When it comes to water bills who pays water usage in rental homes? As a consultant, I am often asked this question by both homeowners and homemakers alike. By addressing this ahead of time, you can understand your rights and obligations, as well as minimise cost.
So let’s look at the rules for water usage in Queensland and how they might apply to you and your home.
The rules on who pays water usage in rental homes
Homeowners are allowed to pass on the full water consumption charges (including bulk water charges) to homemakers for their investment property. There are some minimum criteria which need to have been met.
1. The home must be individually metered, and
2. The home must be water efficient, and
3. The tenancy agreement must state the homemaker is to pay for water consumption
How do I know if the home is individually metered?
Most houses will have an individual water meter. This is usually located on the nature strip outside the property. It is usually set in the ground in a blue or black box.
Many units or apartments will have a shared usage arrangement for water usage. An easy way to determine if the water is individually metered is to check the meter reading on a bill.
The following example shows a shared percentage and therefore consumption must be paid by the homeowner:
What is a water-efficient home?
A home is considered water-efficient if certain water fixtures meet the required standards. These are set out by the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA). The homeowner must be able to verify the water efficiency of devices if required. For example, internal cold water taps and single mixer taps (excluding bathtub taps and taps for appliances) must have a maximum flow rate of 9 litres per minute. As well, fixed appliances made after 2005 must have a WELS rating of three stars or more. A full list of the requirements in Queensland is outlined on the RTA website.
Whilst a water efficiency certificate is not required, it is the simplest and easiest way to ensure the home is water efficient. It also provides evidence to the homemaker who will be paying for the water usage. For a small fee, a local plumber will attend to the home, conduct some tests and provide a certificate. There may be some additional costs such as aerators for taps or a new shower head. However, the costs will be recouped, often within the first water billing period.
As well as saving the homeowner money, there is also the benefit to every one of lessening the impact on the environment.
“Conserving water resources, even in areas without shortages, helps reduce the need to build dams or extract water from rivers, decreases wastewater produced and treated at sewage plants, lowers energy requirements for treating and transporting water and wastewater, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” Australian Government, ‘your home’ website.
How are water usage costs charged to the homemaker?
Your property manager will receive the water bill, pay the full amount and provide the homemakers with an invoice for the water consumption charges. A copy of the water bill will also be provided to verify the amount to be charged. The homemaker will have one month to pay the agreed amount.
If the home is self-managed, the homeowner will need to consider that water billing periods are unlikely to align with tenancy agreements. It’s important that the homeowner makes a note of the water meter readings on the condition reports at the start and end of the tenancy to calculate water consumption.
In the following example, the homeowner is able to pass on the water consumption charges of $76.05 plus $20.73, totalling $96.78 for the quarterly usage.
For more information on water consumption calculations, the Residential Tenancies Authority provides a comprehensive summary.