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Water charges

Introduction

Domestic water charges were introduced in 2015 for homes that are connected to a public water supply or to public wastewater services. Irish Water, the national water utility, administers the water charges.

Recent developments

The Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2016 is currently going through the Oireachtas. The Bill and proposed amendments aim to:

  • Suspend domestic water charges for 9 months, from 1 July 2016 to 31 March 2017, with no charging or billing of domestic customers during that period
  • Suspend issuing of domestic water bills for the second quarter of 2016, which had been due to issue in the third quarter of 2016

An expert commission has been established to make recommendations on a sustainable long-term funding model for domestic water and wastewater services. An Oireachtas committee will then consider these recommendations and develop its own recommendations. The Oireachtas is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendations by end March 2017.

The 9-month period of suspension may be extended if the Oireachtas committee requests more time to complete its work or if the Government needs more time to consider the Oireachtas committee’s recommendations.

The Water Conservation Grant has been suspended for 2016. Applications for the Water Conservation Grant 2015 are now closed.

Legislation and previous changes

The system of domestic water charges was introduced under the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013. Related legislation is published on environ.ie.

The Water Services Act 2014 brought in several revisions to the system, including caps on annual charges, a Water Conservation Grant of €100 per year and a statutory dispute resolution system.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published the key elements of these revisions (pdf) and a set of detailed FAQs (pdf).

Fixing of leaks

Homeowners are legally responsible for water pipes and systems inside their dwelling and between the dwelling and the property boundary. This means that you would normally need to pay a plumber to fix a leak, whether it is inside your home or on the external supply pipe between your home and the property boundary. You can use Irish Water’s checklist to see if you have any internal leaks.

Under the First Fix Free Scheme, Irish Water will contact you by post if your water meter indicates that there may be a leak on your external supply pipe. If you are eligible for the scheme (see below) Irish Water will offer you a free investigation on this pipe and free repair of identified leaks. Generally, this will involve fully replacing the pipe from the meter to a point as close to the dwelling as possible.

Who is eligible?

The First Fix Free Scheme is available to domestic customers who have registered with Irish Water; who have water meters; whose property has a working and accessible inside stop valve; and whose water meter indicates a leak on the external supply pipe.

Who is liable to pay?

The occupier of the property that gets water and/or wastewater services from Irish Water is liable to pay domestic water charges. If you own a property, you are presumed to be the occupier, unless it is proven otherwise.

Rental properties

The tenant of a property is the occupier and is responsible for paying the water charges. Landlords can provide the names of their tenants in order to prove that they are not the occupier, and Irish Water will then contact the tenants.

Since 1 October 2015, property owners have to provide information to Irish Water on the occupiers of the property within 20 days of the start of a tenancy and there is to be a deemed obligation, in all new tenancy agreements except for short-term lets, for the occupier or tenant to pay water charges.

If there are no tenants in the property, the minimum 'not permanently occupied' charge applies – see ‘Rates’ below.

Types of water/wastewater system

If your water comes from a private well or a group water scheme and you have a private wastewater treatment system (such as a septic tank) you are not regarded as a customer of Irish Water and do not have to pay domestic water charges.

This table shows which types of system are and are not subject to domestic water charges:

Water supplier Wastewater Customer of Irish Water?
Public mains Public sewer Yes
Public mains Own treatment (septic tank or wastewater treatment system) Yes (for a single service)
Group water scheme Public sewer Yes (for a single service)
Group water scheme Own treatment No
Private well Public sewer Yes (for a single service)
Private well Own treatment No

Charging system

Irish Water continues to install water meters. Your meter measures the amount of water supplied to your home. The amount of wastewater discharged is assumed to be the same as the amount of water drawn from the supply.

Capped charges

While the meter measures your water usage, your quarterly bill is capped at a maximum rate for your household type, so you do not have to pay any more than this maximum capped rate – see ‘Rates’ below. The capped charges will apply until 31 December 2018. The Water Services Act 2014 provides for the capping of charges beyond 2018, subject to a Ministerial Order being approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

If you need to use extra water because of a medical condition, you do not have to provide any extra information, as your bills are capped in the same way as for everyone else. (However, you can apply to be registered for priority services if you are critically dependent on water.)

Rebates, allowances and discounts

If your metered usage is lower than the capped charge level, your bill will be less than the capped rate. If you do not yet have a water meter, your bill will be fixed at the relevant capped rate, but after your meter has been installed, you will get a rebate if your metered usage over a 1-year period turns out to be lower than the capped level.

