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TasWater Billing & Strata Unit Tenancy

Note: I am not a lawyer and have no qualification to offer legal advice. However, if this issue is relevant, you might contact the authorities listed at the bottom of this article to pursue your stolen money. Also, I hope at least some people stop paying illegal water bills to Tasmanian landlords. This article includes research conducted by my partner and I because my property manager emailed an illegal water bill.

If you are renting a unit (in a block of units) in Tasmania there is a good chance your landlord is passing on water bills that are illegal. If so, you may even be entitled to ask for all of that money returned.

The issue is that Tasmanian landlords and property managers (like BluEdge Property) don’t have the right to chop up a water bill into (say six) parts. If there is only one water meter to the property then it would be illegal to merely divide the water component of that bill by (for example six) units. It would be arbitrary… either for the number of rooms (on the assumption that more rooms means more responsibility for usage), the number of tenants (assuming more people use more water), or time into the tenancy agreement (assuming a linear progression of water usage over time).

An added complication that makes this type of billing impossible (and therefore unfair) is that unit occupancies stagger through a billing period. So whatever the billing regime that calculation was based on it would be a guess. And landlords may try to dupe you by saying it’s in your Tenancy Agreement or they have sighted the bill. Or that the Act says metered to the property (a meter on the property), when it means metered to the part of the property that you are legally responsible for as a tenant.

The landlord’s problem is that it’s almost impossible to retrospectively install water meters in strata units. It would require major plumbing renovations.

The rules for passing on water usage to tenants in strata units is relatively straight forward:

  1. the individual unit that you are renting must be metered by TasWater; and
  2. the responsibility for paying water fees must be in the Tenancy Agreement you signed; and
  3. the meter reading at the time you signed the Tenancy Agreement must be in the condition report (note that this report should be supplied at the time the tenant signs the Tenancy Agreement); and
  4. the TasWater bill must correspond exactly with the time of occupancy of the property by the tenant.

These conditions must exist for the bill to be legal, it isn’t good enough that the unit is individually metered. You are only legally responsible for usage by you within your tenancy of a property. And you should inform the landlord, in such cases, that merely passing an illegal bill to a tenant carries penalty points. The law clearly defines what bills may be asked of a tenant.

Also note that when the landlord points to your Tenancy Agreement and says “You signed”; it is irrelevant. Illegal parts of a contract are unenforceable.

Ethically, and I would strongly suggest legally, if you have been charged these illegal water bills by your landlord or property manager you would be entitled to the return of your money.

The qualifying information for this article:

  1. The TasWater website explains concerns about residential tenancy billing;
  2. The Tenants Union of Tasmania has a quick low-down on water and sewerage charges;
  3. The Residential Tenancy Act 2007 (because landlords and property managers quote it without having bothered to read it); and
  4. page 7 of The Rental Guide provided by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading has a few succinct sentences about Water Charges.

For your first telephone call I would strongly suggest you contact the Consumer Affairs and Residential Tenancy Commission on 1300 654 499. They would be interested in hearing about your illegal water bill.

The illegal bill I received was a text document from the Real Estate company with the billed parties being me and my official visitor. The billing dates were also wrong – starting one month prior to taking up the tenancy. They claimed the unit is individually metered, but TasWater assured me there is only one water meter on the property. The senior property manager lied at every step to bully me into paying.

If you have been paying illegal water bills to a landlord or property manager then you may be able to have your money returned. It was an illegal bill and you should seek legal advice. So good luck. I hope this information helps somebody.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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