£33,000 water bill after massive leak

water drop

Ryan Bishop, a 29-year-old scaffolding firm owner from Peacehaven in East Sussex, has been handed a gargantuan £33,000 water bill. Apparently 21.5 million litres of water leaked from the pipes around his rented property - enough to fill six swimming pools - and the water company decided to bill him for every litre.

So how could this happen?


The local paper, the Brighton Argus, said that the water company, South East Water, read the meter in June and realised that the usage was around 50 times higher than it should have been. It contacted Bishop to warn him that he needed to sort the leak out.

The Daily Mail reported that Bishop said he warned his landlord and the property developer about it at the time, but neither took any action. The Argus said that the landlord denied knowing anything about it until this week.

The property developer says they had no record of being contacted about the matter. In the end the water company made the repairs and billed the tenant.

Bishop told the Mail: "It was a bit of a shock, I phoned the water company up and they said it wasn't a mistake. There was a leak outside the property and it's down to me or the landlord to pay."

Your rights

The issue of leaks can be a difficult one. Ofwat says that the location of the leak will usually determine who is responsible for repairing it. If it takes place outside the boundary of your property, it's entirely up to the water company to repair the leak. If it takes place within the boundary - in the garden - then it depends how accessible the pipe is.

If no digging is required, the water company will usually do it for free. If excavation is needed then either the water company will make the repair and charge the homeowner, or the homeowner will be expected to arrange it and pay for it themselves.

If you sort the leak in good time you should be okay. Ofwat says: "Undetected leaks can lead to abnormally high water bills. The water company may agree to reduce the bill to its usual level (a 'leakage allowance'), provided the householder repairs the leak within a reasonable time."

South East Water has gone a bit further than it had to. Its terms and conditions state that: "If the cause of the leakage is fully repaired, you will qualify for a one-off leakage allowance, where we will adjust your charges back to their normal levels." It is offering to do this for Bishop's bill - despite the fact that it had to make the repair itself.

What can you do?

In the end, despite the initial shock, it seems that Bishop should find his water bill drops to something more manageable. However it's a useful reminder of how vital it is to keep on top of our bills: what we are spending, and whether it tallies with what we expect.

If there is a difference it could be a mistake at the utility company, you may be wasting water, gas or electricity in ways you're unaware of. And in the case of water, there may be a leak outside the property.

South East Water say it's worth checking for leaks if you suspect this may be the problem. It suggests you turn off any appliances which may be using water, such as washing machines and dishwashers. Then check your cisterns and water tanks to make sure that they are not filling (you can usually hear this) and turn off your internal stop tap, which is normally under the kitchen sink. At this point you'll need to take a meter reading, leave the water turned off for another hour, and then take a second reading. If it has changed, you may have a leak.

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£33,000 water bill after massive leak

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
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It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
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Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
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Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.

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