Advice for Landlords: Recovering water costs from Tenants

We often have queries from our Landlords about charging tenants for water usage.

What a property manager can charge on behalf of their landlord all comes back to what is in the Act ( Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 ).

The Act states that a tenant can only be charged for 100% of the water bill if:

  • the property is water efficient
  • the property is individually metered, and
  • the tenancy agreement states the tenant must pay for water consumption.

Rental properties are considered water efficient if certain water fixtures meet the following standards:

 

Water efficient devices Minimum water efficient standard required
Internal cold water taps and single mixer taps (excluding bathtub taps and taps for appliances)NOTE: The requirement for taps applies only to internal cold water taps that are installed over a hand basin, kitchen sink or laundry trough (including single mixer taps). The requirement does not apply to other taps in the property such as bath tub taps, outside taps for the garden, or taps which supply washing machines or dishwashers. These taps are not required to be water efficient. A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute
Showerheads A maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute
Toilets 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)

Landlords/agents should be able to demonstrate the presence of water efficient fittings where it may be unclear, such as by providing copies of:

  • plumbing reports
  • receipts
  • packaging
  • warranties or instruction manuals for taps and shower heads

For any water fixtures produced from 2005 onwards, the easiest way to check if they meet the required efficiency standard is to look for products with a WELS rating of three stars or higher. WELS is Australia’s water efficiency labelling scheme which rates fixtures including taps, showerheads and toilets according to water efficiency – the more stars the better.

The Landlord/Agent and Tenant should negotiate the arrangements for water charging and the frequency of water billing at the start of the tenancy.

Water billing periods will usually NOT align with tenancy agreements.

The common procedure is for the property manager to take water meter readings at the start of the tenancy, during the tenancy and at the end of the tenancy.

When Landlords receive their water bills they should provide their property manager with a copy of the bill as soon as possible in order that the property manager can bill the tenants accordingly.

This table sets out what a tenant can be charged in relation to water:

 

Charge shown on water bill Can tenant be charged?
State Bulk Water Charge Yes, tenant can be charged* Note: the bulk water rebate is no longer available in Queensland
Water Usage Charges Yes, tenant can be charged*
Sewerage Usage Charge (may appear on the bill as fixed or variable) No, tenant cannot be charged Sewerage is not a service charge as defined by the Act and cannot be passed onto the tenant
Fixed Access Charges (including Water Access Charge and Sewerage Access Charge) No, tenant cannot be charged The lessor must pay all fixed charges for water supply

*assuming the criteria discussed above have been met

For more information on charging water on your rental agreements call Demelza Berry today on 0408 220 085.