nor IS THERE any smallholding whatsoever in my postcode. I have also explained how you can simply put my postcode in on Royal Mail address checker, and the address they sent the threat to does not exist here!
    I will try to ring OFWAT too, work allowing tomorrow. I made it clear in my letter that, having already complied with their request for evidence of it being a private dwelling and also having stated it again in this letter, I WILL seek to sue for compensation or damages if they go ahead and cut off our family's water. I damn well will too as they now have been told several times as well as evidence provided..

    Thanks again for your help.



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