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The Ayatollah Buggeri

Very Strange Water Supply Problem

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Dunno if this really belongs in 'All About Renting', but as the BTL angle is co-incidental, am putting it here.

A couple of weeks ago my mother's water supply suddenly failed.

She lives in a semi-detached house which use to be one single, detached house. The previous owner (who was a building contractor) split it into two properties shortly before retiring abroad: one half he sold to my mother, the other to a BTL-er. The BTL is managed by a letting agency, which also takes care of maintenance: we don't know who the actual owner is and they won't tell us. I presume that if necessary, we could get that information from the Land Registry. There have been a succession of short-term tenants in the BTL in the decade or so Mother has lived there, and until now, there haven't been any problems.

When Mother's water supply suddenly stopped, she rang Thames Water who investigated, declared the supply to be OK, told her that the problem had to lie with her plumbing installation and washed their hands of the issue. She then got a plumber in, who established that the master stopcock controlling the supply to the entire building, which dates from the time it was a single property, is located in the BTL. Some new tenants have just moved in, an Eastern European couple who are adamant that the stopcock must be closed whenever they're out to prevent the risk of accidental flooding. Both Mother and the plumber told them that if they turn the stopcock off, they cut off Mother's water (and that the risk of flooding is minuscule and that no-one routinely isolates their entire water supply whenever they go out), but their response is that this is an issue between Mother and their LL, not them. The letting agency claim that it's not their problem either, and that if Mother has no water then the issue is between her and her water supplier. The plumber can't do anything because the letting agency and tenants refuse to let him work in the BTL, and Thames Water say that there is nothing they can do because their only responsibility is over the water supply until it enters the building.

The couple have gone away for the weekend, turning off the water behind them. Mother is having to go to friends to shower etc., and use bottled water for other stuff.

I am scratching my head as to what can be done. Thames Water, a privately hired plumber and the letting agency all say that they cannot and/or will not do anything. Any suggestions for breaking the impasse would be gratefully appreciated. Can the owner of the BTL and/or the tenants be legally compelled to allow access for a plumber to at least separate the two water supplies?

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I would suggest contacting the council; there are public health issues with not having water, and I wonder if the planning permission for conversion specified a more workable arrangement that was ignored by the building contractor?

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I would suggest contacting the council; there are public health issues with not having water, and I wonder if the planning permission for conversion specified a more workable arrangement that was ignored by the building contractor?

Exactly, and I would suspect the liability will fall on the buy to let or freehold owner as inherited from the previous owner.  I am assuming when the contract for the house was drawn up that your mother will have had certain rights with the lease hold (or even shared freehold) as any good solicitor will have done this. This would include access to water via shared pipes and so one of those rights is being infringed.  I'd suggest going to the council first, and if not contact the freehold owner saying that a right is being infringed and that if it persists that she'll take legal action

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I believe that it's a legal requirement that every house is separately connected directly to the water main. I know of a case where the supply to one house supplies the neighbouring house too and apparently this no longer complies with regulations, if indeed it ever did. It's a similar situation, where the two properties were owned by the same person when they were connected to the mains about 60 years ago. Subsequently both properties were sold to different new owners.

If the water company or whoever is responsible decide to remedy the situation, the property owners have to foot the bill, which could be thousands of pounds.

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Guest DissipatedYouthIsValuable

The Latvian couple may think that they are expected to pay metered water and switch it off before they go out to work in the fields each day for 12p an hour in order to save money.

Has your mother tried speaking English slowly and loudly in a patronising voice?

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Many thanks everyone. The environmental health tip has been passed on, and with any luck she'll ring them. Both properties are freeholds (thanks to issues with a previous ground landlord, it'll be a chilly day in Hell before Mother - and myself, for that matter - is ever a leasehold OO again), which rules out the ground landlord line of attack.

I believe that it's a legal requirement that every house is separately connected directly to the water main. I know of a case where the supply to one house supplies the neighbouring house too and apparently this no longer complies with regulations, if it ever did. If the water company or whoever is responsible decide to remedy the situation, the property owners have to foot the bill, which could be thousands of pounds.

