09 Mar 2015

A question about : Souther Water bill Ј2200

Hi All,
I received a water bill from Southern Water last year for a staggering Ј2200. I spoke to Southern Water who advised it was very likely there was a leak somewhere and to get a plumber to check it. I contacted a plumber who turned off the water a tap under the sink and checked the meter in the ground just outside my driveway, the meter was still moving.

He advised that there was a leak but it would the responsibility of the water company to detect and fix it. I called them and they said they would investigate.
I have since however received another bill from a debt collections agency for the same amount asking for it to paid in full ASAP. I contacted SW again and explained that they were supposed to be investigating the leak. They replied with the response below which does not mention the debt however I was advised they would speak to the DCA to stop sending me letters. I have escalated this with one of the customer service managers who mentioned they will look into wavering the excessive bill. I am waiting for confirmation of this in writing….

I would like to know if anyone else has been through a similar situation and how it was resolved. Also I would like to respond to the letter below as I feel no real information has been provided in relation to the checks SW have done, and why they are unable to detect the leak without digging up the drive.

I would be grateful if anyone can assist with a response letter or any points I could use in my favour.
[IMG]C:\Temp\Southern water[/IMG]
Thanks for reading!!

Best answers:

  • The copy of their letter is not shown in your post.
    Firstly any leak after the meter is your responsibility, be it a leak in the house or between the meter and house.
    That said the water company will normally find and fix the leak as a 'goodwill' measure. They will also normally write off the charge for any excess consumption caused by the leak.
    However they usually have a disclaimer if the leak is, say, under an outbuilding or garage.
    There have been scores of cases about leaks after the meter and most have been resolved to the customer's satisfaction.
    They can normally precisely locate a bad leak, but a slow leak is more difficult to detect with any precision. How else will they be able to repair the leak other than digging up your drive?
    For a DCA to be involved the non-payment of a bill has normally gone on for months - is this the case? or did it come 'out of the blue'? If the latter you have grounds for a complaint - not least that your credit record will probably be affected.
    If you post the contents of SW's letter we can advise better on your response, but it is important that you recognise that it is not SW's responsibility to find and repair the leak - and doing so is a goodwill measure
  • Further to the above:
  • Hi,
    Thank you for the quick reply Cardew, ...
    I am unable to add links due to being a new user on the site. I have typed out the letter I received from SW, please see below..
    I refer to our discussion on 26 January 2015 at 13.00 concerning your leaking private supply pipe feeding you house as above.
    To ensure you understand a home owner’s responsibilities please note the following.
    As per The Water Act once a pipe leave the public domain and enters private lands that pipe becomes a Private Supply Pipe and the responsibility for the upkeep of that pipe is with the legal owner of the house it feeds. Whilst Southern Water will currently do up to 3 free repairs on a private supply pipe that does depend on where the pipe is laid, and surfaces or structures it runs under and most importantly Southern Water being able to locate the pipe and the leak.
    Unfortunately in the case of you pipe we cannot locate the leak but do bear in mind it may possibly be more than 1 leak.
    Once this particular pipe leaves the public domain it runs under a driveway shared with your neighbour. There are 2 ways to resolve the leak, you could engage a private contractor to locate the leak and repair.
    Alternatively you could engage a private contractor to relay a new pipe from the stopcock in public footpath to your internal stopcock. As you have a shared drive any work undertaken would have to be in conjunction with those neighbours who share the drive.
    I am available to either meet you on site or by phone if you would like any further assistance. Could you please ensure the leak is resolved by February 28th.
    Supply Pipe Coordinator Sussex.
    Any advice you can offer would be most appreciated...
  • Firstly that letter is confirmation of what I stated above in that it is your responsibility to repair, and your plumber was wrong in stating otherwise.
    Personally I would offer to meet him on site and listen to his advice. As long as you appreciate that you have no cards(yet) to play, they may still be helpful.
    You didn't answer the question about the DCA being involved with non payment of your bill. Is it possible that you have used up your 'goodwill' with the company??
    I am afraid that you are in a very weak position as the leak is clearly your responsibility. I suspect SW would normally go ahead with a repair, but they have a problem with the supply pipe going under your neighbour's drive. If the neighbour is 'difficult' they don't want the hassle.
    Somewhere in your deeds should be provision that you have access to the water pipe under his land in this type of situation. It is also pertinent to point out that leaks invariably get worse and it is possible that the water could damage the foundations of the house(s)
    Regulations change frequently, but I believe SW can, and will, turn off your water if you don't get the leak fixed.
    So to repeat, meet him on site and listen to any proposition.
    Good luck.
  • Have you tried contacting your buildings insurance company - they sorted out my leak a couple of years ago, all I paid was the "excess" charge and I was credited with the cost of the lost water.
    However as Cardew says it's complicated by possibly being under a neighbours drive.
    Over Ј2000 worth of water leaking away is close on to half a million litres that's run away under your house, drive or garden under which could do severe damage to either yours or your neighbours property by undermining the foundations.
    Most water companies will credit your account with the lost water provided you get it fixed within about 28 days otherwise they can come and do it themselves and send you the charges for doing the fix and you wont get credited with the loss. They can do this under Section 75 or the Water Industries Act 1991 and then you'll have no control over what they do or what they charge.
    Taking up their offer of coming to investigate would be a good start but don't leave it - it certainly won't get better and could get a lot worse.