Social housing tenants in Thames Water area may be entitled to refunds

I haven't seen much publicity about this court case anywhere, so many of the c.375,000 social housing tenants and ex-tenants in the Thames Water area who are affected probably aren't aware that they're entitled to refunds from their council or housing association landlords, after they made agreements with Thames Water in 2002 to collect the water rates as part of the rent and then unlawfully overcharged tenants.

Tenants in Southwark were already refunded after a tenant won her case, Jones v Southwark, in 2016.

Following that decision, a tenant in Kingston upon Thames wrote to the council asking for a refund and instead of refunding him they decided, with the backing of some of the other 69 local authorities and housing associations that had similar agreements with Thames Water, to bring a claim against him asking the Court for a declaration that it didn't owe him, or anyone else, any refunds. They lost that case in October 2019 and then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed their appeal in October 2020.

Following that decision, Kingston council had to pay c.£4m in refunds to tenants and ex-tenants. I read that Sutton has also now refunded tenants but I don't know if any of the other 68 local authorities and housing associations have, so I hope this post will encourage people to chase up the refunds they're entitled to if necessary and if they're refused, to seek legal advice about suing their landlord for the money they're owed. Now that the Court of Appeal has decided the matter in favour of tenants, the lower courts have to follow that decision and individual tenants can probably just obtain their refunds by bringing a small claim in the County Court (for someone who's been a tenant since 2002, the refund is likely to be between £500-£1000, depending on the size of the property, so well below the small claims limit of £10,000) but do seek proper advice from a solicitor, the CAB or a Law Centre first, as maybe a solicitor could file a claim in the High Court to force the landlord to comply with the Court of Appeal's decision and refund everyone.

I understand that most local authorities and housing associations have terminated their agreements with Thames Water now, so their tenants are now Thames Water customers again, as they were before 2002, and can access the discounts it offers, such as the 50% WaterHelp discount for people on low incomes. Tenants can also no longer be evicted for being unable to pay their water rates, which they could when they were collected as part of the rent.

Further details of the court case and the available discounts can be found here: https://dchkingston.wordpress.com/waterrategate/
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