A recent change to the law has come into force that tenants water rates arrears could now fall to the Landlord to pay the bill, if they do not advise the utility company of their tenant’s details.

Tenant arrears of utilities – be it water, gas, electricity or telephone – had never been the responsibility of the Landlord previously, with the contract for the utilities always having been between the tenant and the supplier and the tenant’s agreement would have clearly stated that the tenant was responsible for these bill payments.

Following the introduction of the Water Industry Act 1999, water utility companies had their traditional threat of ‘cutting off’ supplies to a non payer withdrawn (unlike other gas, electricity and telephone suppliers).  Water companies are no longer able to use this sanction by law.

Following OFWAT and Government reviews on how water charges are to be collected – and specifically over this landlord issue – the recommendations have now led to changes in the law under Part 2, s45 (1-3) of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which came into force in October 2012.

This means that Landlords failing to notify suppliers or water companies of a tenant’s details will become jointly liable with their tenant for overdue water charges. The easiest option for the water company would be to pursue the Landlord for the debt rather than trying to recover the debt from the tenant and having to find them to do this, especially if they have left the property.

If you are a Landlord, you should always make a point of writing to all the utility suppliers of your property on renting out to a new tenant and keep copies of all correspondence on file along with readings of all meters.  This must also be repeated to the suppliers when a tenancy ends, providing a forwarding address of the tenant where possible.

Remember too, if you have an agent working on your behalf to find tenants for your properties they should also be letting utility companies know of new tenants and leaving tenants.  Check this is done with your letting agent, but please note if you only have a ‘let only’ contact with the agency they will not inform any utility companies.  You will then need to do this yourself as well as the tenant.

Having Landlord Insurance in place will protect you financially from any risks that may be associated with renting your property out to a tenant.  With a Landlord insurance policy from The Insurance Octopus you can have public liability insurance which can be up to £10million, employers liability insurance up to £10m, buildings and property insurance, and optional extras.

We can help you tailor your Landlord Insurance quote to your specific requirements.  Whether you own one property and rent it out or a portfolio of properties,we can help you to insure them all.  Our prices are competitive and we search a panel of UK insurers to find the best policy for you.