The High Court held that a local authority is was liable for overcharging tenants for water bills.
The local authority (Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames) owned a number of council houses and flats. Under the Water Industry Act 1991, Thames Water was entitled to charge the council tenants for the supply of water and sewerage services. Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames and Thames Water signed a formal agreement enabling Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames to receive a commission for providing these services. Under the agreement, the council tenants would not have to pay more for their water and sewerage than they would have had to pay if they had been paying Thames Water directly. The agreement meant that the tenants only had to pay one organisation for both their rent and their water/sewerage charges.
Following the decision in Jones v London Borough of Southwark (2016) EWHC 457, whereby it had been held that Southwark Council had been “reselling” water to tenants without passing on the savings it had made through a similar agreement with Thames Water, one of the tenants (Mr Moss) asked Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames for a refund of any excess water and sewerage charges he had paid since the commencement of his tenancy. He argued that the commission received by Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames was not reflected in his water bill.
The High Court, ruling in favour of Mr Moss, held that Mr Moss was entitled to be reimbursed for the overpayments he had made to Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames since the commencement of the agreement.
An application for permission to appeal the ruling is expected. If the decision is not overturned, it could potentially lead to other local authorities and housing associations having to reimburse tenants for overpayments.
This summary is from Capsticks Solicitors December 2019 Housing Update
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