What owners of vacant commercial properties should know about the water charges reform

Currently, if you are the owner of a commercial premise that is not occupied, you do not have to pay any water charges. From April 1st 2017, owners, landlords, property development and management companies will receive bills for water, sewerage, and drainage charges from their Licensed Provider – even if the retail or office space is empty.

This is because even when a property is vacant, the owner still benefits from different services provided by Scottish Water. If your property is vacant, you presumably will not be using any water and you will not be charged for actual water use, but you will be charged certain water-related charges, such us standing charges and drainage charges. Paying drainage charges for a vacant property ensures that rain water from roofs etc. will be drained, so that the property does not flood.

Unmeasured charges such as roads drainage and surface drainage, but also water and wastewater in unmetered properties, are calculated from the rateable value of your property, the same way as they would for an occupied property. The new rateable values will be applied from April 2018.

As of April 2017, an unmetered commercial property with a rateable value of £35,000 in central Edinburgh could be charged £5,000 p.a. for water-related services.

Read more about the reform on water charges on the website of the Scottish Government.

Is there a way around these water charges?

If you don’t pay the charges and your vacant property is connected to public water mains or sewerage, your licensed provider is required to pursue this debt. There are, however, ways to minimise the costs involved with this regulatory change.

You can disconnect a property from water and wastewater services and not be liable to pay any charges. Be aware that all disconnections would be permanent which makes this option only suitable if your premise was set to be demolished. If you would like to find out more about the processes and costs associated with disconnections, you should contact your Licensed Provider.

If this doesn’t apply to your situation, we advise you to try to find a cheaper supplier now. Be proactive and don’t wait for your Licensed Provider to contact you with bills – even if they offer you a discount, there is often a cheaper option available for you.

By choosing a different licensed provider, owners of unmetered commercial properties in central Edinburgh, for example, could save up to 20% on the unavoidable water charges.

If you are the owner of a vacant property and would like to know more on this call us on 0141 530 4152 and we will help to choose the right licensed provider for you.

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