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6 Year Backdated Bill - £26,575


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Hi, Can anyone give me some advice please.

 

Thames Water have suddenly announced that a meter was fitted to my business premises in 2001,

and that since then no-one at the premises has ever been billed.

 

They state they have a right to backdate bills for 6 years, and took a reading over an 18 days

and have promptly delivered to me a bill for £26,575.

 

I took the premises over in Aug 2006, but pay within my Landlord Service Charge a contribution monthly under the heading 'water meter'.

 

We therefore assumed this was for the water. The landlord now says the meter that Thames Water have discovered is nothing to do with him.

 

I have asked Thames Water to send an engineer to show me where this meter is, (it is in the street away from my business)

and requested they prove it feeds my business only and none of the residential apartments of business within the main building under which is my business.

 

They have no explanation as to why they have not billed anyone for 13 years!

 

Advice urgently required as I do not have the funds for £26,575 bill even if they spread it over 2 years as they have currently offered!

 

I have no issue paying ongoing monthly charges that are right and just but cannot afford to back pay their error over the last 6 years.

Is there anything I can do??

 

thanks

DEC.

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Hi Dec

 

Welcome to CAG

 

Don't speak to them over the phone. Keep everything in writing. Don't accept the debt until proof has been provided.

 

What are you paying your landlord for?

 

You have a genuine dispute, even if they can backbill you, they have made errors so they need to drastically reduce the bill as a gesture of goodwill. Try negotiating it down to 60%.

 

http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/consumerissues/problemspayingbill/nobill/

 

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/consumer_w/consumer_water_supply_e/consumer_problems_with_paying_your_water_bill_e/backdated_water_bills.htm

 

Get Thames Water to prove supply first, find out what your landlord is charging you for.

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Hi Rebel11

 

Thankyou for your prompt response. It's great to be on the site!

 

Yes I have requested only letter and email communication.

 

The landlord has sated that I contribute to the shared waste water outlet as mu business is under a block of flats. I think that looks like it may develop into another dispute as I can't understand how I have to pay to both.

 

Thames Water have offered me to pay over 2 years. So far I have not mentioned the £26,575 to them, only registered my shock, and demanded proof the meter is related to my business and only my business. To date they have refused to send me the original engineers report, but I have a meeting with an engineer onsite tomorrow.

 

If proven any ideas on how far I can push them to reduce the bill. Its very worrying.

 

thanks

DEC

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Quick update.

 

Thames water have stated that the engineers report that initially established the meter provides direct mains supply to my business,

is an internal report so cannot be sent to me.

 

Does anyone have advice on this?

 

Can I demand to see the report under the Data Protection Act 1998?

 

I want to know how it was established, and whether it was proved beyond doubt that it supplies only my premises not any of the others in the same building.

 

many thanks

DEC

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Hi DEC73

 

At the moment it's all about gathering information, you will want a breakdown of the £26,575. You will need to find out what other local businesses have been paying over the last 6 years, would you have been offered any discounts? etc.

Then put forward a case for a huge reduction, you depend on your business for your livelyhood, the monies they are asking for could put you out of business etc. Offer to pay what you as a business can reasonably manage, negotiate hard.

 

PS. So they have no engineers report that they can send you.

I would contact your local MP, get him/her on the case. This is all sounding very suspect. You could send a SAR request, they will send you all the DATA on the account, that might be telling, but I doubt you would get the engineers report.

 

Keep us updated.

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You have not stated what sort of business you operate?

 

A bill of approx £4500 per year would not be out of the ordinary for say a large restaurant or laundrette for example.

 

If it is not one of these then would suggest you locate the meter using the serial number, water company can give you a location, and do a tap test by turning off all the water using devices in your premises and then seeing if the water meter is still spinning.

 

If it is I would suggest this is a joint supply with the flats above your premises.

 

In that event the fact your tenancy states water included would be irrelevant as the Water Industry Act 1991 states the occupier(s) of a property are liable for the charges not the landlord and in order to obtain separate bills for the property the supply should be split which is at the landlords cost and they usually don't want to pay for this happening knowing they cannot be held liable for the bills leaving the tenants in the lurch and liable by statute.

 

Do the tap test first to establish what your meter serves then go from there though it could be useful if you know the residential occupants as in the event of a joint supply the water comapny should add all parties to the bill making everyone jointly and severally liable for the charges.

