THE average UK water bill was £405 in 2018, and with costs rising by 2 per cent from this week – lots of families are feeling the squeeze.
Fortunately, if you're on a lower income or benefits, there's plenty of ways to get help paying your bills.
How to apply for a reduced water tariff
Lots of water suppliers have social tariffs designed to slash bills for customers with lower incomes.
Different companies have different rules on how much you can save and how to apply.
Some companies will carry out individual financial assessments, while others offer reduced rates for households whose income is below a certain specified level.
Sometimes the company will offer a range of reductions, depending on your specific circumstances, while other providers offer a flat rate reduction for anyone on the social tariff.
You can see what your water company offers and the rules for applying here.
What social tariff does my water company offer
DIFFERENT providers offer different tariffs to help lower income households. Here's all the different options available
- Anglian Water: The Lite tariff offers a reduction of up to 80 per cent on bills for some customers, subject to an individual financial assessment.
- Affinity Water: Customers are eligible if they earn less than £16,105 (excluding benefits) or if they receive one of Income related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit or Pension Credit. For those who qualify, bills are capped at £100.60.
- Bournemouth Water: You can apply for Bournemouth's WaterCare scheme if you are on income-related benefits. If you don't get benefits you can also submit yourself for an assessment to see if your household income qualifies as "low" taking into account family size and composition. Those on the scheme get between 15 and 50 per cent discount.
- Bristol Water: The Assist tarrif is available for low income households who have been assessed as being in financial difficulty. Discounts of up to 88 per cent on the average household bill are available. Customers who receive pensions credit may qualify for a discount of 20 per cent.
- Cambridge: The Assure tariff is available to customers who have annual income of less than £16,105 (excluding income from Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance). Water charges are reduced by 60% in the first year and 40% in the second year.
- Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water: To apply for HelpU you need to receive income related benefits and have a household income of less £8,900 for a single person, £13,400 for two people or £15,300 for three or more people. If you qualify your bills will be limited to £202.07.
- Essex and Suffolk Water: Customers spending more that 3 per cent of their income on water can apply for a discount of up to 50 per cent. You will need to have an independent financial assessment by an independent debt advice agency.
- Hafren Dyfrdwy: Customers with a household income of less that £15,500 can apply for the Here2Help scheme. Water charges will be reduced by up to 90 per cent dependent on your financial circumstances. The company says you may have to install a water meter if it will help reduce your bills.
- Hartlepool: The Lite tariff offers a reduction of up to 80 per cent on bills for some customers, subject to an individual financial assessment.
- Northumbrian Water: Eligibility for Northumbrian's SupportPlus tariff is dependent on the proportion of your income that you spend on your water bills. You will need to have an independent financial assessment by an independent debt advice agency such as Stepchange as part of the application process.
- Portsmouth Water: Households with an income of £16,105 per year or less (excluding some income from benefits) can get their water bill capped at £81.14.
- Severn Trent Water: Bills can be reduced by 10 to 90 per cent depending on a financial assessment
- South East Water: Households with an income of £16,105 per year or less (excluding some income from benefits) can get their water bill capped at £173.62 (East) or £137.80 (West).
- Southern Water: The Essentials tariff gives customers with a household income no more than £16,105 and savings of no more than £16,000 between 20 and 90 per cent cheaper bills.
- South Staffordshire Water: The Assure tariff is available to customers who have been identified by the company or a third party debt advice agency as needing additional support. A discount of up to 80 per cent is applied to the water charges
- South West Water: You can apply for the WaterCare scheme if you are on income-related benefits. If you don't get benefits you can also submit yourself for an assessment to see if your household income qualifies as "low" taking into account family size and composition. Those on the scheme get between 15 and 50 per cent discount.
- Thames Water: The WaterSure Plus tariff reduces bills by 50 per cent for customers whose household income is less than £16,105 (£19,201 in London).
- United Utilities: Water and Sewerage bills are capped at £255 or £360 where two people in the household receive pension credit. Customers who are in arrears and receiving certain benefits can apply to have bills limited.
- Wessex Water: Low income households who are assessed as being in financial difficulty can get discounts of up to 89 per cent on the average household bill. If all the adults in the household receive pension credit, you may qualify for a discount of around 20 per cent off your bill.
- Yorkshire Water: Customers whose household income is assessed as being ‘low’ and whose water bill is currently more than £435 can get their bills capped at £403.72 or £351.79 in the York waterworks area.
Apply for Watersure to reduce your bills
Watersure is an independent scheme designed to help some households by capping their water bills.
To apply for the scheme you'll have to prove you need a lot of water – either because you have more than three school-age children living in the house or because you have a medical condition that means you need lots of water, such as weeping skin diseases, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
You'll also need to receive one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
When you apply, you'll need to make sure you have a water meter installed.
You won't qualify if you use a garden sprinkler system or have a pool.
Successful applicants will have their bills capped at the average household cost for your supplier, even if you use more water.
You need to apply through your water company.
What you can do now to save money on your water bills
HERE are a few ways that you can cut your bills and keep costs down.
- If you’re struggling to pay your bill, discuss it with your water company. Some offer freebies to help you reduce the amount of water you use, such as save-a-flush devices and special showerheads
- Check what water and sewerage services you receive and claim a rebate for any you're not getting
- Check that you are paying the correct tariff
- If you aren't already on a meter, check if you can reduce your bill by having one installed free of charge. CCWater has an online water meter calculator which can help you see if you'll be better off
- If you have more people in your house than rooms, you'll probably save money by having a meter
- Read your meter regularly – it can help save you money
- Look for ways to reduce your water usage if you're on a meter eg turning off the taps when you're brushing your teeth
Getting help if you're behind on payments
If you fall behind on your water bill and can't afford to pay your debts there's plenty of help available.
Lots of water companies run hardship schemes or have charitable trusts that can help you pay off your arrears.
You can contact your water supplier or visit their homepage to see what services are available.
To check who your provider is you can enter your postcode here.
If you're getting behind on your bills or know you can't afford to pay – you should contact your provider as soon as possible.
The company can't cut consumers off by law (unless its a business account) so you won't end up without water.
But the company can pass your bill onto a debt collection agent if you don't pay.
As a last resort, the company can take you to court to get a County Court Judgment.
If you speak to your provider you may be able to negotiate a payment plan that you can afford.
This will help you avoid a stressful and costly court process and can protect your credit score.
If you are on certain benefits, your provider can apply for something called Waterdirect.
This means that money will be taken from your benefits and paid directly to the supplier.
Changing to a water meter
Switching to a water meter could help to reduce your bills, particularly if you cut back on the amount of water you use.
If you're swapping to a meter, you will usually have a trial period where you can change back if your bills go up.
But if you're in an area with compulsory metering you may be stuck with the meter and the higher bills.
If your company cannot install a water meter for you, you may be able to apply for a reduced bill.
You can use this online calculator to work out if you will be better off.
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