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Landlords responsible for tenant water bills

You may think that as a landlord you are not liable for your tenants’ water bill. Well up until a change in the law that was true. We reported recently that many landlords face a relentless pursuit by some debt collection companies trying to collect the debts for unpaid water bills racked up by tenants.
Despite all of this unless you were letting an House in Multiple Occupation a landlord remained not liable for their tenants bills. Generally though, what are a landlords water responsibilities?

Change in the law governing water bills for landlords

This all changed last month with the coming into force of certain provisions of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which gives water companies additional powers. Specifically they were granted the power to make a landlord assume liability for their tenants’ unpaid water bills where they fail to inform the supplier of the new tenants details at the start of the tenancy. (Note to self – I’ve just had a new tenant move in so I need to let Seven Trent know!)

Are the changes to the water legislation onerous to landlords?

This seems to me to be overly onerous on landlords to be immediately responsible for a tenants’ bill just for a small administrative oversight. However, it also highlights the need for landlords to take control of the management of their buy-to-let. There are increasingly burdensome responsibilities on landlords to organise their letting particularly at the time of the initial let.

The recent requirement for the landlord to protect and notify their tenant with a 213 notice of where and how their hold their tenants deposit is an example of this.

Should landlords have sympathy for the water companies?

In some ways I do have some sympathy with utility companies who must get ‘ripped’ off all the time because of ‘flitting’ tenants. These charges are ultimately borne by us all in higher bills and charges. Nonetheless, it seems somewhat unfair to saddle the landlord with these charges just for a small technical oversight.

Let us know your thoughts, post your comments below.

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