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Hi Kjun & JoeyJoeyC

 

Thankyou for adding to the discussion.

 

I own a small family run fitness club, so I guess £370 a month may not be unreasonable. Its difficult to tell because I have never had a bill and neither did the previous tenants. I have no issue with paying what is right and fair, my real worry is the £26,575 bill. I simply don't have that money. Even 60% is just under £16,000. I am a small business and to repay that amount over 2 years plus the monthly water bill will be £1000 a month.

 

I am meeting another Thames Water engineer today who is going to show me where the meter is in the street, turn off the flow of water, which should prove it feeds my gym. However as I pointed out it won't be able to prove it supplies only my gym?

 

thanks

DEC

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Hi Dec

 

Tell him you want the engineers report, that will explain quite a few things.

 

Hi Kjun & JoeyJoeyC

 

Thankyou for adding to the discussion.

 

I own a small family run fitness club, so I guess £370 a month may not be unreasonable. Its difficult to tell because I have never had a bill and neither did the previous tenants. I have no issue with paying what is right and fair, my real worry is the £26,575 bill. I simply don't have that money. Even 60% is just under £16,000. I am a small business and to repay that amount over 2 years plus the monthly water bill will be £1000 a month.

 

I am meeting another Thames Water engineer today who is going to show me where the meter is in the street, turn off the flow of water, which should prove it feeds my gym. However as I pointed out it won't be able to prove it supplies only my gym?

 

thanks

DEC

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Hi Dec

 

The engineer is carrying out the tap test I suggested in the previous post.

 

If the meter continues to spin when all the water in your premises are turned off then this would suggest a shared supply with the flats above your premises or possibly a leak.

 

If it is still this would indicate that the meter only supplies your property however I would check this again say first thing in the morning when the persons in the flats would be getting ready for work and showering etc just in case everyone is out at work when the tap test is done by the engineer.

 

If you have been paying water rates as part of your tenancy have you contacted the landlord/managing agents and asked they pass these onto the water company as it sounds like they have retained these?

 

This could get very messy as legislation states an occupier is liable and if the bill turns out to be only yours and correct while you have been paying water rates to the landlord who have not passed it on you may need to take your own action against them to recover these payments as the water company can only pursue the party that has benefited from the service.

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Thankyou everyone for your continued input.

 

@rebell 11 - After I meet with the engineer today i will ask to see all reports relating to the meter, if necessary under Data Protection laws.

 

@kjun - the landlord has stated my contributions in my service charge are for shared water services and usage in communal areas with the flats above my business. It is a lot less then the proposed Thames Water charges for my unit, and may well be accurate. As we have never received any communication in 8 years at the premises from Thames Water, and with the service charge listing, it was assumed that was our water charges.

 

@swoosh - yes we are a ltd company - total assets less current liabilities 31st January 2014 £915

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Hi DEC

 

Once you've got all the facts nailed down. Write a Formal Letter of Complaint, mark it as such. Explain what's happened, how they have let you down and what you want them to do.

 

Send it to:-

 

Mr Martin Baggs

Chief Executive

[email protected]

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As a Limited company, the good news is the debt will not fall back on yourself personally. In this instance, if this is a bill that cannot be paid by your company then it very much sounds like your company may be insolvent. If a company is not able to meet its obligations then its the legal duty of the directors to cease trading.

 

Ok - This may sound scary but could also be a complete solution to your problem. If a company ceases trading, this water debt will die with it. There is nothing stopping you from creating a completely brand new Limited company once again, free from this debt. Giving the circumstances and giving how long you have been in the property, I suspect your existing landlord would be willing to transfer the lease for your property over to a new co.

 

There are other factors to take into account. I am assuming you would have a fair amount of assets giving its a fitness club. Are these assets owned by the company or are the leased or on finance? If owned, your best bet would be to get a couple of auctioneers round to value your stock, the value of the stock at auction would be around 25% of the actual value so the new company could pick this up cheap. If leased, the company leasing them to you will no doubt have no problems assigning them to a new company as opposed to arranging collection ect.

 

There are other factors to consider, such as the Directors Loan Account, if this is overdrawn it may need paying back if anyone decided to appoint an Insolvency Practitioner. You will also need your members to sign a new contract with the new Ltd company.

