Who pays for water in a rental property?

Ask Kiri Barfoot - your property management questions answered

Often misunderstood by tenants and landlords alike, water bills and the responsibility of payment in a rental property can be complex and vary depending on the property. 

It's important for both parties to understand what their responsibilities are when it comes to paying the water bill. 

Landlord responsibilities

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of clean water to their rental properties.

If there is no reticulated (piped) water supply, the landlord must ensure that water can be adequately collected and stored (i.e. from a tank). Water tanks should be an appropriate size for the property, must be properly connected by a guttering system and have no leaks or contamination. A full tank should be provided by the landlord at the start of a tenancy, and the tenant should leave a full tank when vacating. The tenancy agreement must record that the tenant will arrange and pay for any refills they need. If the water tank has no meter the landlord is responsible for the fixed annual “Unmetered water charge” If the tank has a meter then the landlord pays a lower fixed charge and the tenant pays the volumetric charge.

The maintenance of the water tank pump, provided that it is subjected only to normal wear and tear, is the responsibility of the landlord. However, if tenants cause damage to the pump, they may be held responsible for the cost of repairs. 

For properties that are part of a unit title development, the body corporate rules form part of the tenancy agreement. If the body corporate rules regulate the supply of water among the units, landlords should point this out to potential or current tenants. They must also attach a copy of the relevant rules to the tenancy agreement.

If the water account is in the landlord’s name, they must pay for the water charges and then seek reimbursement from the tenant. Alternatively, either party can contact the water supplier to arrange for a copy of the water invoice to be sent to the tenant. 

Generally in Auckland under the new Super City, the water will be invoiced each month. There are three components to the water bill; Fixed charges, Water & Wastewater. The owner is responsible for paying the fixed charges. Another charge the owner is responsible for is any special water meter readings in between tenancies. 

Tenant responsibilities

The tenant is responsible to pay for the water and wastewater charges only if :

  • The property has a separate water meter,
  • The water supplier provides water to the property on a metered basis, or
  • The charges can be exclusively attributed to the tenants in occupation of the premises. 

New Watercare billing options

A way to simplify landlord and tenant responsibilities around wastewater payments is to opt into Watercare’s new billing system.

As of 10 May 2016, landlords can opt to pay all of the fixed wastewater charges in one payment. By opting in, the fixed charges will be cleared for the remainder of the year, and the remaining components (water and wastewater) become the sole responsibility of the tenant. Click here for more information

What happens if water charges aren't paid

If the tenant pays the landlord for their water charges, but the landlord doesn’t pay the supplier and the water is disconnected, the landlord is responsible for reconnection.

If the tenant does not pay their water bills, they are in breach of their tenancy agreement. A 14-day notice can be issued to the tenants to remedy the situation. If the tenant still doesn’t pay, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. 

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