The ramifications of Jones v London Borough of Southwark (2016) EWHC 457 (Ch) (our report) rumble on. Following the finding that Southwark were a water reseller for the purposes of The Water Resale Order 2006 in adding water rates to the tenants’ rent, it is not a surprise that attention has turned to other councils (and housing associations) who had the same form of agreement with Thames Water.
Cue Royal Borough of Greenwich v KW claim number 2PA32115 Woolwich County Court, 2 March 2017.
This was an application for stay of warrant on a rent arrears possession proceeding. The tenancy had started in 2008. The Defendant argued that Greenwich should disclose its agreement with Thames Water on water and sewerage charges. Once this was done, it was accepted by Greenwich that Jones v Southwark applied to their agreement also.
DDJ White found – in open court – that:
Although the term of the tenancy agreement for levying water service charges on un-metered tenants purported to be an agency term that in fact the Royal Borough of Greenwich were re-sellers of water and that the Defendant had been overcharged unlawfully. On the evidence presented by Greenwich and on the documentation presented the Defendant was entitled to a set off of 20% with interest but subject to a small administration charge on all of the water charges from the outset of the tenancy.
Furthermore that, as unlike in Jones v Southwark Council where Southwark had purported to change their agreement with Thames Water, Greenwich agreement continued to operate the Defendant was entitled to the discount on future charges levied under the terms of the agreement between Thames Water and the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
It also appears that DDJ White noted that the overcharging and future overcharging for water services by Greenwich did not merely apply to this case but applied to all unmetered tenants of Greenwich who were paying for water services.
This one will just keep running. I have heard of various other councils quietly coming to terms on rent arrears cases rather than face a judgment on their water rates agreements. But sooner or later, the councils (and housing associations) will have to bite the bullet and either make a repayment to tenants, like Southwark, or take a case to the High Court or Court of Appeal to seek to overturn or distinguish Jones v Southwark. Rumour has it that such a challenge is planned.
Our grateful thanks to Timothy Baldwin of Garden Court for the details of the case.