I would like to know which statute to use to issue a claim against Welsh Water for a number of things.
First a short background:
Just over 11 months ago, I purchased a property served by Welsh Water. The property does not have a meter, and is billed by annual rate.
From the outset, we noticed problems with the water supply. There was always very low pressure and volume. It would take at times more than 7 minutes to fill a litre bottle. On many days there would be no water at all.
We moved into the property during the late Autumn, and notified all of the relevant utility companies (including Welsh Water),local authority, etc of our details.
In mid-December, approximately 6 weeks after moving in, our solid fuel burner got excessively hot and burst at the water pipes in the rear of the burner. An emergency plumber attended and found the cause to be no water supply in the property, which meant there was nothing to dissipate the heat causing the the back boiler to burst.
Welsh Water was contacted and we were told that the problem may be due to a burst main affect the property. Nothing further was done by Welsh Water.
The poor supply issues carried on for several months, and each call to Welsh Water resulted in the same response. "There is nothing on the system showing any problems, therefore the problem must be in your private/internal pipework and plumbing, nothing further can be done."
In March of 2018, after getting absolutely nowhere with the customer service/billing department, we managed to reach someone in our local operations depot. A service call was raised to investigate. We were told by a staff member as well as the engineer who came to investigate that the problem was a known issue and has been for more a few years. We were also told that some work on the supply pipes had been done a year or so before we purchased the property, and that work improved the supply somewhat, although the problem remained.
Following that service call, when we call about the lack of any water at the property, we were then told that the issue had been investigated and nothing further could be done.
In the summer of 2018 things went from bad to horrendous. On the average day there was no water at the property from about 7AM until rought 8 or 9PM. When the water finally did come back it was only a trickle. We began leaving the tap to the bath on over-night so that we could have water the following day. Even doing this there wasn't enough water to cook with, bath, do laundry, washing up, etc.
In July we received a letter from Welsh Water stating "a leak has been identified" in the private supply...meaning somewhere within the property, and not the mains to the property. The letter stated we had 28 days to repair the leak or face a penalty of up to £1,000.
We called the number given in the letter, spoke to the depot that issued the letter, and no one could tell us where the leak was identified, how it was identified, who identified it, or when. We were told that someone could come and inspect the supply and asked when we would be available for someone to come and inspect. We queried what the inspection would entail, how long it would take, etc. We were told that the inspector would only inspect the supply to the property and would not do any inspection of the private/internal pipework. To that we responded that we didn't see any need to arrange an appointment, because Welsh Water had full access to the supply coming to the property, and since they wouldn't inspect anything within the property it was pointless to make an appointment.
Not long after this during a period of very hot and dry weather, an engineer called to the property and asked if would kindly stop using the water, because our neight didn't have any water and hadn't been able to bathe or shower in over a week. This did not sit well at all with me and I said, who is going to come around and ask people to stop using water so that we could have some to bathe etc. I told the man that for the first time in weeks there was enough water to fill a water can and I wanted to water my fruit tree. Not that I owed any explanation to him, but this was a dwarf apple tree in a container that belonged to my mother in law who had passed away the year before, and it was nearly dead because it hadn't been watered at all that year...there wasn't enough water to use for that purpose.
Following his visit, and getting nowhere with Welsh Water, we called a plumber who could find no leaks inside the property. Taking Welsh Water at it's word that it had identified a leak within our private pipework, we felt we had no choice other than to replace the pipework at the property. The bill to remove all the old copper pipe and replace with new alkathene was just over £12,500.00. To our dismay this fixed nothing. We still had very little water, or none at all.
When there was no improvement after replacing all of our pipes (literally every single piece of pipe), the plumber went to a community tap about 20 meters from where our mains supply tap was and did further testing. He determined that there was less the .5 bar pressure and the flow rate was roughly .15 litres per minute directly from the mains supply at the roadside.
Having done all the pipe replacement with no improvement, and knowing winter would require the wood burner for heat and hot water, he advised that I notify the "water board" about the poor supply. He admitted that it could take months to get anywhere with them.
