Regulator says new code will provide ‘greater clarity, consistency and certainty’

Ofwat has published a new Code for Adoption Agreements to cover arrangements between developers or self-lay providers and water and sewerage companies.

The regulator said it will provide an opportunity for the water sector to demonstrate its “commitment” to providing a good customer experience for developer customers.

The code’s “overarching principles” will place obligations on companies to work with their customers to develop, agree and maintain sector guidance.

It will provide “greater clarity, consistency and certainty” for developers and self-lay providers in how they can enter into adoption agreements, the regulator said. This is expected to make the process “more straightforward and quicker”.

The sector guidance and model adoption agreements will each take the form of two documents, one for water and one for sewerage. They will set out the processes that water and sewerage companies will follow for making, varying or terminating adoption agreements.

Ofwat said its code also sets out the minimum requirements for these documents, including information and publication requirements, when deviations may be permitted and governance arrangements.

Emma Kelso, Ofwat’s senior director for customers and casework, said: “This is an opportunity for the sector to demonstrate its commitment to providing a good customer experience for developer services customers, which in turn will support the Government’s objective of housing growth.

“This code will enable developers and self-lay providers to have greater clarity, consistency and certainty in how they enter into adoption agreements when they would like a local water or sewerage company to take on responsibility for new infrastructure they have constructed.”

She added: “It will help ensure there is a level playing field for self-lay providers who compete with monopoly providers in the new connections market, allowing developers to enjoy the benefits that competition can deliver. And critically it will enable water companies’ existing customers to continue to be confident that their company will only adopt quality, resilient infrastructure.”

Ofwat said it expects water companies to submit a recommendation for water sector guidance and a model water adoption agreement by 1 October 2018 and sewerage sector guidance and a model sewerage adoption agreement by 1 April 2019.

It also requires water companies to clearly publish details of their current procedures for making, carrying or terminating adoption agreements by 15 January 2018 and provide customers with appropriate redress if they fail to meet current minimum levels of service by 2 April 2018.

Fair Water Connections, an association which supports self-lay providers welcomes Ofwat’s publication.

Martyn Speight, managing coordinator of Fair Water Connections, said: “This is an important milestone as it is the first time that companies are being mandated to provide redress when they fail to deliver work which prevents self-lay providers (SLPs) connecting new developments to pre-agreed times.

He added: “It also means by early in 2018 all companies have to publish the necessary material information SLPs need to meet company standards. As companies should already be meeting performance standards and publishing information these should not be too challenging to implement, and it should soon mean that SLPs will be able to more freely deliver work for developers across England.”

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