Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon was informed of the situation by the company
Many NI Water customers are set to find themselves sinking in debt, a Stormont Minister has warned.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon revealed she had been told about the situation by NI Water — and that it is the result of the Covid-19 crisis.
NI Water in response insisted it is taking action to help keep customers afloat.
But the company is now being urged to reverse a decision making sports clubs ‘non-domestic’ customers.
Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers said most clubs had been unable to use their facilities over the last year and are facing financial problems due to a collapse in income.
In an Assembly written question he urged Mrs Mallon to encourage NI Water to consider a staggered repayment plan for amateur sports clubs which have received back-dated water rates bills following the decision.
In a reply the SDLP Minister said: “I have been advised by NI Water that many customers will find themselves in financial difficulties as a result of the on-going Covid-19 situation.”
Mr Chambers told Sunday Life he had been approached by a local cricket club which depends exclusively on weekly subs from their players.
“With restrictions on playing this income stream has all but dried up and they find themselves in a tight financial situation — a position probably replicated in similar sports clubs across the country.
“They had previously not been billed for water supply having been classified for years as being a domestic user and my understanding is that this would be the situation for sports clubs which don’t conduct commercial activities on their premises.”
The North Down MLA said out of the blue the club had received a notification from NI Water that they had been reclassified as a non-domestic user along with a £200 bill.
NI Water said, however: “In relation to sports clubs, Land and Property Services (LPS) rate all sports clubs as non-domestic properties. As a public body, we are responsible for ensuring that all non-domestic customers are treated equally and are billed fairly and accurately.”
The company continued its customer service team is tackling the overall debts issue by offering greater flexibility for extended repayment arrangements.