Do Renters Pay Water Bill? A Comprehensive Guide for Tenants

Paying bills is an inevitable part of adulting. As a renter you’re responsible for paying the rent on time each month. But you also have to pay for groceries wifi, electricity, and other utilities like water. So do renters pay the water bill?

The short answer is – it depends In some cases, water bills are covered by the landlord or property manager Other times, the water bill is the sole responsibility of the renter. To understand who pays the water bill, we need to first look at some background information.

How Water Billing Works for Rental Properties

When you rent an apartment, townhouse, or single-family home, there are two main ways that water billing can be handled:

  • The landlord can put the water bill in their name and include water costs in the rent payment.

  • The renter puts the water bill in their name and pays the water company directly.

In most rentals in the United States, the water bill is put in the tenant’s name. However, some landlords choose to include water costs in the rent to simplify billing.

Landlord Pays the Water Bill

In some cities and states, local laws require that the property owner or landlord pay for water service. Places like New York City and Cincinnati have legal requirements that the landlord handles water billing.

Even if not legally obligated, some landlords prefer to keep utilities like water in their name. Reasons may include:

  • Avoid service disruptions between tenants
  • Simplify billing for tenants
  • Maintain control over water usage

Although the landlord pays the water company directly, the cost of water service is passed on to the renter. Landlords factor water costs into the monthly rent payment. The amount each tenant pays toward water may be a fixed fee or based on actual usage.

Pros for renters when water is included:

  • Predictable budgeting since water costs are fixed
  • No need to set up water service accounts
  • Possible cost savings from landlord rates

Cons for renters:

  • No control over water usage or thermostat
  • Potentially higher rates than direct billing

According to my research, about 20-30% of rental units include water billing with the landlord. But this can vary greatly by region and city.

Renter Pays Water Bill Directly

In most standard rental agreements, the tenant is responsible for paying the water bill. The renter sets up an account with the local water department and pays the bill directly.

The landlord may pay any water fees during vacancies between tenants. But otherwise, it is the renter’s responsibility to maintain active water service.

Pros for renters paying water bills:

  • Control over water usage and billing
  • Access to conservation or utility assistance programs
  • Ability to choose water provider in some areas

Cons for renters:

  • Need to set up water service and billing
  • Responsible for unpaid bills from previous tenants
  • Changes to water bill each month makes budgeting difficult

On average, renters paying their own water bill can expect to spend $40-60 per month depending on usage and local rates. Bills are generally higher in the summer due to increased watering needs.

How to Split Water Bills with Roommates

Living with roommates often means dividing up utility bills. Here are some tips for splitting water bills fairly:

  • Divide the bill evenly – simple but may cause conflicts if usage varies

  • Base share on number of occupants or rooms

  • Calculate percentages based on income

  • Take turns paying the full bill each month

  • Use apps to transfer money like Venmo or Splitwise

Discuss upfront how bills will be divided to avoid roommate conflicts over utility payments.

What to Know Before Renting

When searching for your next rental, here are key questions to ask about utilities:

  • Is water included with rent or the tenant’s responsibility?

  • Who pays for other utilities like gas, electric, garbage collection?

  • Are there additional fees for sewer, recycling, or stormwater?

  • How are utility costs for shared meters split for multi-unit rentals?

  • What is the average monthly cost of water and other utilities?

Understanding utilities included, especially water, is a rental essential. Be sure to get all details in writing in your lease agreement before signing.

Setting Up Water Service as a Renter

If you need to set up new water service when moving into a rental, here are some tips:

  • Contact the water company 2-3 weeks before move-in

  • Set up billing and provide your personal info

  • Inquire about budget billing plans to stabilize costs

  • Ask about water conservation programs to help save

  • Schedule for water to be turned on in time for move-in

  • Consider water filters if concerned about quality

Starting water service early ensures uninterrupted access when you move into your new home. Review the lease to determine who to contact and when to start the process.

Paying the Water Bill as a Renter

Once your water service begins, you’ll receive a monthly bill if paying directly. Here are some billing basics:

  • Confirm billing due date to avoid late fees

  • Check for payment portals to pay online

  • Set up autopay if allowed to ensure on-time payment

  • Watch for spikes in usage that increase costs

  • Contact provider if struggling to pay bills

  • Avoid water shut offs by paying before disconnection date

As the account holder, you are responsible for paying the full water bill each month. Work closely with your roommates if splitting costs.

Conserve Water and Save on Bills

Whether water is included in rent or not, conserving water usage can save money:

  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators

  • Wash full loads of laundry and dishes

  • Fix any leaky faucets promptly

  • Shorten shower times to 5-7 minutes

  • Turn off water when brushing teeth or washing dishes

  • Reduce outdoor watering and irrigation

  • Report any unusual spikes in water use

Saving just 10-25 gallons per day can reduce your water bill while also helping the environment.

