SOUTHWARK TO REIMBURSE TENANTS FOLLOWING WATER ‘OVERCHARGE’ CASE RULING
Southwark council tenants may be eligible for a refund for a proportion of the water charges they paid between April 2010 and July 2013.
This follows a court case in which the council was judged to have overcharged tenants over that period.
Like many other local authority and housing association landlords, Southwark council had a longstanding agreement with Thames Water whereby they collected water charges as part of tenants’ rent.
For tenants, this meant that they did not have a direct relationship with the water authority and their water usage was an additional service charge like heating and hot water if they were part of a district heating system or garage rent if they rented a garage.
A recent court case challenged the legitimacy of this arrangement and the commission that the council received from Thames Water for collecting water charges on the utility company’s behalf.
The court case ruled that the council had acted as a water seller and as such had overcharged tenants.
The council are now in the process of making arrangements to reimburse tenants, and to identify former tenants who may be eligible. Eligible tenants will be contacted by the council in the next few months.
Southwark’s cabinet member for housing Cllr Richard Livingstone said: “Southwark council have considered its options in relation to the recent ruling regarding the arrangement between the council and Thames Water over the administration of its tenants’ water bills.
“Having weighed up the options available to us, and considered the cost to the public purse of a legal challenge, the council have decided not to appeal the decision.
“While we remain disappointed with the decision, clarity about this arrangement which is used across the country by landlords and water companies, is welcome, and we now want to move forward.
“The council are making arrangements to reimburse existing council tenants for the amount that the council mistakenly overcharged between April 2010 and July 2013.
“The council will also attempt to contact former tenants from that period, and we will set up a system where people can make claims, subject to proof of tenancy.
“The council estimates that tenants who were resident for the whole period will be eligible for an average refund of approximately £240. “For any tenants who are in arrears, this refund will be used to reduce their debt.” (Source: Southwark council press release)