Water Rates, the saga continues..

Gordon Gabriel asks:
(updated on Monday, May 14th 2007)

MCC have removed waste water charge from rates bill and they are now part of water rates. Although water is metered they charge a flat rate currently $320pa. This is, in my opinion, unfair, illogical, counter-productive and creates unnecessary administration for all parties in the case of rental properties. They now have to process two payments per property instead of one. An example is a tenant who uses minimal water. Water charge might be say $10 per month, and waste water is $26.66. Conversely someone who uses large amounts need not fear increased waste water charge. Council claims, correctly, that this charge is to cover cost of processing waste water, therefore why is the charge not related to usage - illogical! Sorry to be so long-winded. My question is, at the start of the tenancy can a landlord, with the tenants agreement, write into it that the tenant is responsible for all water charges?

Our Experts Answer:

The Department cannot comment on the specific billing practices of water companies. The law provides that the ratepayer (usually the owner) is liable for rates, including water rates, on a rental property (Local Government (Rating) Act 2002, section 12). This means that the ratepayer will be legally responsible for any outstanding water rates if water bills are not paid.

However, a landlord can recover the cost of water rates from his or her tenant(s), under section 39 of the Residential Tenancies Act, provided that all three conditions below are met:

  • 1. The premises have a separate water meter, and
  • 2. The tenant’s written tenancy agreement states that, at the start of the tenancy, the tenant will pay for metered water provided to the tenancy; and
  • 3. The water supplier charges for water provided to the premises on a metered basis.
A clause that contradicts the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 would be unenforceable and of no effect. As a landlord can only require that the tenant pay water charged on a metered basis – any clause that would see the tenant paying for a fixed water charge would be of no effect.

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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