Metered bills provide for a free allowance to cover each child’s normal water/wastewater needs (21,000 litres per child), regardless of entitlement to Child Benefit.

If your water quality is not what it should be and there is a Boil Notice or Drinking Water Restriction Notice in effect, you will get a 100% discount on the water supply element of your charge until the notice is lifted.

Registering with Irish Water

Irish Water has sent application packs to every house in the State, asking people to indicate which (if any) public water services they have, and to confirm their household details – see ‘How to apply’ below. All households have been asked to register.

The requirement to provide Personal Public Service Numbers (PPS Numbers) when registering with Irish Water is no longer in effect. Irish Water has developed a protocol, in consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner, for deleting all the PPS Numbers that it had collected.

If you haven’t registered

If you do not register with Irish Water, you will be charged a default rate of €260 a year up to 31 December 2018.

  • If you registered during 2015, your occupancy details and any allowances will be backdated to 1 January 2015
  • If you register during 2016, your occupancy details and any allowances will be backdated for the billing period in which you register, and the billing period before it

Irish Water’s First Fix Free Scheme (described above) is only available to registered customers.

Billing and payment

Domestic water bills are issued 4 times a year. The first bills issued from April 2015, in respect of the quarter January-March 2015.

You can opt for paper or paperless billing. Irish Water has developed a confidential special services register for customers who need billing or other customer services adapted to suit their needs and you can choose to get your bill in a range of accessible formats.

There are several payment options, including direct debit; electronic funds transfer; full or partial payment (of at least €5) at post offices and retail outlets. If you are getting a social welfare payment through the post office, you can use the Household Budget Scheme to pay regular weekly amounts (of at least €2.50) off your water bills.

If you are in financial difficulty, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) can help with budgeting in general. The Exceptional Needs Payment is available to people who have severe financial difficulties.

Irish Water has outlined its approach to customers who have payment difficulties. This includes developing payment plans and engaging with relevant agencies, such as MABS, with the customer’s permission.

Read more in Irish Water’s Domestic Billing Code of Practice (pdf) and in the Billing explained section of its website.

If you don’t pay your bills

Irish Water will not cut you off or reduce your water supply, but late payment charges will accrue on your account – see ‘Rates’ below. Irish Water can also take people to court if they don’t pay their bills.

The Civil Debt (Procedures) Act 2015 provides for 2 new ways of enforcing civil debt (including unpaid water charges) – attachment of earnings and deduction from social welfare payments, as appropriate. These provisions of the Act (not yet in effect) will apply to debts of over €500 and under €4,000.

Section 48 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 obliges the owner of a dwelling to pay any unpaid water charges owing to Irish Water when the property is being sold. It also provides that social housing tenants cannot buy their homes under a tenant purchase scheme unless their water charges have been paid.

Complaints and disputes

Irish Water’s Domestic Complaint Handling Code of Practice (pdf) outlines how you can make a complaint if you are not satisfied with any of its services or any contacts you have had with it. Its Domestic Customer Charter (pdf) provides a series of guarantees on how it will deal with customer issues.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the economic regulator of Irish Water.

The CER does not handle complaints about water quality. If you have a complaint about water quality that has not been resolved by Irish Water, you should refer it to the Environmental Protection Agency, which is the environmental regulator of Irish Water.

Dispute resolution service

Section 8 of the Water Services Act 2014 provides for the CER to operate a statutory dispute resolution service to handle unresolved complaints from customers of Irish Water. If you wish to use this service, you must:

  • Have been a registered Irish Water customer at the time to which the complaint relates
  • Have already made your complaint to Irish Water in writing
  • Have completed Irish Water's complaints process and received a final decision in writing

The CER will issue its decision on the complaint to Irish Water. It can require Irish Water to pay a refund or compensation. It may also require Irish Water to comply with its decision in respect of other customers affected by the same issue.

Rates

If you have a meter, your bill is either based on your metered usage or fixed at a capped level, whichever is lower. See below for details of metered and capped rates.

There is no charge for children aged under 18 – their usage is covered by a free allowance.

The minimum charge for unoccupied dwellings is €62.50 per service per year – a total of €125 for a house using both public water supply and public wastewater services. This charge is capped at €260 per year for a house using both services, and €130 for houses using a single service.

The default rate for people who do not register is €260 per year – see ‘If you haven’t registered’ above for details.

If you do not pay within 12 months of the demand for payment or have not entered into a payment plan with Irish Water, or have not complied with a payment plan, there will be a late payment fee of €30 a year for a single-adult household and €60 a year for a household with two or more adults. If you only have one water service, the late payment fee is halved.

