Paying for hot water supplies, Ukrainians do not even suspect that such service does not exist officially. In practice it is provided, and citizens pay for it monthly, but at the legislative level this issue is not regulated properly.

As of today, there are relevant laws on drinking water and housing services, as well as separate resolutions of the Cabinet on centralized supplies of cold and hot water. However, none of the regulatory documents actually specifies the notions "hot water" or "hot water supplies". Moreover, documents stipulate neither producers nor consumers. On one hand it is seems not important, as all those who have hot water in pipes are considered consumers, but the problem is that what these consumers should do in case the hot water is not that hot. The situation seems more serious now, does not it?

Nevertheless, the situation is not that bad, and a solution is possible. The hot water issue was included in the National plan of actions for 2013 by the presidential decree, issued this March. As a result, the parliament has already registered several draft bills on this problem. As usual, ForUm went into details to learn more about the legal aspect of the service.

Who owes who?

The trick is that production and supplies of hot water involve several separate structures. Take, for example, Kyiv. There is no single enterprise, responsible for hot water supplies. In regions, though, the issue is somehow regulated at the local level.
Hot water in Kyiv pipes is some kind of a mix of cold water, produced by communal enterprise "Kyivvodokanal" (Kyiv water channel - ed.) and heat energy, provided by communal enterprise "Kyivenergo". Accordingly, the hot water tariff consists of several constituents: payment for cold water, intended for heating; payment for energy, used to heat the water, and payment for supply itself.

Due to poor regulation of the hot water supplies issue, the population obviously has certain difficulties with understanding the tariff policy. On the other hand, service suppliers have the very same problems. In particular, "Kyivvodokanal" complains that the enterprises does not receive due payment for cold water, which makes a part of hot water supplies. "The fifth part of housing cooperatives does not recognize cold water, intended for heating, as it is. Consumers simply pay for the energy, used for heating, but it is only one part of the full payment," Viktoria Yakovleva, "Kyivvodokanal" CEO's aide, says.

Such complaints are not groundless. Deputy director for legal services of "Kyivvodokanal" Vita Strukov said recently that debtors for cold water, intended for heating, included about 234 housing cooperatives, and the total sum of the debt made 32 million hryvnias. According to the official, some managers of housing cooperatives take advantage of this gap in legislation and though receiving payments from residents do not transfer the money to the enterprises saying they do not have official agreements with "Kyivvodokanal". 
The enterprise regularly threatens to cut off supplies of cold water for heating, but it is rather difficult to do technically. "One central heat distribution center services several objects, and not always residential houses, but schools and kindergartens as well. Thus, it is technically hardly possible to cut off supplies of cold water into one certain house," Yakovleva explained.

However, "Kyivvodokanal" seeks possible solutions of the problem. Apart from radical measures, the enterprise insists on legal response to the problem and nomination of a single supplier of hot water in the capital.

Possible solutions

At the same time, "Kyivvodokanal" is not ready to carry out the function of the single supplier of hot water in Kyiv. Reasons include the absence of heat distribution stations to heat supplied cold water. "Kyivenergo", though, does not rule out a possibility to undertake this function, but sets forth certain conditions.

Thus, "Kyivenergo" is ready to provide the hot water and central heating services, but insists on sharing the responsibility for the quality of rendered services among all participants of the process, including the consumers. In particular, "Kyivenergo" proposes to oblige housing cooperatives and associations to prepare houses for the heating season and provide all required documentation. "Kyivenergo" in turn obliges to conduct inspections of consumer water piping systems and certify their state.

"An owner or operator of the property must conclude an agreement with "Kyivenergo" on provision of transit of heating energy and hot water to the consumer water piping system and on segregation of duties and liability of the parties for supplied services. In fact, "Kyivenergo" wants to set a clear boundary between the territory of responsibilities of the enterprise and the one of property operators."

Moreover, specialists of the "Kyivenergo" insist on installation of "house off-the-shelf devices for accounting thermal power in the centralized heating system and hot water supply system."

However, the nomination of the official supplier of hot water in Kyiv will not happen very soon. The issue will probably be considered in the process of development of relevant legislation.

Working hard

While local governments try to settle "misunderstandings" with hot water supplies, central authorities seem to work hard as well. Thus, the parliament of Ukraine has already registered two relevant draft bills "On hot water and hot water supplies" and "On centralized supplies of hot water". MPs of different factions propose to define the producer and supplier of the hot water, to adopt the wording of relevant terms and to set clear codification of rights and obligations of all parties, involved in the process.

Thus, the draft bill "On hot water and hot water supplies" stipulates that the producer has the right to cut off supplies in case of late or missed payment. Among the obligations there is the compensation of losses in case of poor quality of the rendered service or cut off of supplies due to a fault of the producer. Similar norm is also stipulated in the draft bill "On centralized supplies of hot water". Moreover, the document also provides for compensations to consumers in case of the violation of set terms of system repair works.

The draft bills also provide for a system of organization of the hot water supplies market. Thus, the first draft bill stipulates that all producers of this communal service have equal access rights to the market, and it is down to the choice of consumers whose service to use.

The draft bill "On centralized supplies of hot water" stipulates the order of tariff formation. In particular, tariffs for centralized hot water supplies may vary depending on the quality of hot water in accordance with established standards. Thus, for every three degrees of temperature deviation from the standard, the tariff for hot water goes down by 5%. And for every hour of supplies of hot water, temperature of which is lower than 40 degrees, the payment for hot water service is calculated basing on the tariffs for cold water.   

Moreover, both draft bills provide for responsibility of the producer for the quality of hot water and uninterrupted supply. Means of punishment include fines and penalties. 

The draft bills have already been analyzed by specialists of Kyiv enterprises, engaged into hot water supplies. "We agree with the provided drafting and do not mind a company producing hot water to buy cold water from us," Viktoria Yakovleva of "Kyivvodokanal" said in a comment.

"Kyivenergo" is also optimistic about the changes, but points out that the new norms must agree with already existing ones. "From the point of legislation optimization, the proposed changes are seen as positive, but it is important for them to meet current legislation and laws "On heating", "On drinking water" and "On housing services". The new norms must not add to confusion, but fill in the gaps," the enterprise comments on probable innovations.

Well, soon we will see whether the MPs can agree on the issue, considering that there are two, not one document. As for the estimation, it will be up to Ukrainians. 

Tetyana Matsur


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