Unmetered customers

If you do not have a water meter, you are an unmetered customer. Your bill is not based on how much water you use.

Your bill is usually made up of a:

  • fixed charge (or ‘standing charge’), which covers things like billing and customer service costs
  • charge based on the rateable value of your home.

As an unmetered customer, you may save money on your bill if you switch to a water meter.

Your water company can advise you if you may be able to save money by switching to a meter. Some companies’ websites have on-line calculators. The Consumer Council for Water have a calculator on their website.

Sewerage charges

Some people have the same company for both water and sewerage services, while others have a different companies for water services and for sewerage services. In your bill, your sewerage company will include charges for three main sewerage services. These are for collecting and treating:

  • foul sewage
  • surface water drainage (run-off from rainwater that falls on your property)
  • highway drainage (run-off from roads and pavements)

If you can demonstrate that you do not receive one of these services (apart from highway drainage), you may be entitled to a rebate on your bill.

Foul sewerage service

Your bill will include a charge for collecting and treating foul sewage. If you do not have a water meter, your company will usually use a fixed charge for sewerage based on the rateable value of your property. You can find further details on our unmetered foul sewerage service charges page.

If you have a cesspool or septic tank you may pay charges for tankered domestic waste instead of a foul sewerage charge.

Surface water drainage

Surface water drainage occurs when rainwater from your property drains into the sewer. Your company collects and treats this surface water. There is a charge for this service.

You will pay for surface water drainage in your bill in one of two ways, either through a:

  • fee in the standing charge, or
  • charge based on the rateable value of your property

If you can prove that the surface rainwater from your property does not drain into the public sewer, you may be entitled to a rebate on your bill from your sewerage company. Find out more about surface water drainage rebates.

Highway drainage

Companies also treat water that falls onto the public roads and drains to the public sewers and collect a charge for this. The costs to the company of this highway drainage service are not related to the amount of water that you use or to the value or size of your property, so there is no correct way of recovering these costs.

Rateable value

Most household customers who do not have a water meter receive a bill each year that is based on the rateable value of their property.

The rateable value was a local authority’s assessment of the annual rental value of an individual property. Rateable value assessments were last carried out on households between 1973 and 1990.

Each local authority took a number of factors into account when it set rateable values. These included the size and general condition of the property and the availability of local services. We have no specific details about how properties were assessed and cannot tell you why similar properties have a different rateable value.

Rateable values were last updated in 1990 so any changes to your property since then will not be reflected in your rateable value. All properties built since 1990 have a water meter installed.

In 1973, the local authorities in England and Wales compiled a list of rateable values for all properties in their areas. Until 31 March 1990, amendments and new additions to the list were sent to the water authorities to update their records. Since then,

  • no new assessments or amendments have been made
  • it has not been possible to appeal your rateable value

If your property has changed significantly – for example if you have had an extension built or knocked down part of the house – your rateable value may no longer be valid. Your water company may change your charge to a fixed or assessed charge.

If you have changed the use of the property and its use is now fully commercial, the water company may install a water meter.

Water companies hold the only copies of the list of rateable values in their supply area.

How the rateable value affects bills

Your bill will not reflect the number of people who live in the property, or the amount of water you use. You will not pay a smaller bill if you live on your own.

To set your bill, your water company multiplies the rateable value of your property by the relevant charges for water and sewerage services. We check and approve these charges each year.

If you live in a property with a high rateable value, then your bill will be higher. A low rateable value means you pay a lower bill.

Changing the way your water and sewerage bill is calculated

If you pay your bill based on the rateable value of your property, you may save money by switching to a water meter. This is especially true if you live on your own, or you live in a property with a high rateable value.

If you have a water meter, you pay for how much water you use. If you contact your water company they can advise you if you may be able to save money by switching to a meter. The company will also usually fit a meter free of charge, unless it is not practical or is too expensive to do so. You can change back to an unmetered bill within 12 months of switching if you find that your bill is higher with a water meter. If it is not practical or it is too expensive to fit a water meter then your water company should offer you an assessed charge.

Council tax cannot be used to calculate water bills

Water companies cannot base their charges on the Council Tax. This is because, by law, the Council Tax register cannot be used for anything other than local government taxation. Changes in your Council Tax banding will not affect the rateable value of your property.

Can my rateable value be changed?

No. The Valuation Office no longer assesses rateable values and water companies cannot reassess them.