Water Bill Help for Struggling Renters

If you’re struggling to pay your water bill, here are some resources:

  • Request an extension or payment plan from the water provider

  • Apply for low-income utility assistance programs

  • Contact 211 to find local utility funding programs

  • Speak to your landlord if included with rent

  • Attend budgeting classes to reduce costs

Don’t ignore unpaid water bills as the consequences can be costly. Call your water company immediately if you anticipate any issues paying.

Who’s Responsible for Water Bills in Shared Meters?

In multi-family housing units, there may be just one shared water meter. In that case, the landlord receives the total water bill. They will then divide the cost among tenants based on occupancy, rooms, or other factors. Make sure your lease explains how shared metering works.

With a shared meter, individual tenants don’t have control over usage. But the consolidated billing can benefit renters if the landlord secures a lower group rate. Discuss the water billing process with your landlord.

Determining water bill responsibility should be a priority when renting a new place. While practices vary, the tenant most often pays the water provider directly. But in some cases, water gets included with the monthly rent.

No matter the billing method, conserving water is wise to keep costs affordable. And be sure to understand the billing process including payment dates before your tenancy begins. Paying utilities on time is a key to successful renting and roommate relationships.

Do Renters Pay Water Bill

Who is responsible for unpaid utility bills in California?

Legally, unpaid utility bills are the responsibility of whoever’s name is on the bills. If your tenants pay you directly for utilities and you pay the bills, you would be responsible for covering these charges. While you could pursue the tenant to recoup these costs, most landlords pocket the loss and move on in this situation.

In California, landlords may be held responsible for unpaid utility bills, especially if the utilities are in their name or if it’s implied within the lease agreement that they cover such costs. This emphasizes the importance of clear agreements and understanding local regulations concerning utility payments.

This situation is particularly interesting in California because the law isn’t clear on who is responsible for unpaid water bills in rental cases if the bill was in the tenant’s name. For this reason, landlords working in the state often include water as part of the rent. They can ensure the bill is paid promptly and work on collecting rent from the tenant separately.

Municipal authorities in California have even been known to put liens on rental properties when a tenant stops paying or moves out without paying bills. If the landlord refuses to pay, the municipality may continue to pursue repayment through the property and its value.

Ultimately, landlords could be held responsible for unpaid water bills in California, so experienced investors prefer to include water as part of the rent. Water differs from gas and electricity because water is typically city-owned in California.

Ensuring that you choose tenants who will pay their bills and keep up with their legal responsibilities becomes very important in these cases. Update your tenant screening practices so you only rent to reliable, trustworthy tenants.

Right To Apply For Medical Assistance

Utility companies are legally required to offer some medical benefits to those suffering from conditions requiring at-home medical equipment. Tenants must have valid documents and information to show they need life support care at home.

If your tenant needs this type of assistance, they will likely need to open their own account with the utility company to apply for these reduced rates. They may need to pay the bill directly since they are the affected individual.

Even if you typically have tenants pay their utilities through you, it’s best to allow this exception to ensure the tenant gets the necessary medical assistance they’re entitled to.

Do your lease agreements already include utility specifications, or do you need to update your documents? Keeping various forms on hand makes it efficient and easy to use accurate documentation for all parts of the rental process.

However, we know developing these documents from scratch can be difficult, so we’ve put together the Landlord Form Bundle Mega Pack. This complete reference bank provides forms that can be used as-is or modified to fit your specific needs.

Which Utility Bills are Tenants Responsible For and Which are Owners Responsible For?

Who is responsible for the water bill in a lease?

If the lease states that the Tenant is responsible for all utilities associated with the Property, then the water bill is their responsibility. If the lease states that water is included in the monthly rent charge, then the water bill is clearly the responsibility of the landlord. Sounds simple and straightforward, right?

Can a renter pay a water bill while renting a house?

You can also have your renter paying the water bill while renting the property. Before they move in, they’ll work with the local water department to set up an account and register the unit’s water services in their name. Then, the renter will be responsible for paying the water bill while they live in the apartment or house.

Do I have to pay water bills if a tenant doesn’t pay?

If your previous renter had the water and other utility bills in their name and they didn’t pay them before the lease ended, then you may have to cover the water bills for tenants who don’t pay. However, this depends on the state in which your rental property is located.

How do I charge my renters for water & other utilities?

There are a few ways you can charge your renters for water and other utilities: In addition to rent, charge renters the exact bill amount for that month’s water bill. You can forward a copy of the water bill with your rent balance notice so renters are confident that you’re charging them fairly.

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