How Council tenants pay their water bills is changing

Council tenants who currently pay their water bill through their rent payments will instead pay direct to Thames Water following a change in the agreement between Hackney Council and Thames Water to simplify the water billing process.

The changes, which will apply from 1 April 2021, will see Thames Water bill tenants directly, and it will be tenants’ responsibility to pay directly to Thames Water. The amount due will be calculated in the same way as it is currently, which means Thames Water bills for next year will be the same as they would have been under the current system.

Those affected will receive a welcome letter from Thames Water in early 2021 to set up an account, followed by a bill in March 2021 for the period 1 April 2021-31 March 2022. Residents will have the option to split your payments into monthly instalments, and Thames Water will give details in their letter about different ways to pay.

To pay your water bill in smaller amounts, Thames Water can send a Payment card which can be used at any Post Office, Payzone or PayPoint outlet in the UK. This card comes with instructions on how to use it as well as a list of your closest outlets. 

Thames Water’s WaterSure and WaterHelp schemes are designed to help low-income households, households with large families and individuals who have a water-dependent medical condition and make it easier for you to pay.

Frequently asked questions

What is changing? 

If you are a Council tenant, the way you pay for water is changing. Currently you pay water charges to us when you pay your rent. The council collects these charges and pays them to Thames Water. This is changing and from April 2021, you will no longer pay the Council for water and Thames Water will send a separate water bill to you instead. 

Why is the way tenants pay for water changing? 

Thames Water have ended their contract with the council to collect their water charges.

Can we carry on as we are without making this change? 

No. The agreement the Council has with Thames Water to collect water charges for them allows either party to end it with six months’ notice. Thames Water have told us that they want to make this change and we can’t force them to change this decision. 

What should I do? 

You don’t need to do anything yet, and you should carry on paying your water charges to the council for now. Nothing will change until April 2021. Nearer the time we will write to you with the new weekly charge to pay to us which we do every year – the difference this year is that the weekly charge will no longer include water. Thames Water will write to you to  confirm your water charge and how to pay. 

Will Thames Water increase the water charges? 

Thames Water have always set the water charges, even though you paid water charges to the Council. Thames Water have not confirmed the charges for next year yet but they usually increase by a small amount each April. Water companies are regulated by OFWAT and there are rules they have to follow when they are setting their charges. 

How do Thames Water charge for water? 

Currently, of the Council tenants who pay us their water charges as part of their rent, about 50% are on a rateable value charge and the other 50% are on an assessed household charge. A small number of tenants receive Watersure Plus. Some Hackney tenants have water meters but they pay their water charges directly to Thames Water and not to the Council. 

Rateable value charge is a charge loosely based on the value of your home rather than how much water is used. 

Assessed household charge is a charge based on the number of bedrooms in your home rather than how much water is used. If you live alone there is a separate ‘single occupier’ charge. The assessed household charge is a charge for tenants who cannot have a water meter fitted, for example because of the type of building you live in. 

Watersure Plus is a special means tested tariff for customers on incomes below £19,201 (not including any disability benefits). If you are eligible and successfully apply you can have your water charges reduced by up to 50 per cent. Thames Water have said that they are making it easier to apply for Watersure Plus from April this year. 

Tenants with a water meter are charged for the water that the household uses. Water meters are sometimes useful if water consumption in a household is low. However, not everyone can have a water meter fitted, for example it isn’t possible in all Council blocks. If you want to find out more about how you are charged or about changing how you are charged, contact Thames Water or call 0800 009 4293.  

I’ve heard that tenants will be moved onto a rateable value charge when water billing is transferred to Thames Water, which could cost more. Is this true?

No. Thames Water have said that when they take over water payments from the Council, you will stay on the same charge you are currently on – for example if you are on the assessed household charge you will stay on the assessed household charge. 

What about vulnerable tenants and tenants who struggle with letters? 

Council staff have good knowledge of tenants who need extra help. Caseworkers are already working with individual tenants to ensure they are aware of the change in their water billing. When the time comes for tenants to take action about this change, help will be available for those who need it and staff will take proactive steps to make contact with the most vulnerable. We will also check rent accounts closely in April to identify vulnerable tenants who are still making their payments to us. 

How can I reduce my water bills? 

Thames Water offer the WaterSure Plus which is a means tested scheme for tenants on incomes below £19,201 (not including any disability benefits). Thames Water offers advice about saving water and money on their website. 

What about leaseholders? 

The Council does not collect water charges for any leaseholders so leaseholders are not affected by these changes. 

Will rent be reduced to reflect that water rates are no longer included?

Water rates are not included in the rent, they are levied as a separate tenant service charge. This charge will be reduced to zero for everyone in 2021/22

Where can I get more information? 

You can find out more from Thames Water online or by calling their dedicated phone line for Hackney tenants on 0800 009 4238. 

There are details about where to get help with money issues, debt and benefits online. 

Further information is available from OFWAT, the water regulator.