Liability explained for water service fees and sewage fees

Question from Bree updated on 15th July 2011:

I know I am liable to pay water rates at my rental propery, but my question is am I also liable to pay water service fees and sewage fees?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

The answer to your question is likely to depend on when your tenancy started, as there have been some recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 in relation to who is responsible for paying outgoings.

For tenancies that started after 1 October 2010, the tenant is responsible for all outgoings that are exclusively attributable to their occupation of the premises. For example, the tenant is responsible for paying for electricity, gas, telephone and water supply charges if they are charged on the basis of consumption. Any other costs that are charged regardless of whether there are tenants living in the premises (for example, council rates and house insurance premiums) are the responsibility of the landlord.

It is not clear from your email what type of fees “water service fees” and “sewage fees” are and why they are being charged. If these are the type of fees that would be incurred whether or not anyone was living in the premises, then they are likely to be the landlord’s responsibility. If they are exclusively attributable to you, they are likely to be your responsibility.

For tenancies that started before 1 October 2010, tenants can be required to pay for water charges if the following three conditions are met:

• the premises have a separate water meter

• the written tenancy agreement states that the tenant shall pay for metered water

• the water supplier provides water to the premises on a metered basis.

In this situation, any charges that are incurred that do not apply to charges relating to metered usage may be the landlord’s responsibility.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your landlord on who is responsible for these charges you may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to resolve the matter.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about which rules may apply in your situation and how they relate to the charges you have asked about, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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