Managing

Excessive water bills and who is responsible

Spring 2017

Once a commodity very few people in urban environments gave much attention to, the cost of water has become a significant feature of the household budget, up there with gas and electricity.

(Mostly) gone are the days of hosing down the driveway and leaving the sprinkler saturating the lawn or garden for hours.

Householders often cringe at the sight of the water bill telling them their usage is above the local average.

So, on what basis is water charged to a rental property? There are 3 options.

The tenant can be asked to pay for the full cost of water consumption (including bulk water charges) only where:

  • The property is individually metered
  • The property is water efficient
  • The tenancy agreement states that the tenant must pay for water consumption

Another option is that the tenant has water costs built in to the rent.

Then there’s an arrangement whereby the property owner pays up to a certain water usage, with the tenant paying the excess.

The tenant cannot be charged for the Sewerage Usage Charge, or the Fixed Access Charge.

So, the tenant has found the ideal property to rent…it includes a swimming pool, a spa, and a water feature set amid lush tropical gardens, with a built in irrigation system.

All these features must be kept up to scratch according to the tenancy agreement whereby the property has to be kept in the condition in which it was rented, with the exception of fair wear and tear.

But then the tenant starts to think:

'What are the ramifications of topping up a pool, the water feature, the spa and keeping the gardens in good shape given that their upkeep is a mandatory clause in the tenancy agreement?'

The manager/owner is keen to attract the prospective tenant who seems to appreciate the special qualities of the property, but is aware of the imposing water bill.

There’s room for negotiation on water bills if they have the capacity to be excessive, but are necessary for the upkeep of the property.

The tenant and property manager/owner should discuss the estimated amount of excess water required to maintain the property, agree, and get it down in writing on the lease.

That should hose down any arguments later on.