It just happened to be that the neighbour who pays the bill for that community tap, saw us at the tap and came to see what we were doing. It was then that we were informed that poor supply was a known issue, and that he and all of the other residents received significant reductions on their rates, and that Welsh Water regularly delivered bottled water to their property. He would then climb into his loft and pour the bottled water into his tank in order to have water to bathe, flush toilets, etc.
I called Welsh water and queried this. I again was told, nothing can be done.
My plumber strongly urged me to purchase and install a large reservoir tank and pump to get water to the property. He rightly pointed out that in the vent of a fire, it would take the fire brigade at least 30 minutes to reach the property, in the meanwhile there wasn't enough supply to feed a hosepipe. The reality of the situation was, I would had be in the horrible position of watch my house burn to the ground without even a bucket of water to pout on the flame.
I followed his advice and he installed a tank and pump at a further cost of just over £4,000.00. Once the tanks was installed it took five days for enough water to enter the tank for the pump to operate.
A week or so after the tank was installed, we received our first bill from Welsh Water. It was a combined bill comprising a pro-rated period from the date when we purchased the property, in addition to a full year for the period 2018-2019.
I immediately called Welsh Water and queried whether the bill was correct because it appeared to be the full rate, and not the reduced rated charged to all of my neighbours as a result of the poor supply in the area. Again, the response came, that "the system shows that the issue has been investigated and nothing could be done".
It was later that same week (near end of July 2018) that I saw engineers digging along the roadside near to my property. I spoke to the men and they told me they were third party contractors hired by Welsh Water and that they were putting in a new mains supply because of the poor supply in the area.
I was LIVID! I had just spent the better part of £17,000.00 because Welsh Water told me I had leaks in my property, and that there was nothing they could do to improve the supply.
I managed through repeated phone calls to get in touch with a local area operations manager who told me that she was ever so sorry that no one had informed me of the known issues, and that the hot and dry weather only highlight how serious the problem was, and that they only just got money to rectify the problem.
I lamented to her that no one in customer service seems to be aware of this, and explained that I received my bill for the full rates. She immediately told me that I should be getting some allowance toward the rates due to the poor supply as she was aware all my other neighbours received this, and we should as well.
She offered to contact the billing department to explain on my behalf. Later that day she called back to say that she spoke to billing, told them that a new mains was going in. She informed me that billing had placed my account on hold pending the work to the new mains being completed. Once completed, an allowance would be applied, a new bill generated, at which time I would need to make payment or arrangement to pay the bill with billing.
I was elated. Not only was the issue of the supply going to be resolved, but I finally got someone who had a clue and was able to get the billing department to understand my position...or so I thought.
The very next week, I got an alert for Credit Expert that my Credit file had been hit with a negative report. The culprit was Welsh Water. They reported a missed payment, despite having told me the account was on hold, that no collections efforts would be made, and that I was not required to make any payment until after the new mains was installed, the allowance applied, and a new bill generated.
Of course I called billing again. They confirmed there was a collections hold, and stated that the hold only meant they would send threatening letters, but that they would still report the missed payment. I asked why was I told I wasn't required to pay anything until the works were completed, only to be reported for a missed payment. The silence in response was infuriating. I was promised a return call from a manager, which I never received.
Weeks later after i hounded the poor girl in the billing department I was put into contact with Welsh Water Arrears collection manager who said he would investigate and come back to me with a response.
A week or so later I got a call from the manager who in short told me that they had been informed that I had a fruit orchard and a pond and a large tank on the property and that I was the cause or significantly contributed to the poor supply. Because of this the missed payment would stand on my credit file, and that he had no discretion to remove it.
I was absolutely furious! I told him that I HAD NO ORCHARD OR POND AT ALL! I asked where on earth they would get such an idea. I also told him that yes I had a tank, but the tank was installed because I had no water! Had I known that two weeks after getting the tank that a new mains was to be installed I never would have gone to the unnecessary expense of putting a big ugly tank in my back garden.
At my request he escalated the matter to his manager, who said the same as he had stated earlier. They added for good measure that there was no record of my numerous complaints, and that another reason I was being hit with the negative report was because I never notified them when I moved into the property and that they had to do a Land Registry search to find out who lived in the property. I told them that this was categorically untrue, that I notified them at the same time I noticed everyone else, and that they were the only ones who seemed not to know who lived here. I also noted that it was strange that I had service request to investigate the supply issue dating back to March 2018, yet they claimed not to know who lived at the property until July 2018. All of this, and I got nowhere with them.