Is it the responsibility of the owner of the property controlling the water to supply, or the owner of the property receiving the supply under someone else's control? Presumably the cost would be an insurance job, in any case. Mother does have legal cover with her building and contents insurance, which I suspect might come in useful.

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Your mum needs to have a new supply put in.

Our waterboard will connect up for free if you take pipes to the edge of the property by the path.

BUT you have to get the stuff your side approved by them before they'll do it.

If Env health don't offer an immediate solution she should contact some decent plumbers and get the wheels in motion.

For them to shut the stop tap off is inhuman.

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Is it the responsibility of the owner of the property controlling the water to supply, or the owner of the property receiving the supply under someone else's control? Presumably the cost would be an insurance job, in any case. Mother does have legal cover with her building and contents insurance, which I suspect might come in useful.

It is usually the responsibility of the owner of the property to ensure that its water supply is correctly connected directly to the mains supply with a meter. So it is likely that your mother will have to have the work done at her cost. Given that this is a potential pitfall with conversion work, I do wonder whether she might have a claim against her surveyor or conveyancer.

Certainly, after owning a flat for a number of years, it turned out that the whole buildings water supply had been incorrectly connected to the mains supply without metering by the builders. The individual owners had to pay for the work to be done, and meters to be supplied and fitted.

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Guest sillybear2

The water company will probably charge you a fortune to put it right, given it's private property.

Shame it's not rented, the answer is easy in that case.

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This thread ticks almost all the right boxes: BTL, Eastern European immigrants, Environmental Health. All we need now is an Israeli commando raid.

Interesting problem though; I hope the OP lets us know how it turns out.

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The water company will probably charge you a fortune to put it right, given it's private property.

Shame it's not rented, the answer is easy in that case.

http://www.unitedutilities.com/1002.htm

Ideally, we would like all our customers to have their own separate supply pipes from our mains. Through our lead and common supply pipe replacement scheme, we will:

* provide a new connection to our water main; and

* lay a new length of pipe from our main to the boundary of the street where our main is.

These services are offered free of charge by United Utilities subject to acceptance onto the lead and common supply pipe replacement scheme.

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Guest sillybear2

This thread ticks almost all the right boxes: BTL, Eastern European immigrants, Environmental Health. All we need now is an Israeli commando raid.

Interesting problem though; I hope the OP lets us know how it turns out.

I'm not even sure it's a water pipe they're having trouble with, sounds like something to do with BP.

*sucks in air through teeth*

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The couple have gone away for the weekend, turning off the water behind them. Mother is having to go to friends to shower etc., and use bottled water for other stuff.

What a pair of absolute A-grade, platinum plated, olympian ******ing arseholes.

If that was my mother I'd be kicking their friggin door in....

<breathes>

Environmental health is a good shout, possibly the CAB might be able to offer some advice as well. I'd also take legal advice on this, I'm pretty sure here (in Oz) it's actually illegal to cut someones water off so I'd imagine thats the case back in the UK.

Best of luck and keep us updated :)

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What a pair of absolute A-grade, platinum plated, olympian ******ing arseholes.

It appears to have got better still!

I relayed the Environmental Health tip to Mother via a mobile phone message. She answered it just now, explaining that, for obvious reasons, she'd been spending time at a friend's house a couple of streets away.

When she got back to her house, which is situated in a mews behind a shopping street in a south London suburb, she found an EDF Energy van outside the BTL. A shop that backs onto the BTL had complained that they'd lost their gas supply! According to the EDF bloke's plans, the gas pipe supplying the shop passes underneath the building containing Mother's house and the BTL place. Intriguingly, though, Mother's gas is OK. But I'd be astonished if the two issues aren't in any way related, and would speculate that the couple in the BTL turned off their gas and leccy as well. Some very dodgy engineering appears to have gone on when Albert converted the place into two residences.

She's going to try the Environmental Health and, if that doesn't achieve anything, the legal helpline that comes with her building and contents insurance. Thanks again for all your tips, and watch this space.

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Guest X-QUORK

What a pair of absolute A-grade, platinum plated, olympian ******ing arseholes.

If that was my mother I'd be kicking their friggin door in....

<breathes>

Environmental health is a good shout, possibly the CAB might be able to offer some advice as well. I'd also take legal advice on this, I'm pretty sure here (in Oz) it's actually illegal to cut someones water off so I'd imagine thats the case back in the UK.

