There’s often some confusion amongst landlords and tenants regarding who pays for what when the water bill is issued. To make it even more confusing, particularly for interstate owners, the water billing policy varies significantly between states.
Legislation in Queensland states that tenants can be charged for their full water consumption but there are strict guidelines in place for this. We’ve put together some facts to help clear up the confusion.
In order for the full water consumption to be passed on to the tenants, your property must meet the following minimum criteria:
• the rental premises are individually metered (or water is delivered by vehicle), and
• the rental premises are water efficient, and
• the tenancy agreement states that the tenant must pay for water consumption.
water efficiency and compliance
For a property to be ‘water efficient’, certain water fixtures must meet the standards listed below:
• Internal cold water taps and single mixer taps (excluding bathtub taps and taps for appliances) must have a maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute.
• Showerheads must have a maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute
• Toilets must have 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).
To be able to charge your tenants full water consumption, you should be able to demonstrate the presence of water efficient devices and prove that your property is water efficient by providing copies of:
• plumbing reports (or compliance certification)
• warranties or instruction manuals for taps and showerheads, etc.
If the property isn’t water efficient, but individually metered and the agreement states that the tenant must pay for water, you may choose to pay for a ‘reasonable amount’ (e.g. up to 50kL) of water consumption and the tenant may be required to pay any charges in excess of this reasonable amount.
Unlike in other states, the water bills are sent directly to you instead of the tenant. As the bills are under your name, you must pay the bill first; after that, you may choose to pass the bill on to us to seek reimbursement from the tenant. Bills should be passed on as you get them or chat to us about organising for them to be sent to our agency for payment on your behalf. While the Act doesn’t provide timeframes for invoices to be given to tenants, if the matter is taken to QCAT, a previous ruling stated it was “unreasonable for a lessor (property owner) to withhold water charges and issue an invoice that covers a significant period and a significant amount”.
Once the bill is passed on to the tenants, they have 30 days to pay according to legislation. In the event that they don’t pay within 30 days, we can issue a Notice to Remedy Breach (RTA Form 11) as they are in breach of their lease agreement.
If the tenants still don’t pay the bill after this notice expires (after 7 days), we can then lodge a Dispute Resolution Request with the RTA where they act as a mediation service between the involved parties. If no resolution is reached, the next step is to go to QCAT (Tribunal).
Going to QCAT should always be the last resort; QCAT is a lengthy process and can take months to resolve resulting in wasted time and money. Unfortunately, the course of action that can be taken when tenants are not paying their water bills is limited; it is not as simple as turning the water off (as most utilities companies will do when bills are not being paid).
items that the tenant can be charged for
If your property meets the minimum criteria, the tenant can be charged for the following items:
• State Bulk Water Charge
• Water Usage Charges
The tenant cannot be charged for:
• Sewerage Usage Charges – Sewerage is not a service charge as defined by the Act.
• Fixed Access Charges – The property owner is responsible for all fixed charges for water supply.
faulty plumbing or leaks
It’s important to ensure that maintenance relating to plumbing is fixed as quickly as possible. This is because, in the event of things like water leaks or worn out washers, the tenant can use these things in an argument to avoid having to pay their water bill. Should the case go to QCAT, it’s likely the tenant could win the case based on other case studies.
lease agreements and water billing
As the dates on lease agreements rarely line up with water billing periods and water billing is based on the meter reading on your bill, there may be periods at the beginning and end of a tenancy where we can’t charge the tenant for water usage.