Overpayment of Thames Water Charges
All water in the borough is supplied by Thames Water Utilities. By agreement with Thames Water, Kingston Council collected water charges for council homes at the same time as collecting rent and received commission for doing so between 2003 and 2017. This arrangement was common practice across London Boroughs. No council tenants paid any more for their water and sewerage services than they would have paid if they had been paying Thames Water directly.
In 2016 Southwark Council were challenged on the legality of this arrangement and ordered to reimburse their tenants for the amount they had been found to have overcharged. In 2018 Kingston Council was similarly challenged for overcharging tenants between 2003 and 2017. Following an appeals process to clarify the law, the Court of Appeal made a judgement in October 2020. The judgement says that some tenants could be eligible for a refund for part of the charges.
The council welcomes the judgement which has brought clarity to the situation and is committed to making any payments as quickly as possible. The following sections explain how overpayments have been credited to rent accounts and how to claim a refund if you are eligible.
The refund following the recent judgement regarding the Thames Water commission, previously included as part of the water rate charge, has been applied to current tenants rent accounts.
How your credit was calculated
To help explain how the refund is calculated we will use an example where the water charges paid by a tenant in one year was £300.
The commission added to this charge at 12.4745% is £37.43 for one year. The Council was entitled, under the Water Resale Order, to charge 1.5p per day or £5.48 per year. The refund due for that year is the difference between the commission charged and the allowable admin fee - i.e. £37.43 - £5.48 = £31.95. This calculation is carried out for each year a tenant was charged during the relevant period.
In addition, interest is added to the amount calculated above. This is in recognition of the fact that this money has been held by the Council for a number of years.
The calculation is made in two time periods: 14 January 2003 to 31 March 2006 and 1 April 2006 to 3 August 2017. The reason interest is calculated differently for these two periods is due to the change in the water resale order in 2006 which changes how this should be done.
From 14 January 2003 to 31 March 2006, interest is added at the Bank of England base rate plus 1% applied from the date of the charge to the date the refund was applied to your rent account (02 December 2020). For the period from 1 April 2006 to 3 August 2017 interest has been added at twice the average Bank of England base rate for the period from when the charge was made to when the refund was applied to your rent account.
Further information on the 2001 and 2006 water resale orders is available in the following OFWAT guide to water resale:
What to do if you are eligible for a refund
If the credit applied to your rent account has now left the account in credit you can apply for a refund of any credit balance. Please note that we will not be able to refund amounts unless there is a credit on your rent account. Refund requests against accounts in arrears will not be processed.
We will do our best to process your refund request as soon as possible. If demand for refunds is high this may take 21 days to complete. All refund requests are subject to internal checks to the validity of the request before being processed.
If you require assistance with this application please contact us on 020 8547 5003 and we can assist you in making the application.
The value of the refund due to former tenants will be calculated in the same way as for current tenants which is described above.
Due to data protection requirements we do not hold current addresses for most former tenants so we are unable to contact you directly. However, if you were a Kingston Council tenant during the period 14 January 2003 to 3 August 2017 and paid water rates with your rent you may be eligible for a refund of the commission we received. If you think you are eligible for a refund you will need to request one using this application form.
In order to process claims from former tenants you may be contacted and asked to provide a proof of tenancy (rent reference number) and proof of identity. This is to enable us to protect against fraudulent claims.
Any arrears still outstanding relating to your former rent account will be deducted from any refund due.
Thames Water – Helping Residents Reduce Water Costs
Thames Water is able to offer discount schemes to qualifying residents living in the borough – this may include you.
You are also able to request a water meter from Thames Water - whilst it may not be possible to fit a meter in all homes, this could result in a saving for smaller households.
● Water Saving Freebies - Devices available to help save water up to 50%, there is no charge but you will need to order this via online or phone direct from Thames Water
● Watersure Plus scheme - Helping those residents who are on benefits and low income families who may be entitled to a 50% reduction of their water bill.
● Priority Services - Supporting those residents who have special requirements and medical conditions i.e. sight problems, deaf/hard of hearing, mobility issues and medical conditions that require a continuous supply of water (for example dialysis machines etc.).
Qualifying for WaterSure Plus
The WaterSure Plus scheme social tariff operated by Thames Water gives low-income households a discounted rate on their water bill. For customers applying this year (2019-20) the discount is 50%. A low income is considered to be below £16,105, increasing to £19,201, if you live in a London borough, due to higher living costs. In order to qualify Thames Water will need to do some data checks to verify your income and ensure eligibility.
Qualifying for the WaterSure scheme
The WaterSure scheme operated by Thames Water caps qualifying customers’ water bills to an average price, based on what other customers pay. For this year 2019/20 that’s a total of £398 and if you use less water than the average, you will pay lower than this amount.
To qualify for the scheme you will need to be on a water meter. Secondly, someone in your household must be in receipt of a qualifying means-tested benefit. And finally, you must either have either a medical condition that requires extra water, or have three or more children under the age of 19 living at the property for which you are eligible for child benefit.
Applying for the WaterSure schemes
For more information about how to apply for either WaterSure Plus or WaterSure schemes please contact Thames Water.
● Telephone Thames Water: 0800 980 8800
Can I have a water meter?
Thames Water needs to assess each property to see if a water meter can be installed. Thames Water have a list of all blocks of flats in the borough and you should enquire directly with Thames Water about whether your property is eligible to have one. When Thames Water comes to assess whether or not a water meter can be fitted they will take a number of factors into account.
How am I billed if I have a water meter?
You can pay on a schedule that suits you (e.g. monthly or weekly) and regular meter readings will ensure you are paying only for the water you use so the amount you pay will vary according to use. If you use water saving devices or use less water you will pay less.
Would I pay less if I had a water meter?
If you’re not on a meter, your water bill will be based on the water rate. It can be cheaper to have a water meter if there are one or two people in your household but may not be good value for larger families or those with health needs that require more water. It depends very much on the water used by your family. If you request a water meter, Thames Water will assess whether your property can have one fitted and also work out if this is the right option for you and your family. They are required to give you the right advice and ensure you are not put on a more expensive scheme.
What is a stop valve (sometimes called a stopcock), what does it look like and where is it located?
The stop valve is a large gold/bronze tap, you can manually control the flow of water by turning the tap. It is usually located under the kitchen sink but this may differ from property to property. This is very useful to know where it is in case you have a leak in the property and need to completely shut the water off in the building. This will not affect whether or not you can have a water meter.
For more information about any of the above please contact Thames Water on 0800 980 8800.