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Water arrears. What to do if you can't pay your bill

Your water is a priority bill because of the action your creditor can take if you have arrears.

Although your supplier cannot turn off your water supply if you have arrears, they can use court action to get you to repay the debt. Falling behind on your water bill and other priority debts are signs of a debt problem and you should get free debt advice.

What will the water company do if I'm in arrears?

If you miss a payment to your water company, they'll take the following steps:

  1. You'll be sent a reminder notice, notifying you about your arrears
  2. If you ignore the reminder a final notice will be sent, usually giving you seven days to pay
  3. You may also receive a telephone call to ask for payment;
  4. If all other means of contacting you fail, your debt will be passed to a debt collection agency.


The next stage may be a County Court judgment (CCJ) where you'll be given the chance to make an offer based on what you can afford.

If you ignore that the court can send a bailiff (enforcement agent). A bailiff will only be sent when you've missed payments on a CCJ.

Water debts are not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, so if you receive a CCJ over £600 the water supplier can send High Court enforcement officers instead of ordinary bailiffs.

Water companies can also apply to the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) to deduct weekly payments towards arrears direct from some benefits.

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Can a water company cut me off?

No, a water company cannot cut off the supply to a domestic property if you currently live in it. Despite this it's still important to pay any arrears to avoid the risk of court action.

Can I get help to pay my water arrears?

If you receive benefits you may be able to arrange for payments to be taken directly from your benefits using a scheme called Water Direct. This means part of your benefits are paid straight to the water company to help cover the arrears and your current water usage. This can be a helpful way to clear arrears in manageable amounts and stop any recovery action against you.

The disadvantage of Water Direct is that the arrears are taken at a fixed rate (£3.70 per week for the 2016-17 tax year). This adds up to around £16 a month. However, you may be able to negotiate lower payments directly with the water company.

To find out more about the WaterDirect scheme contact your water company.

Schemes to help you pay your water bill

Most water companies have special schemes to help certain groups of people, or to help clear arrears.

WaterSure is a scheme to help help people who receive benefits, have a large family or use a lot of water for medical reasons. There are also other qualifying criteria which you can find out more about by visiting the Ofwat website.

If you're a Welsh water customer there's the Welsh Water Assist Scheme. To apply for either, contact your water company.

Free debt advice if you're behind on your water bill

If you're behind with your bills we can help you make a budget and offer free debt advice. This will help for two reasons. You can:

  • Take stock of your situation so you can clearly see the best way forward
  • Show your water company your financial situation

Use our free online Debt Remedy advice tool. It'll take about 20 minutes and you'll receive a personal action plan with clear next steps to deal with your water arrears and other debts.

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