The next day I receive a cheque in the post from Welsh Water. No letter included, no explanation what the cheque was for. I called Welsh Water and was told that this was "a goodwill gesture" as a result of the problems with the water supply. I told them that I had been informed that an allowance would be applied to the account and a new bill generated. They replied "no we don't do that". We have no way applying the allowance to the account because it comes from a different department. I did not deposit the cheque. A week or so later I called and spoke with a very sympathetic woman who with very little effort arrange a stop payment on the cheque and applied the amount directly to the account as per Welsh Water's own policy.
Since then I contacted the Consumer Council for Water who raised a complaint on my behalf. Whilst awaiting a response to that complaint I noticed another Welsh Water engineer working on the mains at the road next to my property. I asked him if he would kindly walk my property with me and tell me if he saw a fruit orchard or pond. He said no problem, and agreed there was nothing of the sort. He also saw the tank and pump and confirmed that it was being used as reservoir to supply water to the property. I asked his name and if he was willing for me to give his details to the manager who was dealing with my complaint. He agreed I could.
When I finally received a response to my complaint, the response was in essence: We can't resolve your complaint, because we believe you have a fruit orchard, pond, and tank, that these caused the problem, and you refuse to allow an inspection to determine how the supply is being used.
I called the person who wrote that response and told them that 3 days prior I had the engineer walk the property, and that he saw no such thing, but I could never reach anyone from Welsh Water to relay these details. The manager looked up the engineers name and saw that in fact he wasn't just and engineer but he was in fact an INSPECTOR. However this inspector apparently wasn't qualified to identify orchards and ponds, and that a different inspector was needed to do another inspection. I was so not happy. What could I do? I reluctantly agreed a further inspection on the stipulation it take place as soon as possible and within 7 days, because each day the negative/missed payment on my credit report, was affecting my loan application from proceeding.
Later that day I received a call from the manager dealing with my complaint who confirmed that Welsh Water were in fact willing to accept that engineers/inspector's confirmation that I did not have an orchard or pond, and that the tanks was being used just as I had been saying all along. He then went on to say that he would now need to contact some other people in other departments before giving his final decisions on my complaints. He promised me a return call by close of business the following Tuesday.
Tuesday came and went, without the promised call.
Meanwhile I made a payment online followed with a call to Welsh Water to set up a payment arrangement to pay the balance in weekly installments. My arrangement was accepted and I was told I would be sent confirmation of the plan by post.
Two days after this, still having had no return phone, despite my numerous voicemails to the manager requesting the promised return call, I receive a letter from Welsh Water stating there intention to register a default against my credit report for nonpayment. The letter demands payment in full within 14 days. The letter also states that failure to make the payment in full will result in a default being registered "...even though you may have agreed a payment plan through ourselves..."
Words cannot come close to describing the stress and anxiety this cause when I read it. I immediately phoned Welsh Water. I was told a manager would call me back. I said NO WAY! I am staying on the phone until I speak to a manager.
Lo and behold the manager who promised the return phone call, and did not respond to my emails or voicemails, now comes on the phone.
His response was "I am waiting to hear something from the relevant departments." I asked how this had anything to do with my complaint being answered in full because I was initially told the reason a response could not be made was because I refused an inspection. Welsh Water agreed no further inspection was required, so what is the new reason. He replied "I need to know if operations feel the supply issue was poor enough to justify your complaint."
I said, "What a cheek! Obviously the was poor supply. You've not only given allowance to my account, and all of my neighbours, but the issue was so bad that you pulled out the mains and replaced with with a new one!"
He promised a phone call by mid day the next day. Can you guess? No phone call was received.
My position is now: I am £17,500.00 out of pocket, I have missed payments against my credit report, I am being threatened with a 6 year default if I don't pay the balance (for this current period) in full within now under two weeks, and my complaint remains unresolved.
My patience is gone. I need to issue proceedings to get this resolved and try to reclaim wasted costs.
What I am unsure of is which statute or otherwise on which to relay when issuing my claim.
I apologize for the length, but wanted to give a full summary of the facts to date.
Thanks in advance to all who reply.