This week’s question comes from Glen (paraphrased):
Our property management company has advised that we have to keep our rental’s Watercare account in our own name because we are still responsible for the fixed-charge. Is that correct? Isn’t that a lot of extra hassle now that we have to collect variable charges from tenants?
Your property manager is quite correct insofar as the bills having to be written out to you rather than to your tenant. It is not so much that you are
responsible for the fixed-charge but that you are, in fact, responsible for the whole bill (fixed and variable charges).
That said, S39(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act provides some relief. It mandates that ‘[t]he tenant is responsible for all outgoings in respect of
the premises that are exclusively attributable to the tenant’s occupation of the premises or to the tenant’s use of the facilities.’ So long
as each tenancy has its own water meter, you are entitled to recover 100% of the monthly variable charge from your tenant.
Clunky and not ideal. We know. We will continue to lobby a more sensible outcome in this area by working with Watercare. Watch this space.
In the meantime, and as a result of the lobbying work we have undertaken so far, there are a couple of things you can do to make your life easier as a
- Opt into paying your annual fixed-charge upfront and in one lump sum. Instructions here.
- Set your tenant up as an ‘authorised tenant’ on the account. Instructions here.
By doing both, you will pay the fixed-charge once a year, dispense with the need to ‘split out’ 12 monthly bills and have the monthly usage bill (still
in your name) sent directly to your authorised tenant. From there it is a simple matter of arranging for your tenant to open the bill and pay on time.
Are you still, ultimately, responsible for all the bills on the account? Yes, but this certainly streamlines the process somewhat.
Take a look at this video if you prefer to pay the fixed-charge
monthly and are not fussed about splitting 12 bills a year.