Water charges on empty house following death - don't pay them!

Quick summary - I got a full refund £125 for 15 months of water charges on an empty house, covering the time between its owner's death and the sale of the property.

I thought other forum readers may find the following experience useful.

My mum's house was empty for 15 months following her death. When it eventually sold 12 months ago, as executor I paid Bristol Water around £125 to settle the account. This comprised both standing charges and usage, although the latter was for just 2 cubic metres in 15 months - by comparison the same property when occupied consumed around 55 cubic metres in 12 months.

I recently discovered that the water company's policy is not to apply a standing charge on empty properties following the death of the account holder.

Phone call number 1 to their call centre was difficult - the operator argued that 2 cubic metres had been used and therefore the full charges were due. I asserted that the usage was negligible and could be explained by leakage, or just simple things like flushing the toilet whenever anyone went round to check on the property or tend to the garden - activities that would be normal when looking after an empty house. The operator wouldn't budge so I asked her to lodge a formal complaint about overcharging.

Phone call number 2, less than 24 hours later, was from customer services telling me the negligible usage was being written off as were the incorrectly applied standing charges, and the full payment was being refunded to me.

If Bristol Water do this, it's highly likely that other water companies will do so too.

The exemptions are covered in sections 2.9 and 3.12 of the Schedule of Charges on their website

Comments

  • matelodave
    matelodave Posts: 8,568
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    Some water companies do and some don't. Anglian Water/Essex Water Co let me off standing & water charges whilst we sold my mum's place several years ago - dunno how long they'd give you but we managed to sell it within seven months.
    Gas & Electric weren't quite so generous though.
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • footyguy
    footyguy Posts: 4,157
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    I think most water companies will not charge if the property is unoccupied & unfurnished

    However, with most properties that are unoccupied following the death of the owner, then most remain furnished until sold because (a) a property shown furnished will often attract a higher price, (b) it keeps the insurance cost a lot lower, and (c) why pay to have the property emptied - you can negotiate that with any potential buyer.

    If the property is unoccupied but furnished, water charges usually apply.
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