Water charges – Who pays?
The tenant is responsible for outgoings that are exclusively attributable to that tenant. This includes electricity, gas, phone and metered water.
A metered water supply is how a supplier of water can issue a charge on the basis of someone's consumption. Water suppliers sometimes change the way they charge for water and waste water.
Regardless of when the tenancy started, changes to the way a supplier bills or charges may have an effect on who is responsible for paying for water or wastewater charges. This may depend on how the billing has changed, and what is now directly related to the tenant's occupation of the premises.
Both the landlord and tenant should discuss the billing changes to determine any new payment responsibilities (i.e. who is responsible for payment - tenant or landlord?) resulting from the suppliers change of billing.
There are several different ways that water suppliers charge for waste water around the country.
For more specific information about water charges in your area, contact 0800 TENANCY.
Responsibility for a water supply
Landlords are responsible for ensuring there is an adequate supply of water available at their rental properties. If the property does not have a reticulated water supply, the landlord must provide adequate means for the collection and storage of water.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, a tenant is responsible for water charges exclusively attributed to that tenant, where the supplier charges for water on the basis of consumption.
Where the water supplier contracts with the landlord, and the landlord passes the obligation to pay water charges on to the tenant, the tenant is obliged to pay the water charges exclusively attributed to that tenant. If the tenant pays the charges but the landlord does not pay the water supplier and the water is disconnected, the landlord may be held responsible to pay for the reconnection of the water supply.
Tenants may be charged for waste water where the wastewater charge is exclusively attributable to the tenant's use. Some water suppliers now include calculations of waste water by reference to water supplied.
A landlord is responsible for outgoings which are incurred regardless of whether the premises are occupied or not. For example, a fixed waste water charge (which is charged regardless of whether the property is occupied or not) would, in most cases, be the responsibility of the landlord.
If the property is part of a Unit Title development, the Body Corporate rules form part of the tenancy agreement. If the Body Corporate rules regulate the supply of water amongst the units, then landlords should point this out to any potential or current tenants and must attach a copy of the relevant body corporate rules to the tenancy agreement.
If a tenant fails to pay the water charges the tenant may be in breach of their tenancy agreement and the landlord can issue the tenant with a 14 day Notice to remedy the breach. Refusal to remedy a breach of a tenancy agreement can result in a Tenancy Tribunal application
Tank water - not metered
Where the water supply is from a tank, the landlord should provide a full tank at the start of a tenancy. The tenancy agreement should record that the tenant will arrange and pay for any tank refills required as a result of their water use.
Water tanks should be an appropriate size. For example, an average-sized house should have a tank of about 5000 gallons (22,500 litres). The tank needs to be properly connected by a guttering system to a roof of reasonable size so the tank will be topped up from time to time by rainwater. There should be no leaks or contamination.
The pump is an essential part of a tank water system. Provided the pump is subjected only to normal wear and tear, its maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord. If tenants cause damage to the pump, for example by letting the pump run when the tank is empty, they may be held responsible for this. It would be a useful precaution for the landlord to provide written instructions and explain how the water system works.