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Negotiating with your water company to pay back what you owe

This advice applies to Wales

If you owe money on your water bills, you should talk to your water company and come to an arrangement to pay back what you owe.

Your water company can’t disconnect you if you owe them money, but if you don’t pay up, they could take you to court. You may get a county court judgment against you and you’ll have to pay extra court costs. If you don’t pay up after that, bailiffs might come round and take away some of your goods.

Read this page to find out how to come to an arrangement with your water company if you’re in debt.

Speak to your water company as soon as you can

Speak to your water company as soon as you realise you can’t pay your bill. You should find contact details on your bill. Some companies have a special debt line service you can use to discuss payment problems. Look for this number on your bill or on their website.

If the water company has contacted you to say you’re behind with your payments, get back to them straight away. If they have already started court action, ask them not to go ahead with this action. If you tell them you’re willing to pay back what you owe, this might persuade them not to take things further.

Making an offer to pay back what you owe

Each water company should have a code of practice for dealing with customers who owe money - your water company can provide you with a copy. Use this code of practice to come to an arrangement about paying back what you owe.

Phone 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. You should follow up your phone call with a letter, confirming what you’ve agreed to pay.

If you show you can pay something towards your current use of water as well as what you owe, it should will help you come to an agreement.

Work out how much you can afford to pay.  Write down how much money you have coming in, what you have going out and what other debts you have. The company isn’t forced to take account of your ability to pay, but they should follow industry regulator OFWAT’s guidelines for dealing with customers in debt. These say that water companies should take account of your ability to pay. You could point this out to them if you’re having difficulty in coming to an agreement.

Occasionally, it might be possible to have the debt written off so you don’t need to pay it at all.

If you’re on a water meter

If you have a water meter, your water company is likely to estimate your current use of water based on the previous year. If you think this might have changed, you should explain this to the water company and make sure your payments take this into account. You might think the amount of water you use has changed, for example, if there are now less people in  your household than before. Make sure the water company knows about things like this.

What if your water company refuses your offer?

Your water company may refuse your payment offer, if it isn't enough to clear your current water bill and the amount you owe. Even if they refuse your offer of payment, you should still make any payments you can afford and keep your proof of payment. If you’re taken to court, this could help you argue that you have been as reasonable as possible and acted in good faith to clear any debts.

If you’ve been sent a final reminder notice giving you seven days to pay your bill, contact the water company as soon as possible. If you make arrangements to pay within seven days of getting this notice, it may help you avoid going to court – even if you don’t start making payments straight away.

If you are having trouble negotiating, you could ask to speak to someone more senior. You can also get help from a Citizens Advice bureau or the Consumer Council for Water who will look into the issue on your behalf.

If you're behind with your water bills and  are on certain benefits, you may be able to go on a scheme called Water Direct.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • You can find the OFWAT guidelines on how water companies should deal with households  in debt at: www.oftwat.gov.uk.
  • To find out which water company supplies your area, go to  the Consumer Council for Water's website at: www.ccwater.org.uk.
  • For more help with water issues, go to the Consumer Council for Water's website at: www.ccwater.org.uk.
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