An additional €30 or €60 will be added on every anniversary of the original add-on date while the bill remains unpaid or a payment plan has not been entered into with Irish Water. This provision applies to all annual amounts that remain unpaid or where a payment plan has not been entered into.

Any customers who have unpaid water charges can be pursued through the Courts by Irish Water for the sums due and a judgment may be obtained against the customer for the amount due.

Metered rates

If your household uses the public water supply and the public wastewater service, the metered rate is €3.70 per 1,000 litres – 1 cubic metre. If your household only uses 1 public water service - supply or wastewater services, the rate is €1.85 per 1,000 litres.

If you use less water than the capped levels below, you will be billed for the lower metered usage. If your meter is installed after 1 January 2015, and your usage during your first full year with a meter is lower than the relevant capped rate, Irish Water will provide a rebate of the difference between the charges paid during the unmetered period and the charges that would have been paid under metered usage.

Capped rates

The capped rates are based on usage of just over 43,000 litres per year for a single-adult household and just over 70,000 litres per year for a multi-adult household.

For both services: The maximum rate of domestic water charges for a single-adult household is €160 per year or €40 per quarter for a household that uses both water supply and wastewater services. The maximum rate for a multi-adult household is €260 per year or €65 per quarter.

The table below shows the capped charges for a sample of household types using both water services, including the maximum amount of the quarterly bills for each of these sample households, starting from April 2015.

Sample capped charges for households using both water services

People in household Maximum annual charge Maximum quarterly bill Annual Water Conservation Grant
1 adult, with or without children €160 €40 €100
2 adults, with or without children €260 €65 €100
More than 2 adults, with or without children €260 €65 €100

For a single service: The maximum rate for a single-adult household is €80 per year or €20 per quarter for a household that uses only 1 water service. The maximum rate for a multi-adult household is €130 per year or €32.50 per quarter.

The table below shows the capped charges for a sample of household types using 1 water service, including the maximum amount of the quarterly bills for each of these sample households, starting from April 2015.

Sample capped charges for households using a single water service

People in household Maximum annual charge Maximum quarterly bill Annual Water Conservation Grant
1 adult, with or without children €80 €20 €100
2 adults, with or without children €130 €32.50 €100
More than 2 adults, with or without children €130 €32.50 €100

Late payment charges

The following table shows the late payment charges that apply after 12 months of non-payment, if you don’t enter a payment plan or don’t comply with an agreed plan. An additional penalty of the same amount will be added on the anniversary of the first penalty while the bill remains unpaid or for as long as a customer has not entered into a payment plan.

Occupancy Late payment charge – single service Late payment charge – 2 services
1 adult, with or without children €15 €30
2 or more adults, with or without children €30 €60
Second or unoccupied dwelling €30 €60

How to apply

New registrations

You can register with Irish Water in one of 3 ways:

  • Online: www.water.ie/apply
  • By phone: LoCall 1890 448 448 or +353 1 707 2824, 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5.30pm Saturday
  • Complete the application form you received in the post and return it in the prepaid envelope provided (note that you no longer need to give PPS Numbers)

For queries to Irish Water about water supply, metering or leaks

  • Website: www.water.ie
  • Phone: LoCall 1890 278 278 or +353 1 707 2828, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Minicom: 1890 378 378 (for hearing-impaired customers with their own minicom equipment)

Consultation processes

Public Water Forum

A customer consultative forum, the Public Water Forum, has been established under Section 7 of the Water Services Act 2014. Its membership includes domestic consumers of water as well as representatives of sectoral organisations. Its main functions are to:

  • Represent the interests of customers of Irish Water
  • Provide Irish Water with comments and suggestions about how it performs its functions
  • Provide the CER with comments and suggestions about Irish Water’s performance of its functions
  • Comment on any policy document produced by Irish Water, when asked by Irish Water to do so
  • Comment on any consultation document produced by the CER about public water and waste water services, when asked by the CER to do so

Plebiscite on ownership

Section 2 of the Water Services Act 2014 provides that, before a Bill can be proposed for the sale of any share in Irish Water to anyone other than a Government Minister, a number of steps must be taken:

  • A resolution must be passed by each House of the Oireachtas (the Dáil and the Seanad) approving such a proposal
  • A proposal to allow for such a sale must be submitted to a plebiscite and
  • The proposal must be approved in the plebiscite

Anyone with a right to vote in a referendum would have the right to vote in this plebiscite.

Page edited: 19 July 2016

Language

Gaeilge

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.