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Southern Water £1,500 bill arrears....


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Hi all

 

My partner moved into a two bedroom flat in October 2003.

The flat is small and the second bedroom is tiny (big enough for his 8 year old when he comes to visit but no good for an adult).

 

The flat is in a block of 9 and was a new build at the time of him moving in.

 

In 2006 we received a bill for £1,500 + from Southern Water.

 

We're now paying £70 a month on these bills and have the balance down now to £700 (as every 3 months we get a further £130 bill or thereabouts).

 

When we received the bill, we asked the water company to check the bill and they supposedly checked the pipes for leaks and and then they checked in the flat. The water man said that there was water leaking down the back of the cistern and over a period of time would account for the level of water usage.

 

A statement from Aug 2007 states that Southern Water introduced a new billing system and they transferred our previous balance to the new statement. We have no statements prior to this.

 

My issues / queries are:-

 

1) We never received a water bill for the first few years of living at this address? Is this not the problem of the water company and not ours?

 

2) our water is metered, the meter being out by the road in a manhole cover that we cannot access and have not been able to see any water readings. how do we know that the water from our meter, was not used by the builders for mixing cement etc.

 

3) the water and other utility companies have a habit of putting people on payment plans and threatening court action for non payment of bills etc - can they really do this (can we question this) if we do not have visibility of the meter and never have..?

 

does anyone know how to tackle this?

Is £130 for 3 months around the national average for a tiny flat? the toilet has no leaks and we do around 3 loads of washing a week. Hardly the biggest users! we shower and turn the tap off when we clean our teeth! we're pretty careful and I can't help but feel that we're being fleeced a bit by Southern Water.

 

Is there a letter template out there I could use? I guess I still want to have all readings from date of moving in to present day.... but I want to tackle specifically the years of no bills and then where the £1500 bill came about (& proof of this)

 

Thanks for any help you can give!

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ah - interesting.

 

So should I contact with OFWAT do you think? Do they have any power over the water companies or are they a cotton wool organisation that say how things should be, but don't enforce it?

 

Can you send me any further details on where I can find out more about this backdated billing statement from OFWAT?

 

Thank you

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If you do an internet search on billing code, contact Ofwat or the Campaign for Water Justice, they will give you details of both the billing code and court precedents where it has been enforced against water companies. From my experience, both Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water are of no use and have no interest in individual problems with the water companies, usually referring the compaint back to the water company to be dealt with.

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When we received the bill, we asked the water company to check the bill and they supposedly checked the pipes for leaks and and then they checked in the flat. The water man said that there was water leaking down the back of the cistern and over a period of time would account for the level of water usage.

 

Sounds like rubbish to me. If you had water running down the back of the cistern, wouldn't you have noticed wet floors if this was the case?

 

does anyone know how to tackle this?

Is £130 for 3 months around the national average for a tiny flat? the toilet has no leaks and we do around 3 loads of washing a week. Hardly the biggest users! we shower and turn the tap off when we clean our teeth! we're pretty careful and I can't help but feel that we're being fleeced a bit by Southern Water.

 

I'm with Southern Water & ok unmetered but we have an average-sized 2-bed house, washine machine on nearly every day, dishwasher at least once a day & 3 of us showering every day (in my son's case sometimes twice a day!) as well as toilet flushing, kettle filling etc & my water bill is £28.73 per month so I would say that £130 for 3 months is high for your situation.

 

In my business, I was sent what I felt was a disproportionatly high bill so I rang SW & insisted that they send someone to check the meter cos it was outside & we didn't even know where it was so we couldn't check it even if we wanted to. Had to be very insistant though & when they did come, lo & behold, we were being charged for the shop as well as the 3-bed flat above it that has nothing whatsoever to do with us so I would email them rather than get fobbed off by ringing & request an engineer comes to check the meter & make sure you're there when he comes so that you can see how to access it in future.

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Hiya

 

Sorry to read about your potential issue, If you'd like to provide me with your email address I maybe able to help (No Promises) and get a speedy response (good or bad).

 

Regards

 

Jdmave

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  • 1 month later...

The Billing Code does not apply to water -only for gas and electricity.

 

You or your partner need to do some checking.

