How To Switch Water Supplier in 2022
Do you want to switch water supplier? Are you a business or a non-residential property? Read on to find out if you can change water supplier and what you need to know.
Can I Switch Water Supplier In The UK?
Currently, only non-residential customers can switch water supplier. Domestic customers cannot change their water supplier, meaning who your water supplier is depends on which UK region you live in.
Just moved in? If you are a residential customer and you’ve just moved into a property, you’re probably wondering how to get started with your water supplier. Check out our guide on How To Set Up Your Water Bills to find out more.
In 2002, the UK government said that it would not introduce any legislation to allow residential customers to switch water supplier. However, in 2015, Ofwat - the water industry regulator - was asked by the Conservative government to assess the possibilities of opening up the water market to freer competition.
Ofwat's assessment in 2016 concluded that residential customers being able to switch water supplier would result in a net benefit. The report also said that 56% of people believed that the ability to switch water supplier would be a good thing.
Is There A Water Supplier Market?
At the moment, only non-residential water customers can change water suppliers in the UK. In April 2017, the water market was opened up to allow for businesses, charities, and other public organisations to be able to find the best deals for their water and sewerage services.
The new water market is split between wholesalers and retailers. A water wholesaler is one of the main water and sewerage companies who have a regional monolopy in a particular area of the UK. These wholesalers sell to water retailers, who have the ability to package new deals and compete with one another on a regulated market.
Unlike with the wholesaler water companies and domestic customers, businesses are free to choose who they want to provide their water services, regardless of whether they are in the same region or not . The majority of the retailers are business subsidiaries of the main water companies.
Will residential customers be able to switch water supplier? Although the business water supplier market is a test case for a competitive water market in the future, give the problems caused by the ongoing energy crisis it is looking more unlikely that a freer domestic market will be available any time soon.
Why Switch Water Supplier?
It might seem a bit odd being able to change water suppliers, afterall, it’s just water and sewerage services. However, there are many reasons why a competitive market for water is a good idea for customers. A new water supplier could offer the following:
- Better cost-efficient deals
- Better customer service
- Specially catered service for your business needs
These are the factors you should consider when yo go to pick a new water supplier.
Problems with your water supply? If you've got problems with your water supply at home, don't worry! Check out our guide No Water In House for easy steps on getting you water supply flowing again.
Can My Business Switch Water Supplier?
Even though the water market is now much freer for businesses, there are still some eligibility criteria that need to be met in order to be able to switch water supplier. This all depends on how your property is designated.
The main criteria for being able to change water suppliers is that the property in question has the primary use as a business premises. In other words, the property must be used mainly as the place for your commerical activities.
Ofwat provides guidelines on the eligibility for changing water suppliers. We've broken down those guidelines to help you get a quick idea of the criteria.
Properties That Can Switch Water Supplier Without Issue
The main properties that are able to switch water supplier without any problems are:
- Appointed company premises - this is any property that has an office. This also includes hotels.
- Allotments - these are not designated as live in home so they are eligible to switch water supplier. These also include individual allotments and those runs by association or societies.
- Self-catering holiday units - these are not permanent residences so they are eligibile to switch water supplier.
- Temporary supply for developers - properties that are under construction or are show homes are eligible to switch.
- Youth Hostels - as these are providing temporary accommodation, like hotels, they are eligibile to switch water supplier.
All of these properties are either designated as business premises or as temporary accommodation as part of an enterprise. None of these should have any issues with changing water providers in the business water market.
Mixed Premises And Switching Water Suppliers
For some properties, it is not as clear cut as to whether they can switch water supplier or not. These cases depende on the commerical nature of the property's use and whether or not they provide temporary or permanent accommodation.
Many of these properties are considered as mixed use and a water supplier will need to conduct an assessment to determine the primary use before being able to switch water supplier.
|Assisted Living Or Sheltered Housing
|If an assisted living or sheltered housing property has a separate and distinct non-household premise on-site such as an office, they may be eligible to change water suppliers.
|If they are designated as living accommodation they are generally not eligible to switch in most circumstances.
|Barracks And Married Quarters
|When the barracks or married quarters form part of another premises that is primarily non-residential, these may switch water supplier.
|If they are primarily the living accommodation within a military base, they are generally not permitted to switch.
|Bed & Breakfasts And Guesthouses
|As long as the B&B or guesthouse is separate from the living residence of the owners, you are able to change water suppliers.
|If the B&B and guesthouse are part of the same building as the owner's living residence, an assessment will need to be conducted to figure out eligibility.
|Car Parks & Garages
|If the car park or garage has its own supply that is separate from a residential property’s supply, they may switch suppliers.
|If the car park or garage shares a supply point they are not eligible.
