If you don’t pay your water bill

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

This page tells you what can happen when you owe your water company money and what you can do about it.

Can your water company disconnect your supply?

If you are a domestic (non-business customer), water companies can't, by law, disconnect or restrict your water supply if you owe them money.  

Check how you can pay your water bill if you’re renting.

What action can your water company take to get their money back?

Whenever you get a bill, check to make sure it's your bill and has been worked out correctly. After sending your bill, a water company may:

  • send one or more reminder notices, with the final notice giving you seven days to pay. If you have more than one unpaid water bill, you should get separate reminder notices for each bill

  • telephone you to ask for payment

  • pass your debt to a debt recovery agent.

As a last resort, the company can take you to court to get a county court judgment to recover the money you owe. You may then get a notice of enforcement from a firm of bailiffs telling you they are going to come round. If they come, they could take goods to sell to pay the money you owe.

In some circumstances the owner of the property can be responsible for the bill jointly with the occupier, and the company might try to recover the money from the owner.

Negotiating with your water company

Speak to your water company when you realise you can’t pay your bill. If you work out what you can pay and agree this with them, it will avoid you having the stress and expense of going to court and being charged extra costs. It will also mean that your credit rating isn’t affected.

Each water company should have a code of practice for dealing with customers who owe money. Contact your company to ask for a copy of their code of practice - you should find contact details on your bill. Use this code of practice to come to an arrangement about paying back what you owe.

Phone, then write to your water company, and offer an amount you can pay based on your current use of water and what you can afford towards the amount you owe. Some companies have a debtline service.  

To work out how much you can afford to pay towards the amount you owe, work out how much money you have coming in, what you have going out and what other debts you have. The company should be sensitive and take into account your ability to pay.  Occasionally, it might be possible to have the debt written off so you don’t need to pay it at all.

Your water company may refuse your payment offer if it isn't enough to clear your current water bill and the amount you owe. However, you should still consider making any payments you can afford and keeping your proof of payment.  This could help you argue later that you have been as reasonable as possible and acted in good faith to clear any debts.

  • Get help with bills if you're trying to cut your spending or having problems with your outgoings.


If you are on certain benefits, you can get a third party deduction on a scheme called Waterdirect. This means the Department for Work and Pension pays something from your benefits directly to the water company. The water company may ask for this is if all other ways of paying haven’t worked.

If you're unsure how best to negotiate with the water company, Citizens Advice may be able to help. If you're unhappy with your water company’s response, you can ask the Consumer Council for Water to look into the issue on your behalf.

Special schemes

Your water company may have special schemes to help particular groups of people or to help clear debt.

You may also be able to get help from a scheme called Watersure. If you are a customer of Welsh Water, you may able to get help from The Welsh Water HelpU scheme.

Saving money on water bills

There may be things you can do to cut down on water bills in the future. This could prevent you from getting into further debt. Getting a water meter, getting on a special payment scheme if there is one, and using less water can all help.

Next steps

Get help with bills and budgeting

If you're trying to cut your spending or are having trouble keeping up with payments, see our advice on getting help with bills. Use our budgeting tool to see exactly where your money goes each month.

Other useful information

Check what to do if you have problems with your water bill on the OFWAT website.

Check which water company supplies your area on the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) website.

If you need more help with your water bills, contact the CCW on their website.

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Page last reviewed on 20 February 2020