 

Was the meter fitted when he/you moved in. It is not uncommon for water companies to fit meters in retrospect ( it happened in my newbuilt apartment) and then make an estimate of usage prior to the meter fitting that is very much in their favour. (they asked us for £80 more than was reasonable)

 

Has he checked that the meter he thinks is his is actually connected to his flat. It is perfectly possible that the meter said to be his is in fact connected to a larger flat with very high usage. 'Our' meter was supplying another flat.

 

Are there nine meters outside ?! There have been cases where a meter is supplying two or more flats.

 

Utility companies in general bill when they have received a meter reading either from the customer or a meter reader. The fact that they have not sent a bill suggests that they have not read the meter either. They must read it at at least 18 monthly intervals so you can use this as a reason for not paying more than 18 month back.

 

Usually with newbuilds the fault lies between the water company and the builder - the fact that the builder/agent has sold the property on has not been adequately passed on to the water company or the water company has not (if at all!) entered the property correctly in their database. It is almost inconceivable that water was not used in the flat during the selling process by builders,agents and veiwers so do not accept a start meter reading of 0. Argue the point. If they are using 0 ask them when the meter was fitted and compare this to the date your partner moved in.

 

I live in a two bedded apartment with my wife and our yearly bill on a water meter is £270. We wash clothes more often than you do and there are two in the apartment so our toilet and bathing usage will be similar

 

A leak anywhere in your sytem would have to be massive to nearly double your bill and you would very definitely notice it!

 

Note that many utilities are at present having a blitz on their databases in order to drum up cash in hard times. It is quite possible that when they do not have full informaqtion they guess and as most people pay up without checking they get away with it. Check everything and require proof. You will be surprised how quickly they cave in particularly if they know you will complan to the Ombudsman if they do not satisfy you.

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Thanks everyone.

 

I've written a letter to Southern Water and will send it tomorrow. It's basically asking them to give me a breakdown of all meter readings. It's also requested confirmation on when the meter was fitted, where the meter is connected to - to get them to check that the water meter belongs to our property.

 

I also asked why we did not receive a bill for a few years of living here and that we've paid hundreds to them for a supposed debt, that we have no proof that we owe.

 

I'll take this all the way. Lets see what happens!

 

Thanks for all your help

 

Twinkle

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello everyone

 

Had some success!

Wrote to Southern Water - I stated:

 

We pay £70 a month on water due to not receiving a bill for the first 3 years in the property.

When we received the bill we queried it with southern water but they simply put it down to a leak down the back of the cistern - which we dispute would have been noticed by us if it was bad and we didn't believe accounted for the level of water usage.

That in Aug 2007 they introduced a new billing system & we have no statements prior to this.

 

I then requested:

 

1) why did we never receive a bill for the first few years of living at this address?

2) our water is metered & the meter being out in the road, under a manhole cover that we cannot access & we have never seen any water readings - wanted to know when the water meter was fitted for this date

3) that i was unhappy that as a result of not receiving any statements for years, that we found ourselves in a supposed debt to them and put on a payment plan

4) i had researched and found that our bills were way to high in my opinion for a 3 washes per week and no dishwasher household.

 

Long and short of the matter is - they have shaved off £400 off our bill - which is the outstanding amount from the supposed debt and have offered for the next time a meter reading is taken for us to be present. They do not know how many meters are outside our property and they did send us a statement from 2006 to 2009.

 

Couple of things that I will raise another time (fancy a little break from it and need to research it some more) is that charges from Apr 05 to Mar 06 amounts to £1000 and Apr 06 to Mar 07 comes in at £500. Think they're trying to pull the wool over our eyes, but for the time being, we don't owe Southern Water anything.

 

So - partial success. :)

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The utilities have a habit of refunding for water used but not refunding the VAT levied. Check this.

 

They clearly have agreed that there is fault on their side. £400 does not appear to be a great success in these circumstances. Push them for a full account (with readings) from the day you moved in - they must prove the amount they have said you owed them for the first three years and subsequent bills. Ask them to show you how they reached a figure of £400 rebate.

 

Be obsessive and you may well find they owe you a great deal! - and that the £400 is the sum that they think will keep you quiet.

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Hi Twinkle, well done on your result with southern water, that is really fantastic.

You have inspired me to complain to them about my water bill.

When i have queried things with them before they refer us to South East Water as that is who they say takes the meter readings???

Have they said this to you before ?

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