If the car park or garage is larger than 25 metres squared, you can request an assessment.
|Holidays parks that provide temporary accommodationcan switch water supplier.
|If the park has a majority of permanent guests then they are not eligible to switch.
|Care homes can generally switch providers since their primary use is the provision of continued care.
|If the care home provides accommodation to its staff members, it might need an assessment before switching.
|Farms can be considered eligible to switch water supplier if they prove the business aspect of the premises. This may require VAT registration or a VOA letter stating exemption from business rate.
|If a business cannot provide suitable proof that it uses its premises as a business, they will not be able to switch water supplier.
|If the housing association can prove that the communal supply is mostly to non-residential properties, they will be eligible to switch.
|Since a housing association is primarily living accommodation, it is generally not eligible to switch.
|Similar to care homes, a nursing home’s primary use as providing continual care to its residents and is generally permitted to switch.
|Similar again to care homes, if the nursing home provides accommodation to its staff, it may need an assessment.
|Provided the serviced apartment is providing only temporary accommodation for tourism or business travelers, they may choose their water providers.
|If they provide long-term accommodations, they will not be eligible.
|Shop and Domestic Accommodations
|As long as the living accommodation is dependent on the shop and has a single water supply, they are eligible to switch.
|A shop with living accommodation can be considered mixed use and, if paying both business rates and council tax, might need an assessment.
|If the student accommodation is part of the wider campus or where the students are not in-residence for the entire year, they may switch water supplier.
|If the university halls are off-campus and have occupants throughout the year, they are not permitted to switch.
Do I Need An Assessment?
You might need an assessment if your property is considered mixed use. However, there are some quick ways to tell if your property can switch water supplier or not:
- If the property pays only business rates, you will be eligible to switch water supplier without assessment.
- If the property pays only council tax, you will not be eligible to switch suppliers.
- If the property pays both, then you will need an assessment.
Properties That Cannot Switch Water Supplier
The main properties that are not permitted to switch water supplier are those that are permanent and living accommodation. This mainly covers all residential properties, and also the following:
- Household premises with management companies - as these are used primarily for living accommodation.
- Local authority housing - since these are providing residential housing, they are not eligible to switch water supplier.
How Can I Change My Water Supplier?
Once you've determined your eligibility, you can begin shopping for a better deal for your water and sewerage services. The process is very similar to changing electricity or gas tariffs and once done will go through smoothly without problems.
Here we've broken down the switching water supplier process into four easy steps so you know exactly what to expect when you start looking around for a better water deal.
Step 1: Determine Your Water Consumption
The first step is to determine what your current water consumption is. You can find this out by having a look at your latest water bill and seeing how much you are currently paying every month for your water services.
To get a good idea of what the rest of the UK spends on water, check out our guide on the Average UK Water Bill.
Take note of some of the information on the water bill as you will need it for later steps when you switch water supplier:
- Your annual water consuption
- How much you're currently paying on your water bill
- Details of the charges on your water bill
- Your Service Supply Identification Numbers (SPIDs)
- A recent water meter reading
What is an SPID? An SPID is your Service Supply Identification Number. This is a unique 13 digit number that can be found on your water bill and is used as a reference address for your water sewerage services.
You need to have your SPID so that when you switch water supplier, the right property can be identified. You will usually have two SPIDs, one for your water and the other for sewerage.
Water SPID: 0000000000W0
Sewerage SPID: 0000000000S0A
Step 2: Check Your Current Tariff
After you have collected the information from Step 1, Step 2 is to understand exactly what tariff you're already on. This can be difficult since before all your water has been provided on one tariff-type, but luckily all the information you need is easy to find out.
If you look at your water bill, you will be able to check the relevant information. You will see how much you pay per cubic metre of water, and the charges detailed on your wastewater services.
You will be able to choose whether you want to switch both your clean water and wastewater, or just switch one of them. This is similar to a dual energy tariff.
Step 3: Pick A New Supplier
Before you go looking around for a better deal with a different water supplier, you should get in contact with your old supplier and ask if they can give you a better deal. If you are on a default or deemed tariff, the water supplier must let you know of any better deals they might have on the shelf.
After you've contacted your current water supplier, you can get a good idea of what is available on the water market. You can set your current tariff as a benchmark against which you can compare other water rates on offer.
Water and Sewerage Retailers
Choosing a new water supplier isn't always easy since it is a new market and not all the suppliers are well-known. To make things easier, here's a list of the current water suppliers on the market:
Availability of certain water suppliers will differ across the UK. It may be that if you live in Wales, your options are more limited than if you live in England.
When looking for a new water supplier, since this is a relatively new market, it's a good idea to take the time to check out comparison sites, visit supplier websites and contact utility brokers and business support services.
Every water and sewerage company must have an Ofwat license before they can start operating commercially.
Step 4: Agree A Deal
Once you've chosen a deal that you're happy with and you've decided you want to switch water supplier, you can now go ahead and change.
Your new supplier will get in contact with you to:
- Confirm you eligibility
- Give you full information about the tariff and the Ts&Cs
- Answer any questions you have about your new tariff
After you are happy that the new water supplier offers a better deal, you can confirm that you want to switch water supplier.
After the confirmation, you will have a seven day cooling off period to change your mind if you want to cancel the switch. You will not need to give a reason to cancel during these seven days. Double check your contract with the new supplier to make sure that the cooling off period is longer than the seven days.
When the switch is complete, you will receive a final bill from your old supplier and you will begin receiving bills from your new supplier.