The ultimate answer: who pays for water charges?

Question from Jeremy updated on 10th February 2010:

If the tenant is responsible for paying the water bill but the bill is under the landlords name, how does the landlord enforce payment? Does the landlord pay the water company than bills the tenant separately or can the tenant pay the water company directly?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

A tenant can be required to pay for water charges only 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.

Where the water bill is held in the landlord’s name, the landlord is responsible to the water supplier for payment of the bill. The landlord can then seek reimbursement of these charges from the tenant. If it is preferred, either party could discuss with the water supplier whether the account can be transferred to the tenants’ name. If the tenant is responsible for the water charges and does not reimburse the landlord for these costs, the landlord can write to the tenant giving them 10 working days’ notice to pay the water charges. The landlord should keep a copy of the letter for their records.

Service time needs to be allowed for delivering the notice to the tenant. If the landlord hands the letter to the tenant, the 10 working day period takes effect immediately. However, if the landlord drops it in the tenant’s letterbox they must allow an extra two working days, and if posted to the tenant they must allow an extra four working days. A template for a 10 working days’ notice can be downloaded from the Department of Building and Housing’s website (www.dbh.govt.nz). If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to recover costs from the tenant for the water charges. If an order is granted and the tenant does not voluntarily comply with the Tenancy Tribunal order, the landlord may choose to enforce the order either via an independent debt collections agency, or via the Collections Unit at the District Court.

To discuss your situation further, or for advice and information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can contact the Department of Building and Housing on 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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