Water leak, who pays for excess useage?

Question from Matthew Jurgens updated on 14th May 2007:

In one of our rental properties there was a water leak, the tenants informed us, we got it fixed and then a rather large water rates bill came in. Now, nobody wants to pay it. The tenants have previously paid for all water bills as there is a water meter. Who is responsible for paying this bill?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 requires that a landlord provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair. Any loss that the tenant incurs by any breach of this responsibility may be the landlords’ responsibility. On this basis you could find yourself responsible for the leaked water however the tenant would still be responsible for their water use. A fair way to establish this loss is to compare the increased water bill to the average water bill with the loss being considered as the difference. If however, the tenant was aware of the leak but failed to notify the landlord promptly as is their responsibility then they may also be expected to absorb some of the cost.

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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