Water debt

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Use this information sheet if

  • You are having problems paying your water bill
  • Your water business is demanding that you pay more than you can afford
  • You want to know what you can do if you think you are being treated unfairly by your water business
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What should I do if you are having trouble paying your water bill?

 Step 1.    Tell your water business and ask for information about your options

  • Tell your water business that you are having payment difficulties or are in financial hardship.
  • Your water business should provide you with information about concessions and Utility Relief Grants, and/or refer you to a free and independent financial counsellor in your area where appropriate.

Step 2.    Ask for a payment plan that you can afford

  • Your water business should offer you a plan by which you can pay what you owe in instalments (unless you have already been on two or more instalment plans in the last year and you did not stick to them).
  • Your water business should take into account your capacity to pay (what you can afford to pay each week or fortnight), not just want they want you to pay.
  • If they won’t offer you a plan that you can afford, ask to see their calculations about what they think you can afford so that you can check that the calculations are correct.

Step 3.    Ask about the water company’s hardship policy

  • You may have rights under the water businesses hardship policy.
  • All hardship policies are available on water business’ websites.
  • You cannot be restricted from supply if you are complying with a hardship policy.

Step 4.    Get some advice and/or financial assistance

  • You may be entitled to a concession on your bills if you hold a Pensioner or Health Care Card.  You should ask your water business about how to apply for a concession.
  • You may want to apply for a once-off Utility Relief Grant (URG) to help you pay your current bill.  Ask your water business how to apply for an URG.  Your water business must not restrict your water supply if you have applied for an URG and are waiting for a decision.

Having your water supply restricted or legal action commencing

  • Your water supply can be restricted for not payinga bill.
  • However, your water business can only restrict your water supply if it has taken certain steps first.  For example, your water business:
    • must send you a reminder notice;
    • send you a warning notice with information about its hardship program,
    • have attempted to make contact with you about non-payment;
    • it must also offer you a flexible payment plan.
  • The water business must not restrict your water supply if:
    • it is a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Public Holiday, the day before a Public Holiday or after 3pm on any other day;
    • the amount you owe is less than $200 (unless you have failed to pay consecutive bills in full for at least the past 12 months)
    • you are complying with a flexible payment plan ;
    • you have made a complaint to EWOV and it has not yet been resolved;
    • you have applied for an URG and your application has not yet been decided;
    • you are renting and the amount owed to the company is owed by your landlord, not you; or
    • you are registered as a special needs customer (eg, you need water for a life support machine).[i]
  • If your water supply is going to be restricted, or if it has been restricted, you should seek advice straight away (from EWOV).

Removal of restriction

  • If your water supply is restricted for failure to pay a bill, your water business must remove the restriction within 24 hours if you pay the bill.

What can I do if I think I am being treated unfairly?

  • Contact Consumer Action or a financial counsellor, like MoneyHelp, if you think you need more advice.
  • You should first make a complaint with your water business.
  • If you cannot resolve your complaint with your water business you can make a complaint to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV).
  • EWOV is a free, independent external dispute resolution provider.
  • Your water business must not restrict your water supply if you have made a complaint to EWOV and your complaint has not yet been resolved.
  • You must try to resolve your problem with the company before EWOV can help.

If you are a Caravan park residents or rooming house/ boarding house resident

  • You may not have all the rights described in this Fact Sheet if you are a resident of a caravan park or a resident in a rooming house/boarding house.   You should speak to the Tenant’s Union of Victoria (see Contacts on this Fact Sheet).

Need more help?

Consumer Action Law Centre
Telephone: (03) 9629 6300,
or 1800 466 477 for country callers.
Email: advice@consumeraction.org.au

If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, you can  call through the National Relay Service (NRS):

  • TTY users can phone 133677 then ask for 1800 466 477
  • Speak & Listen (speech-to-speech) users can phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 1800 466 477
  • Internet relay users can connect to NRS on www.relayservice.com.au then ask for 1800 466 477

Moneyhelp
Telephone: 1800 007 007
www.moneyhelp.org.au

Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV)
To make a complaint about a company.
Call 1800 500 509 (freecall) or write to GPO Box 469D Melbourne, VIC  3001.
www.ewov.com.au

Warning: This fact sheet is for information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. This information applies only in Victoria, Australia and was updated in 31 December 2015 .

[i] Customer Service Code (Urban Water Businesses), September 2014; Rural Water Customer Service Code, July 2013

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