4

I live in Australia.

I had some tenants living in my investment property for approximately 18 months (they moved out a few months ago). I have since sold the property and settlement is in a month.

I had real estate agents managing the tenancy but ceased the arrangement when the tenants moved out, since I was selling the property.

I just noticed that over the 18 month period that the tenants were living there, I was paying their water usage. Normally in Australia the landlord only pays the water connection and sewerage fees. Usually I have a good eye for detail but for some reason I didn't look at the bills properly and realise that I was paying for this.

Prior to those tenants moving in, I was only paying water connection.

I was wondering if I have any case for recouping this money now, and how I should go about it. I am assuming that when the prior tenants moved out, water usage was moved to me automatically (being the landlord) and this was never changed to the new tenant.

  1. Who was responsible for notifying the water company of the new tenant? Presumably if it's the real estate agent, I have a case to recoup the money from them?
  2. If it was my responsibility, what is my recourse here?
  • Is this for a unit or a strata property (town house or villa) or for a stand alone place (as there are difference when it comes to the water bill)? – Victor Sep 9 '15 at 11:32
  • @Victor - this is the OP (I posted without logging in originally). It's a unit on a block of 3, but it's a separate water connection for my unit. – LeopardSkinPillBoxHat Sep 9 '15 at 11:38
  • Is it a strata property, because if it is, there is usually a main water meter outside even if each unit has their own separate meter. – Victor Sep 9 '15 at 11:41
  • @Victor - I'm fairly certain it's a strata property. – LeopardSkinPillBoxHat Sep 9 '15 at 11:46
  • What did their lease say about this? In Qld, tenants are typically not liable for any water usage charges. – John Lyon Sep 22 '15 at 22:15
1

Usually if the property is part of a strata then the water rates get sent to the owner each quarter to pay and the usage for the whole complex is paid by the strata. So in this type of situation your tenant would not have to pay any water usage.

If for some reason, as you mentioned, your unit, although part of a strata complex, is individually metered and you receive a water bill for both water rates and water usage, then the tenant would be liable to pay the water usage portion. This can usually be arranged by either giving the tenant a copy of the water bill with the amount of usage payable, or organising with the water company to separately sending the tenant the usage part of the bill.

As you had a real estate agent (managing agent) looking after your property at the time when the water usage was not being paid by the tenant, it would have been their responsibility to either recoup this money from the tenant or organise with the water compony to send the usage part of the bill to the tenants. That is part of the service you were paying them for.

You may need to check with Fair Trading in your state to find out who you should be going after for this money, the tenant or the real estate agent. In NSW you have 6 months after the lease has ended to take the tenants to tribunal to recoup owing money, I don't know how long it is after end your agreement with the real estate agent to pursue them.

The case may be that you start with the tenant and if that doesn't work then try with the real estate agent. Of course you may want to contact your old tenants first to see if they are reasonable and agree to back pay the water usage (after you showing them copies of the water bills). The tribunal will ask if you have tried to mediate the matter first anyway. Then there is the matter of how much the water usage amounts to and whether it is worth chasing both the tenants and the real estate agent, paying the tribunal application fees and taking time off work to attend the tribunal.

  • Thanks for the response - the individual units in the block have always been paid by the separate owners individually. – LeopardSkinPillBoxHat Sep 9 '15 at 21:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.