It's time to get your head around water charges

It's time to get your head around water charges

Around 1.4m letters are arriving in the post around the country as the dreaded water charges loom nearer.

Good Article on 23-09-2014

The letters – from Irish Water – are ultimately asking you to sign up for water charges and to apply for any free water allowances you may be entitled to. Ignore those letters and refuse to pay water charges and you could face higher bills – as well as restrictions to your water supply.

In ten days time, water charges kick in. Although you won’t receive your first bill until January, unless you start to cut back on your water usage between the start of October and then, you’ll face one hell of a water bill in the New Year.

So why might you face higher bills if you ignore the letters? It largely comes down to the free water allowances. Every household is entitled to a free annual water allowance of 30,000 litres – which means the first 30,000 litres of water you use a year are free. You will be entitled to a higher allowance if you have children under the age of 18.

Each letter includes a form where you apply for your free water allowances. You won’t get your allowances if you don’t apply for them.

You will still get billed for water charges if you don’t fill out the application form. These bills will be based on your water meter readings (if you have a water meter which was installed by Irish Water) and the details Irish Water has on your household.

What if I refuse to pay my water charges?

You could lose your free allowance – and this would ultimately push up the cost of your water charges. “If a customer refuses to pay water charges or engage with Irish Water to make payment plans, their water allowances may be removed or they may, as a last resort, have their water pressure reduced,” said a spokesman for the water regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

Remember, you cannot be disconnected for not paying your water charges.

Those who are struggling to pay their bills should be able to arrange an instalment payment plan. Irish Water plans to offer a range of payment options, including one where you can make regular payments of €10 or more.

How can I pay?

You can pay your water charges by direct debit, cheque, debit or credit card, electronic fund transfer or cash. “Customers can pay by cash anywhere they see the Paypoint, PayZone or PostPoint signs – or at any post office,” said a spokeswoman for Irish Water.


Can I avoid water charges by cutting back on water?

You could – but it will be difficult to do so. You will easily burn through the basic free allowance of 30,000 litres a year if you have an old-style flush toilet, rather than a dual flush system. Old-style flush toilets can use up to 13 litres of water in one flush. So flush an old-style toilet six times a day and you’ll have already gone through 28,470 litres of water a year. Add two baths a month to that and you’ll be over your 30,000 limit. (A full bath can use up to 80 litres of water).

What about leaks?

Any amount of water conservation on your part will be wasted should you have a leak. A running tap can use six litres of water a minute. That adds up to 8,640 litres of water a day. So if you have a leak wasting the same amount of water as a running tap, that leak only needs to be running for three-and-a-half days to eat up your basic annual allowance.

Irish Water discovered recently that “the level of apparent leakage” in the water supply “is far greater than previously estimated”. Many of these leaks are in pipes on private properties.

You may be able to get your leak fixed for free under Irish Water’s ‘free first fix’ scheme. This scheme, which is currently being finalised, should be rolled out early next year. It is important therefore that you check your water meter for any unusually high usage of water in your property as this will help you to identify leaks. You can do so by checking the meter before and after a time when the water system isn’t being used – for example, if you are away for the weekend.

Irish Water would not clarify which leaks will be covered by its ‘free first fix’ scheme when contacted by this paper last week. It said details of the scheme were being finalised.

Does everyone get the free allowance?

The basic allowance is available only on your main residence – so if you own a holiday home, you won’t be entitled to the free allowance for that property.

As well as the basic allowance of 30,000 litres (on your main residence), families with children are entitled to an extra 21,000 litres of water a year for each child up to the age of 18.

The free child’s allowance is only available for children who qualify for child benefit however. So if you’re child is 17 years old, working and not in full-time education, you’re unlikely to get the free allowance for that child. Adult children don’t qualify for the free allowance.

Why am I being asked for my PPS number in the Irish Water application form?

You are being asked for your PPS number to verify your identity and to allow you to apply for your free water allowance. You must also provide the PPS numbers of any children on whose behalf your applying for the water allowance.

Who does not have to pay water charges?

You won’t have to pay water charges if you have a private well (which is your only source of water) or you are a member of a group water scheme – as long as you have private wastewater treatment (such as a septic tank).

However, you must still fill out the application forms for Irish Water to let them know you are not liable for the charges.

I’m a landlord. Do I need to pay the water charges for the property I’m renting out?

It is normally the tenants who will pay water bills as it is the occupier of the property who is liable for the charges. However, you will have to let your tenants know that they are liable for the charges – and instruct them to fill out the application form from Irish Water.

Should your tenants refuse to fill out the application form, they won’t receive any free water allowance. And what happens if your tenants refuse to pay the charges? I asked this question when I called the Irish Water help centre last week. The agent advised that Irish Water would do their best to pursue the tenants for the charges. “In the worst case scenario, if the tenants tried to dodge the bill, the onus would fall on the landlord,” he said.

Now there’s something that’s waiting to be challenged – and it’s unlikely to be the last once the bills for water charges start to roll in.

Sunday Indo Business


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