High water

Peter asks:
(updated on Monday, June 24th 2013)

I currently rent on Auckland’s North Shore and due to Watercare's recent restructure charges for waste water for a fixed calculation based on a percentage of water usage, I beleive we are being overcharged. Our water usuage was higher than average due to refilling a spa. I'm all for paying for what we consume but just not what we don't. Do I have grounds to tell my landlord that if they want to charge me for waste water that they will need to provide an accurate wastewater reading? If they can't, I would argue it’s not a true reflection of "outgoings that are exclusively attributable to that tenant". Really an issue for landlord and Watercare? But until a fair reflection of outgoings is found then I should not be liable?

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act (the Act), tenants are responsible for all outgoings that are exclusively attributable to their occupation of the premises. This includes charges charged by a supplier for water provided to the premises which are calculated on the basis of consumption. Costs that are charged regardless of whether there are tenants living in the premises are the responsibility of the landlord. Where waste water charges can be attributed exclusively to the tenant’s occupation of the premises, or to the tenant’s use of the facilities, then the tenant is responsible for this charge. However, if the waste water costs are charged regardless of whether the property is tenanted, or cannot be attributed directly to a tenant’s occupation, then the charge is the landlord’s responsibility. Tenants who are unsure of the water charges that have been passed on to them may wish to request to view the actual water bill, to ensure they are fully aware of the water supplier’s charges, and to ensure that they are only charged the applicable charges a tenant is responsible for. It is also recommended that you discuss the matter with your landlord in the first instance. If you and your landlord cannot agree on who is responsible for the waste water charges, or how the waste water charges are calculated, either party may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved. To discuss your situation further, or for information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Building and Housing Group’s website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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