Water Bill Questions & Answers For Tenants

Are tenants responsible for the water bill for their apartment or rental?

Whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for the water bill depends on the lease agreement for the apartment. When a tenant signs a lease, it should specify which utilities the tenant is responsible for and which (if any) are included in the rent or paid for by the landlord.

I personally have always had water included in my rent. In fact, it’s the only utility that I have never paid for! It is the utility that is most likely to be included with rent. However, it isn’t always included. It’s important to find out if you’ll be paying your own water bill before signing a lease.

How Can Tenants Pay Their Own Water bill?

Sometimes a landlord will ask that the tenant switch the water bill into their own name when they move in to the apartment. It’s common for leases to specify that the tenant has a set amount of time (often 1 week) to transfer or they will be in violation of the lease.

In other cases, the landlord may keep the water bill in their own name, but the lease will specify that it’s your responsibility. In that case, your landlord should forward you the bill so you can pay them the amount that is owed.

Who Is Responsible For Unpaid Water Bill After Tenants Move Out?

If the landlord was responsible for the water bill when the tenant was living there, then the expense will remain the responsibility of the landlord.

If the water bill had been the responsibility of the tenant, then things get murky. The landlord could try to take the tenant to court for the overdue expenses. However, in most cities they can place a lien on the property if water bills go unpaid. Meaning, this consequence could impact the landlord even if the responsibility really should have been the tenants.

In some leases, the landlord will have written in a clause that says if utilities aren’t caught up when the tenant moves out, that the security deposit can be withheld to pay for the expenses. In that case, they’d keep the tenant’s security deposit to pay the water bill.

Why Is The Water Bill Often Included In Rent?

Water bills are often included in rent even if other utilities aren’t included. Why? There are several reasons:

    1. Avoiding a lien. If water bills go unpaid, in many areas a lien can be placed on the property. Landlords don’t usually want to risk their property having a lien on it, so by including water in the rent they can ensure the bill is paid and a lien is avoided.

    1. Avoiding damage. If the tenant pays the water bill, they know the water won’t get shut off. If tenants allow water bills to go unpaid and the water is turned off, it can cause pipes to freeze and other damage to occur to the property.

    1. Country living. If your property is outside of city limits, it may have a well. In this case, water is included in the rent because there is no water bill.

    1. Meter problems. If you’re renting within a multi-unit building, your apartment may not have its own meter but just have one meter for the entire building. In those cases, it’s impossible to know how much water each apartment unit used, so it’s harder to bill accurately or fairly. Sometimes a lease will state that you owe a portion of the water bill for a multi-unit place (like 50% of the water bill if you live in a duplex with just 1 meter) but it’s definitely less common.

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