The Water Act 2014 introduced changes to the Water Industry Act 1991 (WIA91) requiring Ofwat to issue statutory codes for adoption agreements. These are the agreements that developers or self-lay providers enter into when they want an appointed water or sewerage company to take over responsibility for infrastructure that they have constructed. They are the agreements entered into under section 51A WIA91 for water infrastructure, and under section 104 WIA91 for sewerage infrastructure. The new duty for Ofwat to issue a code came into effect for companies operating wholly or mainly in England in October 2017.
On 13 November 2017, we published our Code for Adoption Agreements. This followed our engagement with the sector and its customers through a discussion paper we published in September 2016, a stakeholder workshop in January 2017 and our statutory consultation on the draft code in summer 2017.
What is the Code for Adoption Agreements?
It is a single code that covers the adoption of water infrastructure and sewerage infrastructure. It applies to companies wholly or partly in England.
Why have we introduced the Code for Adoption Agreements?
It is crucial that developers, new appointees and Self-Lay Providers (SLPs) have confidence they can receive the services they want from companies to enable their own business in providing contestable services. End-user customers must also have trust and confidence that their company will only adopt quality, resilient infrastructure.
We expect that in bringing in a Code for Adoption Agreements we can ensure there is a consistent approach to adoption agreements in the sector with consistent information being provided to those parties that need that information.
Furthermore, in introducing the Code we expect the sector to demonstrate its commitment to providing a good customer experience for its customers, which in turn will support the Government’s objective of housing growth and a level playing field for customers who wish to apply for and enter into adoption agreements.
What are the expectations on companies?
The Code sets a framework of overarching principles within which companies must deliver adoption agreements and places obligations on companies to work with their customers to develop, agree and maintain sector guidance (setting out the processes by which parties can enter into adoption agreements) and model adoption agreements.
There is already guidance for the adoption of water and sewerage infrastructure, which will provide a useful starting point for companies, but the guidance companies are expected to produce will be expected to comply with the requirements in the Code.
Our Code sets out the minimum requirements for these documents, including information and publication requirements; when deviations from them may be permitted; and governance arrangements, which include the sector convening panels to deal with changes to the codes.
What timetable is the sector working to?
Companies need to submit the water sector guidance and model water adoption agreement to us by 1 October 2018 and the sewerage sector guidance and model sewerage adoption agreement to us by 1 April 2019.
We anticipate approving the water sector guidance and model water adoption agreement by 31 December 2018, with them coming into effect from 1 April 2019, and approving the sewerage sector guidance and model sewerage adoption agreement by 31 July 2019, with them coming into effect from 1 October 2019.
Before doing this, companies need to:
- Publicise any current procedures for making, varying or terminating adoption agreements including by clearly publishing this on their website or a central sector website. We expect companies to comply with this requirement, as set out in the Code, from 15 January 2018.
- Provide customers with appropriate redress for failure to meet current minimum levels of service that the sector publically report against. We expect companies to comply with this requirement, as set out in the Code, from 2 April 2018.