 

Although this option is not everyones cup of tea, you could very much end up better off dependant on how it plays out.

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@ Swoosh84 - The equipment is under finance with personal guarantees. I would rather negotiate a settlement than pre-pack the business.

 

@ rebell 11 - Thankyou, I will write to him, for what use it will be. I'm sure his team must read the numerous letters of complaint he receives daily.

 

Interestingly, the landlord stated all the commercial units have their own meter, and the residents are fed from tanks at the base of the building which are pumped up to the flats. However mine is the only meter in the street outside the premises perimeter. The others are all grouped together in the car park. But when i looked at the schematics for water the landlord has, it shows my unit linked into the other supplies. Thames water agreed the building schematics are wrong.

 

Thanks for your continued support and knowledge.

DEC

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Does your lease confirm what your landlord says about what you're paying for?

 

Are Thames duplicating the element(s) you're paying your LL?

 

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Just a side note to take into consideation.

 

Your landlord said you were paying towards a contribution on the waste water

 

IN some places the foul water charge can be a separate company to the one that delivers your water.

 

EG My water is delivered by Portsmouth Water. Drainage and foul water is charged by Southern Water.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi All

 

Following a period of investigation and emails with Thames Water and the landlord I have the following update.

 

It is our water supply, TW have accepted the meter has never been billed since its instillation and the previous occupant of my unit was billed for 4 years on a different meter for standing charges only not consumption and wastage. Even though TW established in 2003 which meter served the unit.

 

They made an original consumption estimate of based on a reading in June 2014 of 5.8m3 this has now been revised following a further reading in August 2014 of 4.73m3.

 

I have commented based on this variation in such a small period how are they able to estimate usage backdated 6 years on a 'fair' basis.

 

They have offered a discount of:

Aug 2008 to Aug 2010 usage to be charged at 2m3 total £3709 not £7125

Aug 2010 to Aug 2012 usage to be charged at 4m3 total £6403 not £7724

Aug 2012 to Aug 2014 usage to be charged at 4.73m3 total £8131

 

So far they have been unable to answer what formula they have used to calculate the reduced rate.

 

Although the initial bill of £26,575 has now been reduced to £18,243 the majority is actually related to the drop in usage from 5.8m3 to 4.73m3. In real terms it is only a discount of £4737.

 

There will be a large variation on usage from the club over the 6 years due to membership growth, and seasonal usage anyway.

 

Does anyone have any further advice on how much discount I should be aiming for?

 

many Thanks

DEC

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Hi All

 

Following a period of investigation and emails with Thames Water and the landlord I have the following update.

 

It is our water supply, TW have accepted the meter has never been billed since its instillation and the previous occupant of my unit was billed for 4 years on a different meter for standing charges only not consumption and wastage. Even though TW established in 2003 which meter served the unit.

 

They made an original consumption estimate of based on a reading in June 2014 of 5.8m3 this has now been revised following a further reading in August 2014 of 4.73m3.

 

I have commented based on this variation in such a small period how are they able to estimate usage backdated 6 years on a 'fair' basis.

 

They have offered a discount of:

Aug 2008 to Aug 2010 usage to be charged at 2m3 total £3709 not £7125

Aug 2010 to Aug 2012 usage to be charged at 4m3 total £6403 not £7724

Aug 2012 to Aug 2014 usage to be charged at 4.73m3 total £8131

 

So far they have been unable to answer what formula they have used to calculate the reduced rate.

 

Although the initial bill of £26,575 has now been reduced to £18,243 the majority is actually related to the drop in usage from 5.8m3 to 4.73m3. In real terms it is only a discount of £4737.

 

There will be a large variation on usage from the club over the 6 years due to membership growth, and seasonal usage anyway.

 

Does anyone have any further advice on how much discount I should be aiming for?

 

many Thanks

DEC

 

 

Hi Dec, what sort of businesses have used this unit?

 

 

I would be looking into Thames Water's Terms of Supply to Business Premises.

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Hi Brigadier2JCS (great photo by the way)

 

Thankyou for your quick reply.

 

Any advice on what I should be looking for in terms of TW terms of supply to business premises. I know they have a right to backdate 6 years of bills.

 

thanks

DEC

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