Water bills are unavoidable but consumer expert Martyn James from Resolver explains how to keep costs down – and all the ways you could be entitled to compensation that you didn’t know about
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September is traditionally a time when people take stock of their spending and budgets.
After all, those holidays can be pricey – especially staycations – and it’s less than 100 days to a certain rather expensive day that I’m not mentioning till at least late October.
One essential service that people often don’t bother complaining about is water, though your bill will in all likelihood have gone up this year.
That’s because we’re largely stuck with our water provider whether we like it or not. You do have some options though.
For example, you could switch to a meter. You can also get a range of free or relatively cheap water conservation tools and tips.
And finally, did you know you’re entitled to free compensation for things like missed engineer appointments and service outages? Here’s how it works.
To meter or not to meter?
Water meters make people nervous. Many people may have had a bad experience with an electricity meter in their younger years – and yes, these often are completely rubbish and expensive.
But water meters could actually save you some money. It all depends on where you live and how big your house and household is.
Best of all, most water companies have a “trial period” where you can change your mind and switch back to normal billing up to 24 months after the smart meter is fitted.
So who can save? Well, the way that water bills are estimated is based on the “rateable” value of the property in most parts of the UK.
What this means is the size or value of your property affects how your bill is estimated. So if you have a big house but only you live in it, then a meter may save you hundreds.
If you’ve got a big family, a garden and the washing machine is always going, not so much.
There’s a water calculator here – though your local provider may have a more accurate one.
It’s free to have one fitted… unless you live in Scotland, sadly.
Have you been hit by a huge water bill? Let us know: [email protected]
Compensation you may not know about
Under regulator Ofwat’s guaranteed standards scheme, water companies must ensure that water pressure is right, appointments to fix issues are kept and ultimately deal with supply interruptions.
Some compensation is paid to you automatically, meaning you’ll either receive a payment directly or a credit on your water bill.
Don’t assume though – lots of people tell me they haven’t been auto-compensated. For other situations, you may have to make a claim.
If your supplier misses an appointment to fix any interruption, you’ll be entitled to £20 within 10 days of the missed appointment.
If this isn’t paid on time you can claim an extra £10. This is also the case if your appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice.
You may also get compensation regardless of whether the interruption to your water was planned or unplanned.
Have you been left out of pocket by a utilities company? Get in touch: [email protected]
For planned interruptions of more than four hours for, for example, known repairs, you must be told that your water supply will be interrupted at least 48 hours beforehand – if this doesn’t happen, you’ll typically be entitled to £20.
You’re also likely to get £20 if the supply isn’t restored by the time specified.
If your water gets cut off in an emergency situation your water company has to fix it within 12 hours of knowing about it (a strategic mains pipe burst can take up to 48 hours though).
If it doesn’t, you should get £20 for the first 24 hours of your supply being interrupted, and another £20 for each 24-hour period after that.
In all these cases, if these payments aren’t made to you within 20 working days, you should be entitled to another £20. That all adds up nicely.
If money is tight then potentially being cut off from an essential service like water can be a real worry. There are lots of options though, but the golden rule, as always, is act sooner rather than later.
If you are in receipt of benefits or have a low income you can get potentially huge discounts on your water bill.
You’ll need to speak to the water company and give them details about your income and circumstances. They should also come up with sensible payment plans to help you get out of a sticky financial situation too.
In fact there are loads of really useful schemes available for people struggling with water bills. Just ask – you may even get support from a charitable organisation. There’s no shame in this – if you need help, ask for it.
Everyone loves a freebie and most water companies offer some nifty gadgets to help you with your water consumption.
You may have to pay for some after claiming the first ones free but to be honest, take advantage of them.
These include shower nozzles that help reduce flow – the same for taps and hoses too.
I know this might seem like you’ll have a rubbish shower, but trust me, they are surprisingly effective. Type ‘water saving’ into your water provider’s website.