Can I charge tenants for water consumption?

Can I charge tenants for water consumption?

Wondering, “Can I charge tenants for water consumption?” The answer is yes. Tenants can be charged for water usage given certain conditions. If the water consumed at a rental property is individually metered, tenants can be charged.

Water consumption means the volume of water supplied to the premises. While the tenant is usually responsible for the water consumed, the landlord is responsible for all other costs associated with maintaining water supply.

Additional conditions apply to charging tenants for water consumption. These may include the premises having water efficient fittings and meeting a required water efficiency standard. Also, the charges for water will need to be documented in the tenancy agreement.

How to calculate water charges for a rental property

The amount charged will depend on each situation. If all conditions are met for charging water, the landlord may be able to pass on all costs of water consumption to the tenant.

Related: Can landlords make tenants pay for carpet cleaning?

However, if only some of the conditions are met, water charges will require special calculations and consideration of the factors involved to determine an appropriate charge.

Any garden beds and their required maintenance, lawns, the size of the block of land for the rental property, and alternative water supplies, such as a water tank, should also be taken into consideration when determining water charges for a tenancy.

Keeping accurate records for water usage

Rarely will tenancy agreements align with water bills. Therefore, as the lessor, you need to ensure the water metre is recorded at the start and end of every tenancy.

Tenants are not required to pay for water they do not use. Avoid disputes by keeping accurate records using the water metre and documenting it on the condition reports at the start and end of each tenancy.

Related: How to do a rental property inspection

What are the residential tenancy laws for charging tenants for water?

It’s essential to understand the requirements for charging water as stated by the relevant residential tenancies laws in your state or territory. The legislation is similar across Australia with some minor variations.

Be aware that the residential tenancy legislation is currently undergoing change, so you need to keep checking it regularly. Look for sections relating to charging water or utilities.

The following outlines charging tenants for water consumption in New South Wales and Queensland.

Charging tenants for water usage in NSW

Do tenants pay for water? The NSW legislation allows landlords to charge tenants for water consumption if a minimum of three criteria are met:

  1. The premises is individually metered
  2. The amount charged does not exceed the amount billed by the water supplier
  3. The rental property meets the water efficiency standards

What is the water efficiency standard in NSW?

Your rental premises are water efficient in NSW if the following standards are met:

  1. A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute for:
    • Internal cold water taps
    • Single mixer taps for kitchen sinks and bathroom hand basins
  2. A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute for:
    • Showerheads
  3. No leaking taps anywhere on the premises at the start of the tenancy or when the other water efficiency measures are installed

Other taps including outside taps, bathtub taps, washing machine taps, and dishwasher taps do not apply to the above standards.

How to charge tenants for water in NSW

To charge tenants for water usage in NSW, give the tenants a copy of the water consumption bill for the three month period. If required, show calculations for water consumed, for example, if the tenants moved in during the bill period.

Attach a letter to the water bill clearly stating the tenant has 21 days to pay the amount owing.

Related: Easy way to find tenants for private rental

Charging tenants for their water consumption in Queensland

Who pays for water in a rental property? In Queensland, landlords and agencies can pass on the full cost of water consumption to tenants if all three conditions are met:

  1. The premises is individually metered
  2. The property is water efficient
  3. It is stated in the tenancy agreement that the tenant pays for water consumption

How water efficiency is determined in Queensland

As the landlord of a rental property, you have to prove the rental property is water efficient. You can do this by keeping copies of receipts, packaging for water efficient products fitted, warranties, and plumbing reports or other certifications.

For a rental premise to be considered water efficient, it must meet the following standards:

  1. A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute for:
    • Internal cold water taps and single mixer taps including hand basin, kitchen sink, and laundry trough
    • Excluding bathtub taps, external garden taps, and taps for appliances
  2. A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute for:
    • Showerheads
  3. A dual flush function not exceeding 6.5 litres on full flush and 3.5 litres on half flush and a maximum average flush volume of 4 litres (based on the average of 1 full flush and 4 half flushes) for:
    • Toilets

Charging Queensland tenants for water

Individual water bills need to be provided to tenants in a timely manner. Separate invoices accumulating several water bills is not allowed. At a recent RTA meeting we attended, it was discussed that, currently, the tenant has 30 days to pay the bill.

Can I charge tenants for water consumption? Yes

Understanding your rights, responsibilities, and legal requirements as a landlord is crucial, and now you know the ins and outs of rules related to water consumption in rental properties.

The next step? Put your property for rent on the market.

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