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How are water charges managed?

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As we are all receiving our SA Water bills, I thought it would be advantageous to discuss water charges to tenants from a landlord.

The Residential Tenancies Act is very clear that the landlord is entitled to reimbursement for rates & charges for water supply that is used by the tenant even in the absence of an agreement (agreements after 1st March 2014) as long as the supply of water to the premises is separately metered.

Landlords face strict criteria; they could find themselves not eligible for the reimbursement of rates & charges for water supply, by the tenant, especially if they fail to request the payment within a certain period of time or fail to send a copy of the account within a certain period of time if the tenant has requested it from the landlord.

It is always best practice to have the expectations of a tenancy agreement in writing between the two parties to minimise the chance of miscommunication. There are different water arrangements for rentals with shared meters, rural properties with no main water and properties receiving benefits of the water security rebates.
Some landlords find their tenancy agreement has started part-way through the water billing cycle. How does a landlord charge this out? Remember two important things:

1) water supply is paid in advance

2) water usage is paid in arrears.

Tenants please note: upon the commencement of a tenancy be aware you could receive a water invoice for the supply charge immediately.

A landlord can only charge the tenant for the supply charge & water usage from the commencement of the tenancy agreement, so it is pertinent a meter reading is taken and recorded. This is the point of reference when you are calculating the correct charges. Landlords need to be aware there is a correct formula to use when calculating water usage as there are different tiered quarterly thresholds applied for each quarter’s billing period. SA Water accounts are calculated on a daily basis.

Landlords and tenants – water the gardens – especially in this heat! This is the responsibility of a tenant and they must maintain the gardens and lawns to at least the same standard as at the commencement of the tenancy agreement, subject to any legislative changes. Whilst it is not a compulsory requirement and definitely not to be an expectation by a tenant, some landlords may subsidise the water usage if the gardens and lawns are looking exceptionally healthy, but this is at the landlord’s discretion.

Also, to avoid potential disputes between the landlord and the tenant, a tenant should advise their landlord/agent immediately about problems such as leaking taps, otherwise the tenant may be liable for the increased water charges caused by the leak. Otherwise the disagreement could end up at SACAT (the Tribunal)!

If you own an investment property and would like peace of mind, contact Lisa Akeroyd from Barossa Rental Specialists on 0414 335 660 to discuss your rental management strategy.

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