Best of luck and keep us updated :)

I'd shit on a piece of card and pop it through their letterbox. Unbelievable behaviour, seriously bad.

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Guest sillybear2

I'd shit on a piece of card and pop it through their letterbox. Unbelievable behaviour, seriously bad.

Now, now, you can't Polish a turd.

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Just before going all axe murderer on them, you may want to consult a solicitor.

There are very stringent laws in place to prevent people's water supply being cut off, a decent solicitor who knows about water regs will have their balls in a sling inside of a week.

If that fails, axe murder away.

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The bureaucracy related to this has become like something out of Kafka.

Environmental Health just had an answering machine, upon which a message was left. The next stop was the legal helpline that comes with Mother's building and contents insurance. That got us a long way further forward. Mother was advised that under section so-and-so of the Public Health Act such-and-such, knowingly interfering with the utility supply to a home or business is an offence, regardless of whether the installation being tampered with conforms to regulations or not. If there is reasonable evidence that this has been done, the police can break and enter (or authorise contractors to do so) in order to restore the supply. The helpline gave Mother the chapter and verse, and advised her to go to the police with it. This she did (in a stroke of luck, Wimbledon Nick is less than ten minutes' walk from the scene of the aggravation), and was seen by a sympathetic but out-of-her-depth PCSO who had clearly never heard of any of this and needs to run it past her boss. That was the phone update about half an hour ago, with Plod promising to get on the case and ring Mother back. EDF Energy are also still in the vicinity, talking to their bosses all the while, and increasingly convinced that Albert did something highly unorthodox to all the utility supplies in the vicinity.

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As far as I am aware not only is it illegal for a third party to shut off a (communal) water supply (emergency notwithstanding) the Water authorities cannot even do it if you ignore their bills.

Some safeguards were put into the bill when the water supply was privatised this was one of them as it I suppose seen as a human right to have a supply of clean wholesome water.

The LA will have a duty (24 hour 7 days a week) environmental health officer although they may have to get him/her out of bed to attend.

I would assume they could take the power to effect an entry to restore the supply.Councils have all sorts of funny powers these days.

The offenders have to pay for a new door and no doubt their landlord will not be too happy when he gets a prohibition notice telling him to desist from similar action.

As for funding a new supply expert legal advice should be sought. If the plan and permission and more importantly building Regs which will probably state somewhere that each private property must have a means of isolating the water supply from the mains were not followed then again it will be the role of the council to issue an improvement notice to bring the situation up to standard. That may mean the landlord has to fund the improvement and install a new supply from the mains.

No doubt he will whinge but end of the day he (and his solicitor) should have done their homework and checked the building regs when he purchased the place.

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Several messages have been left on the Environmental Health answering machine, but none have elicited a call back. The (we suspect, Czech) couple got back earlier this afternoon and the water is now back on. Mother has made a formal complaint to the Police about them (i.e. that they committed a criminal offence by cutting off her water), and they visited, leaving about an hour ago. Apparently raised voices were heard next door! The Police officer told Mother that the couple have been advised in no uncertain terms not to turn any utility supplies off, and the police will also be contacting their LL to reinforce that message. The EDF Energy engineers who were investigating the gas problem in the shop that adjoins the BTL's back yard are of the opinion that something unorthodox and/or illegal was done to the gas supply when the place was being converted from one dwelling into two in 1999-2000, and have passed the problem to their legal department to arrange access. It would be interesting to know if the shop now has their gas back, but it closed just before the Czechs got home. Mother's household insurance legal helpline people are arranging an appointment for Mother to see a solicitor next week with a view to getting the water supply sorted out permanently. At my suggestion she dug out the survey report from when she bought the place, which makes no mention of the water supply being under the control of another property; so it could well be that the surveyor is potentially in the frame.

So it appears that things are going to happen, but it was just Mother's bad luck that the problem kicked off over a weekend. Many thanks again for all the suggestions, and watch this space for an update.

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Guest X-QUORK

Many thanks again for all the suggestions, and watch this space for an update.

Good news, and cheers for the updates.

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  • 140 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
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      • Even
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      • up 5%



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