Do Landlords Pay For Water? Who Pays For Water When Renting?

  • By: Peter Parker
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Utility bills are a major consideration while renting out a house or apartment. It is the responsibility of the landlord to provide safe drinking water to the tenants.

However, who pays for water is a complex issue that often creates a rift between the landlord and tenants. 

The law does not regulate how landlords can charge for water and sewer bills. The lease document usually specifies who is responsible for paying for the utilities such as water, electricity, trash collection, etc.

It is crucial to go through the lease document closely to be clear on how the landlord deals with utility bills. 

Water bill charging practice in rental houses:

The water bill charging practice depends on the type of property, the location of the property, and the age of the property. 

Old apartment complexes

Old apartment buildings do not have separate water meters for individual apartments and it is difficult to track the water usage of each unit. In this scenario, the landlord includes the water bill component in the rent and you will not be required to pay a separate water bill. 

The water bill can be distributed amongst the tenets in any one of the following criteria 

  • The size of the unit
  • Number of people occupying the unit
  • A fixed percentage of the total water bill

Before signing the lease, ask the landlord how they determine the amount of water bill for each tenant. 

Single-family residence, condo, or townhouse

Single-family residences, condos, and townhouses have their own water meters. In this case, the landlord may require you to pay the water utility charges.

You have to approach the local utility office of the city and transfer the water service to your name or set up a new service. You may have to pay a set-up fee and deposit to get a water service for your new rental home. 

Before you sign the lease, it is important to check whether the house already has a water connection and whether the water is turned on.

You should also make sure that there are no outstanding bills against the property. 

Can my landlord make me pay it? Is it legal for a landlord to charge for the water bill?

It is legal for the landlord to charge for the water bills. Landlords can decide who pays the utility bills such as water, sewer, electricity, gas, etc.

They can either include the water utility bills in the rent or ask the tenant to open a new account for the rental property and pay the bills.

However, if the lease document mentions that the landlord will not charge the water bill, he cannot make you pay it. 

The answer to who pays the water bill is also determined by the state and local laws. For example, in NYC the landlord cannot make the tenant pay the water bill, so here the water bills are factored into the rent. 

How to calculate water bill for tenant

There are multiple ways to calculate the water bill for the tenant. 

  • Charge the exact amount of the bill received

The landlord can include the exact amount of the bill received to the base rent amount. In this case, the landlord determines a base rent for the unit and adds the exact amount of the bill received on top of it.

The landlord will forward the copy of the water bill received for the month to the rent balance notice.

This method is accurate for bookkeeping and also removes ambiguity in the tenant’s mind on how the owner will charge for the water bill. 

  • Share the bill amongst the tenants

If there are multiple tenets but the property does not have sub-meters for every unit, the landlord may split the bill amount amongst the renters.

The landlord can split the bill based on various parameters such as the size of the unit, number of people residing in each unit, and the average water usage of each unit or divide it equally among all the renters. 

  • Include utilities in the rent

Some landlords include all utility payments in the rent. In this case, the rent may be slightly higher as all the utilities will be paid by the landlord.

This is the most convenient option for renters as they do not have to get a new account for the rental property, pay set up costs and deposits, and cancel the account while moving homes.

Most landlords prefer to keep the water service account in their name as it is easy to manage.

Can landlords charge a premium on water bills? 

Landlords cannot charge a premium on the water bills. They can charge some admin fee over the bill amount but cannot take a substantial premium.

However, most landlords do not show water costs separately while calculating the rent and there is no way to dispute it in the court, even if they overcharge. 

If you want to check if the landlord is charging a premium on the water bill, you can compare the rents of similar properties in your locality.

If your rent is higher, the landlord is overcharging you. On the other hand, you can also ask the utility company to provide a copy of the bill to know the exact bill amount and discuss the matter with your landlord. 

Who pays for the outstanding water bills? 

If a tenant does not clear the water bills, the landlord is responsible for paying them. The local utility office will ask the landlord to clear the dues for reinstating the water supply to the unit.

However, the landlord may deduct the outstanding bill amount from the security deposit of the tenant. This is the main reason why most landlords prefer to pay the utility bills themselves. 

Landlords are in the business of renting houses to earn a profit. They factor in all the costs before determining the final rent of the property.

No matter whether the landlord pays for water or the tenant pays, the actual cost is borne by the tenant.