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Consequences of not paying your water bill in Scotland

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 1st May 2024 - 3 minutes to read

The Scottish system of paying for water rates means that you receive notice of the amounts due within your council tax bill, if you don’t have a water meter fitted. Should you get behind with your payments for water/sewerage services, the council will let you know by letter initially. You’ll have seven days to bring your payments up-to-date, otherwise you become liable for the full amount of water charges for the year. If you don’t dispute the arrears, you could receive a ‘summary warrant’ from the sheriff’s court.

What is a summary warrant?

A summary warrant is a formal demand for payment of the full amount, plus an administration charge of 10%. If you don’t pay, the council can enforce their debt in a number of ways, known as ‘diligence’ measures.   

These can include:

If you’re in receipt of certain benefits

If it’s not possible to reach an agreement with the sheriff officers for repayment of the debt, and the summary warrant remains unpaid, the council can apply to take payments directly from your benefits. In this case, the ‘charge for payment’ mentioned below isn’t required.

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What happens if I receive a charge for payment?

A charge for payment provides a specified time to pay your water arrears, but you may be able to request more time via a time to pay order. The council can enforce the debt using measures including:

  • Bank arrestment

The funds in your bank or building society account are frozen on the day the arrestment arrives. This remains in place until you agree to release funds to pay your arrears. If you refuse, the court can order the money to be released.

  • Earnings arrestment

Your employer is instructed by the court to deduct regular payments towards the water arrears from your net earnings. You should receive a Debt Advice and Information Package (DAIP) from the council at least 12 weeks before an arrestment is served, otherwise the earnings arrestment is unlawful.

  • Attachment of personal property (outside the home)

A sheriff officer may seize personal possessions outside the home. They’re allowed to enter outbuildings even if they’re locked, but cannot enter your home. Restrictions apply to the type of goods they can seize, with tools of the trade being protected. Other possible enforcement actions include an exceptional attachment order (EAO), inhibition, and petitioning for your bankruptcy, but these are generally measures of last resort for the recovery of water arrears.

If you’ve fallen behind with your water bill, and are worried about the potential consequences, our expert team can help. It may be appropriate for you to enter into a debt payment plan via the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS), a Scottish trust deed, or even apply for your own sequestration.

Scotland Debt Solutions has been helping Scottish residents to escape debt since 1989. We’ll help you apply for more time to pay if appropriate, and ensure you understand all your options.

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Sharon McDougall


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