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Changing to a water meter

This advice applies to England

You either pay your water bill based on a fixed rate or on the actual amount of water you use, measured with a water meter.

This page explains your right to have a meter installed and the pros and cons of switching to a meter.

Your right to have a meter installed

You have a right to be charged for your water on the basis of what you use. This means you have a right to have a meter installed free of charge, unless it's not practical or is unreasonably expensive to do this.  Tenants also have the right to ask for a meter if their tenancy agreement is for six months or longer .

If you're considering changing to a water meter, you should contact your water company. You could do this by phone, or you may be able to apply on their website.

If you can’t have a water meter installed for any reason, your water company may be able to put you on a cheaper tariff to save money.

In some areas, the water company is introducing universal water metering, so everyone will be given a meter.

If you ask for a meter, a company should install it within three months.  In areas where free meters are being offered for the first time, this period may be six months.

When is it a good idea to consider changing to a water meter?

Changing to a water meter may benefit you if you don’t use much water.  

It may also be worth changing to a meter if your property has a high rateable value. This is because some water bills are based on the rateable value of the property. Before April 1990, every property in England and Wales was given a rateable value, based on how much the property could be let for. A good rule of thumb is that you could pay less if there are fewer people in your property than there are bedrooms.

If you change to a water meter, the company will come to read your meter. You won't know exactly what you're going to be charged in every bill  because the amount of water you use could increase if extra people come to live with you or if you buy any new water-using appliances.

You will be responsible for paying for any water that leaks. However, a water company won't normally charge for the first leak in an underground supply pipe.

Many water companies have water usage calculators on their website, to help you work out how much you are likely to pay if you have a meter. You can also use a calculator on the Consumer Council for Water website at www.ccwater.org.uk.

If you find you are not better off after changing to a meter, you can usually change back to how the bill was paid before within twelve months. You can't do this if you have moved into a property where a meter is already installed, or if universal metering has been introduced for everyone in your area.

If you are a tenant

If you're a tenant, you can still ask for a meter.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement of less than six months, you must ask the landlord’s permission. If your fixed-term tenancy agreement is longer than six months, you don't need your landlord's permission to have a meter but your tenancy agreement may require you to ask their permission for alterations to the property.

You may need advice if your landlord doesn't agree to you having a meter, as any disagreements could cause problems when renewing the tenancy.

Help with your water bills

Watersure is a scheme which helps some people with their water bills. To apply for the scheme, you must be on benefits and need to use a lot of water either for medical reasons or because your household has a certain number of school-age children. You also need to be on a water meter or be waiting to have one installed.

The Welsh Water Assist Scheme is a similar scheme for customers of Welsh Water, but you do not need to be on a water meter or having one installed.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • To find out which water company supplies your  area and for more help with water issues, go to the Consumer Council for Water's website at: www.ccwater.org.uk.
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