Summary of case
This request for a determination was regarding the eligibility of a premises in respect of the business retail market and whether such premises can be served by a water supply and sewerage licensee.
Summary of Ofwat’s final decision
We determined that the principal use of the premises was as a household, with the premises primarily used as student accommodation. Based on this, we concluded that the premises has been incorrectly classified as non-household and should, therefore, no longer remain in the non-household retail market.
Taking this into account, we determined that from 12 September 2018, the date the customer first contacted United Utilities regarding eligibility, the premises should be considered as household and, as such, should be deregistered from the non-household market.
Wider lessons for companies and customers
There are two principles, in particular, in this determination which we consider it is worth bringing attention to:
- Where student accommodation is not available all year and students are required to return to their permanent homes these should be considered as eligible for the non-household market; and
- If premises are available for non-domestic purposes such as conferences or subletting it is indicative of premises being potentially eligible for the non-household market.
As set out in our determination, we accept that our Eligibility Guidance and Eligibility Supplementary Guidance need updating and we will do so in due course.
In addition to the above, we would like to remind companies and customers that when receiving a request for determination regarding eligibility, in the first instance, we expect the parties’ to have tried to resolve the issue. As part of this, we expect the company(s) and/or licensee(s) to gather all necessary information to enable them to make an informed decision. This includes gathering sufficient information from the customer to determine the eligibility of a premises such as:
- its ownership;
- any arrangements between a resident and a business in terms of water use and payment for it;
- any difference in size between the residential area and the commercial area at a premises; and
- the location of the water meter (where applicable).
We would encourage company(s) and/or licensee(s) to gather sufficient information to determine the eligibility of a premises, prior to a request for determination being submitted to Ofwat. Doing so may prevent the need for referral to Ofwat and provide a swifter outcome for the Complainant. In this instance, we were satisfied that the parties’ had clearly exhausted negotiations prior to an appeal being submitted to us and had taken reasonable steps to try and resolve the issue.
Relevant Ofwat guidance
23 September 2019
19 February 2020
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