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When will they cut off my water and electricity if I don’t pay my bills in Spain?

The Local Spain
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When will they cut off my water and electricity if I don’t pay my bills in Spain?
Photo: Vien Hoang/Pixabay.

If you don't pay your bills in Spain, like anywhere, you'll could have your water or electricity cut off. But, when will they cut them, and does the company cut them completely? Here's what you need to know.

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Water and electricity make up a big proportion of your household bills, along with gas. They are also increasingly expensive and prices of electricity, in particular, have skyrocketed over the last couple of years.

Though it's a pain for many, for some people who are struggling financially, these bills can be too much. Many people fail to pay their bills and have their energy supply cut off. But when will they cut off my water and electricity if I don’t pay my bills in Spain? How long does it take, and do they cut them completely?

Water

In Spain, as anywhere, you have a contract with a water supplier, and therefore a contractual duty to pay for the service. Water bills here are paid either monthly or every couple of months.

READ ALSO: The water restrictions you can expect in Spain this summer

If you don't pay up, for whatever reason, the water company is (in normal conditions) within its rights to suspend the supply, as indicated in the first paragraph of Article 141 of Spain's public services law:

"The breach of the contract for a period of several months, or repeatedly, or in matters that seriously affect the company or third parties, allows the company to terminate the contract and proceed to cut the service. Under the uniform conditions, the reasons for non-compliance that give rise to the contract being terminated will be specified."

However, it's not entirely that simple.

Despite the fact that non-payment of water bills eventually leads to the suspension of service, the Spanish courts have ruled that water is an essential right and that under no circumstances can a person be entirely deprived of it, so companies must guarantee a vital minimum of water per day.

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In judgment T-034/16, the Spanish Constitutional Court declared:

"These benefits aimed at guaranteeing the vital minimum of water for citizens cannot be understood as an authorisation for users not to comply with the payment obligation derived from the public service contract. Therefore, this court, based on reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), has determined that when a subscriber cannot cancel the water service and requires it to guarantee its integrity, he will have the right to access to the minimum amount of liquid to survive, which is equivalent to 50 litres per day per individual."

Due to the above ruling, companies must be flexible with payment arrangements and will, only as a last measure, authorise the restriction of water according to the limits indicated by the court: that is, 50 litres per day per person who lives in the house. 

In addition to that, the Spanish government recently introduced measures to ensure that vulnerable people won't have their services entirely cut off during the ongoing cost of living crisis. According to the government website: "Until December 31st, 2023, supplies of electricity, natural gas and water, for those consumers who are vulnerable, severely vulnerable or at risk of social exclusion, may not be suspended". 

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How soon do they do this?

It depends on the company, and on the time limit set by each provider, as long as it does not exceed the limits imposed by Article 140 of Law 142/1994, which are:

  • Two bills for bimonthly billing arrangements.
  • Three bills when it is monthly.

That basically means that depending on the water company, if you don't pay your bill for two or three consecutive bills, which will be 3 or 4 months, the company can decide to partially suspend the service.

Electricity 

Electricity bills in particular have skyrocketed in recent times. First things first, as with water bills, if you don't pay your electricity in Spain, it cannot be cut off without warning. You will be given plenty of time to sort out payment.

READ ALSO: At what time of the day is electricity cheapest in Spain?

Firstly, your electricity company will send you the bill, whether by post or email. If, after this notice, it still hasn't been paid, a notice of non-payment will be sent, normally by formal letter.

Here, the company will warn you that if you don't pay up, they are going to cut off the lights, and usually indicate a specific payment deadline and a date when they'll do it.

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If payment is still not made, another letter will be sent warning off the cut cut-off and the "effective interruption of supply".

How long does it take for that to happen? That depends on your contract, and the market that regulates the contract:

If you're on the free market, both the payment period and the cut-off period are stated in the contract.

For those on the Voluntary Price for Small Consumers (PVPC): the payment period is 20 days from the date the bill is issued. From the receipt of the first notice, 2 months must pass before the supply is cut off.

In the case of vulnerable customers with a bono social or social benefits, in total this would work out to four months, although they have protection from any energy cut-offs until the end of the year. 

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