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Priority debts - water rates

Water companies can no longer disconnect your water supply if you are in arrears. If the water company threatens to disconnect you, complain to OFWAT (which regulates the water companies).

Bills for water rates are usually issued half-yearly in April and October. If you pay by instalments, the company will want the bill paid over eight months from May to December. You can ask to pay your bills weekly, fortnightly or monthly over a longer period. Contact your water company to ask for a payment arrangement.

You should carry on including your water rates in your personal budget. If you have water rates arrears then you can make an offer of repayment that you can afford using your budget sheet along with your other credit debts.

If you have a complaint about the way the water company is dealing with your arrears, contact OFWAT. Its guidelines say the company should take your circumstances into account when making an arrangement to pay. OFWAT has regional Customer Services Committees who will look into your complaint. For your regional contact number look in the local phone book.

Direct payments
If you get Income Support or Job Seeker's Allowance, you can ask the Benefits Agency to deduct an amount from your benefit each week to cover current water rates and a standard amount towards the arrears. The Benefits Agency will pay the money direct to the water company.
Help with high bills
To qualify for help you must be on a water meter and someone in the household must be on certain benefits. There must also be three or more children under 16 or someone with a medical condition that means extra water use.

You can get an application form from your water company. You need to give proof of which benefit you are receiving and you will need to explain your medical condition in detail.

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