Water in Scotland

What is the Wholesale Charges Deferral Scheme?

In June of 2020, the Water Industry Commission for Scotland introduced support measures aimed at helping non-household customers affected by COVID-19. Premises with a 25mm or smaller meter size, and unmeasured premises can apply for a deferral of up to 60% of their wholesale fixed charges (backdated all the way to the 24th of March 2020).

Has the Scottish Government removed the exemption for vacant non-household premises?

The exemption for vacant non-household properties has been removed, and the properties are now liable for charges in the same way as occupied properties. The owners of vacant properties have been liable for sewerage, drainage, and water charges since the 1st of April 2017.

How to notify water and sewerage suppliers of a change in occupancy or a property becoming vacant?

It is a legal requirement (The Water Resources Act 2013) for water and sewerage suppliers to be notified by owners of commercial properties when there is a change of occupancy or when a property becomes vacant. Commercial property owners should use the Scottish Landlord Portal service to record all properties and enter details about properties. This service is also extended to property associations, landlords, management agents, or councils. It also allows service users to keep their suppliers informed of any changes.

I received a letter from Scottish Water about appointing a licensed provider – what does this mean?

Non-household properties in receipt of services from Scottish Water will need to pay for those services through a supplier. If a property has not been registered correctly and is not being charged – it will be referred to as a ‘gap site’. If your property has been identified as a gap site, then you will receive a letter like the one mentioned above.

Recipients will have 15 days to choose a supplier or licensed provider and put arrangements in place. If not, a supplier will be chosen at random.

If you already have a supplier then it is advisable to get in touch with them and quote the reference number on the letter – it is possible that the letter could be about another part of your property that you are not currently paying for.

My property doesn’t have a water connection/I already paid for my water through my landlord – why do I now have to pay a supplier?

Even if you do not have any water or wastewater connections, there may still be applicable charges for drainage if any part of the property or communal areas you have access to drain into the public sewerage system.

In the situation of your landlord paying your water, you may still need to pay drainage charges based on the rateable value of the property.

I fall under the charity exemption scheme – do I need to choose a water supplier?

Yes – all non-household customers in Scotland that use water/wastewater services need to have a supplier. If you do not have one, you must appoint one or one will be randomly chosen.

How to find out who my supplier is?

It is possible to find this information in two ways – firstly, look at your business/organisation’s water bill. This bill will clearly state who supplies your premises with water.

Secondly, find out whether your business/organisation has switched suppliers since the market opened on 1st of April 2008. If there has been no switch, you will be a customer of Business Stream.

If neither of these approaches works for you – you may need to contact all the licensed providers to ask if you are a customer of theirs.

Are water charges included in my business rates?

No. Non-household customers are billed separately for water and sewerage supplies, with household customers paying through their Council Tax bill. Every occupier of a non-household premises shares the responsibility to contact suppliers and pay for their water and sewerage services they are in receipt of.

Will I be disconnected if I do not pay?

Yes. Non-household premises can be disconnected in the event of non-payment.

There are many safeguards in place so that customers have every opportunity to pay, as well as restrictions on who can be disconnected and when.

 I have been in my premises for a long time without receiving a bill – why am I being contacted to pay back-dated charges?

As already mentioned, all occupiers of non-household premises must contact a supplier to pay for the water and sewerage services that they are receiving. This is so everyone pays their fair share towards the maintenance of the water network in Scotland. Although it may seem unfair, water suppliers are more than entitled to charge you for all of the services used at the premise since the date of occupation.

It is important to check that the period you are being charged for is correct and then speak to your supplier about any charges (including disputed amounts) and what the repayment terms are.

Why am I being charged for roads and property drainage?

In order to recover the cost of the sewer network transporting surface water away from properties and treating it before release back into the environment, a charge must be passed on to customers. Roads drainage is an individual’s share of the cost of draining all of Scotland’s roads, not just those local to your area. It is a policy from the Scottish Government that the cost of road drainage is recovered from all customers that are connected to the Public Sewer System.

You will be charged for Roads and Property Drainage if your premises falls into any of the following categories:

  • Drain to the Public Sewer System
  • Have a drain connected, either directly or through an intermediate sewer or drain, to Public Sewer System
  • Gain benefit from facilities which drain into the Public Sewer System or drain so connecting
  • Have a septic tank overflow that will drain into the Public Sewer System

The amount of Roads and Property Drainage that you will be required to pay is based on the Rateable Value of your premises. If you think that the level of charges you are expected to pay is wrong, then speak to your sewage supplier.

I think I am being charged the wrong amount – what do I do?

The first thing that you should do is speak to your supplier as soon as you believe there is an issue with your billing. For those on metered charges, it is advisable to take a meter reading prior to contacting suppliers as you will inevitably need this. If the problem lies with the meter, contact your supplier immediately.

For those customers on unmetered charges, the bill will be based on the rateable value of your premises. If you pay water and sewerage charges based on the rateable value, then you can also apply to have your charges reassessed. This will first check to see whether a meter can be fitted at the premises. Following on from this, it allows your charges to be reassessed based on a consumption estimate rather than RV.

What to do if I don’t have a meter?

It is unusual for non-household premises not to have a meter installed, as the Scottish Government has had an aim to introduce metered charging universally across Scotland. For a limited number of premises, it is uneconomical for Scottish Water to have installed a meter.

If you think this applies to you – then you may be able to apply for a reassessment, in which case there will be monetary assistance towards the cost of installing a meter. If this still isn’t possible, you may be able to have charges recalculated based on consumption estimates. If your water usage is particularly low then this could be of great benefit. If you wish to do this, you must contact your supplier and request them to submit a reassessment application on your behalf.

I have an issue with a private supply – what do I do?

Any problems with a private supply must be dealt with by negotiation with the owner of the supply – in which case it may be advisable to seek assistance from a lawyer.

There are protections in place in terms of price but only where the owner of the supply is reselling household supplies that they originally purchased from Scottish Water.

How will competition within the English water industry affect me?

In 2014 the UK government passed a bill that allowed for a competitive market in water and sewerage services in England in a similar fashion to the system already present in Scotland. English customers have been able to choose their supplier since April of 2017.

If your business is based entirely in Scotland, the effects will only be indirect – but suppliers on the new market may seek to compete in Scotland too (giving Scottish customers more choice to choose from).

If your business operates in both Scotland and England, the market will have more direct benefits. You will now be able to switch suppliers in England just like you are in Scotland, as well as possibly now being able to have a single supplier for all your sites across Great Britain.

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