Back in 2010 we reported how, section 45 Flood and Water Management Act 2010 would insert a new section 144C into the Water Industry Act 1991 requiring landlords to provide details of their tenants to water authorities. A failure to provide the information would make the landlord jointly liable for the water charges even for the period whilst the tenant was in occupation.
A consultation about what information should be provided by landlords was held in 2012 for England and 2013 for Wales.
Now, the provisions are to be commenced from 1 January 2015 mostly in Wales but in some parts of England too.
The areas covered by the legislation are where the property is provided by a water supplier who’s area is “wholly or mainly in Wales”. These are Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Dee Valley Water. The legislation does not affect properties covered by other water providers but does mean some properties in the England counties of Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire supplied by those two providers are caught. Despite Seven Trent Water suppling water to some properties in Wales, those properties are NOT caught by the legislation currently (because they do not supply water wholly or mainly in Wales).
What information must be provided?
The Water Industry (Undertakers Wholly or Mainly in Wales) (Information about Non-owner Occupiers) Regulations 2014 requires certain information to be provided to the relevant water authority.
The owner of the property (or their agent) must supply the following information about any adult occupiers (including persons not named on the tenancy agreement but not children under age 18):
- their full names;
- their dates of birth (where such information has been provided to the owner);
- the date or dates on which the occupiers began to occupy the premises (if that date is after the commencement day).
It is important to clarify that the duty relates to all “occupiers” except lodgers. It does not matter what type of tenancy or licence they may have. Nor does it matter whether it is the occupiers only or principle home or not . It will also extend to any sub-tenants so it is essential the owner is aware of any occupiers that may have been allowed occupation under a head tenancy. The head tenant in this situation could act as the owners agent and notify the water authority but owners should be careful because if the information has not been provided correctly, the owner will become jointly liable for the occupiers water charges.
How to provide the information
The information can be provided to the relevant water authority by any of the following:
- Tenant Address Portal for Water Billing in England & Wales
We have just done a quick test of the Tenant Address Portal (www.landlordtap.com) and it asks quite a lot of additional information to that required by the legislation so it is quite lengthy.
In our view, the best option would be to send the information by email or by using the “bulk upload” option on the portal page. You can download a spreadsheet template so all details can be added quickly and easily (and there is much less information needed on the template than the website). Once you’ve completed the template with the appropriate information, simply upload using the links provided. Personally, I would use the spreadsheet upload method even if there is only one to add because it will be much quicker and easier. Once uploaded, details of the information contained within the spreadsheet are extracted and displayed on screen with an export button. This can act as a receipt by exporting the list and storing somewhere safe.
If you are posting to the relevant water authority, ensure you retain a copy and send it recorded delivery.
However you decide to provide the information, it is essential proof is obtained hence we wouldn’t recommend telephone for this.
When must the information be provided?
The information must be provided within 21 days of the date on which an occupier begins to occupy the premises. For existing occupiers as at 1 January 2015, the information must be provided within 21 days of commencement (so by 21 January 2015). The requirement to provide information extends to changes of occupiers during a tenancy because the requirement is within 21 days of when an occupier begins to occupy.
A failure to provide the information will result in the owner of the property becoming jointly and severally liable for the occupiers water charges. However, where the information is provided within 21 days, the owner will not be liable for any of the water charges.
If the information is provided late (after 21 days), the owners joint and several liability will continue until the information is provided and will only cease from the point of providing the information onwards.
Landlords who use a managing agent should check that the agent is aware of these changes and what procedures are in place to ensure the information of existing tenants is provided to the relevant water authorities before 21 January 2015.
The potential costs to landlord owners are immense for a failure to provide the information. If you take a landlord with 5 properties, the average annual water bill being £434.00 and an average tenancy length of 20 months, it’s easy to see how quickly a large amount could quickly become payable. Using these averages, for just one average tenancy on all properties, the amount the owner could be liable to pay would be £3,616.66.
The information required to be provided by the legislation is exempt from the non-disclosure provisions by section 35 Data Protection Act 1998 so consent is not required. However, the occupier must be notified that the information will be provided before an owner provides the information to the water authority. 
Landlords and agents using our application for accommodation and tenancy agreement are already notifying tenants so no further action is required. However, it is worthy of note that if there are adult occupiers not being named on the tenancy agreement (which we would never recommend) or sub-tenants, the owner will need to ensure they have been notified prior to the information being passed to the water authority.