The landlord’s responsibilities regarding water bills

As a landlord, you have a wide range of responsibilities. Your tenants will usually be the ones who pay the water bills for your property, but there are still actions you need to take as the landlord. In this article, we’ll take a look at what you need to do to ensure the water bill for your property gets paid when your tenants are in your property and during the void periods.

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Find out who is responsible for paying the water bill in a rented house.

The circumstances in which you may be responsible for unpaid bills.

Your responsibilities for avoiding being responsible for unpaid water bills.

Find out whether your tenants can change water supplier.

Find out who handles the water bill during void periods.

Find out what your responsibilities are at the end of a tenancy agreement.

We answer frequently asked questions on the landlord’s responsibilities around water bills.

Is the tenant or landlord responsible for the water bill?

Ultimately, this is for you to decide. You can inform your tenants in the rental agreement that it will be their responsibility to pay the water bill. Alternatively, you can keep it in your own name and charge the water bill as part of the rent price.

Including water charges in the rental price can be attractive to tenants as it means one less responsibility for them to worry about. With houses in multiple occupancies (HMOs), such as student lets, it is common for the utility bills to be included in the rent. However, choosing to do it this way leaves you with the responsibility, which is an added hassle and can become a problem if tenants fail to pay their rent.

man using a calculator

Read our advice on choosing a bills agreement here.

Am I responsible for a tenant’s unpaid bills?

If you have all the arrangements in order, and your tenant fails to pay their water bills, the consequences will be theirs to face. However, if you do not inform the water supplier of your new tenant’s details, it could be you that is liable if bills are unpaid.

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 granted additional powers to water companies. One of these powers was the ability to hold a landlord liable for their tenants’ unpaid water bills if they failed to inform the supplier of the new tenant’s details when the tenancy started.

One of the most important things to be a successful landlord is to be organised. Failure to state who is responsible for paying water bills in the tenancy agreement could land you in difficulty down the line. If you want your tenants to pay the water bill, be sure to state this in the tenancy agreement and inform the supplier of the new tenant’s details when the tenancy begins.

How to avoid being responsible for unpaid water bills

Doing the following can help ensure you don’t become responsible for unpaid water bills:

  • Always tell the local council when a tenant moves in and inform the water suppliers of any change in tenancy. This helps ensure your tenants are legally responsible for the water bills.
  • Ensure your tenancy agreement states that the tenants are responsible for water. This creates a binding agreement, signed by both parties, stating that water bills must be paid by the tenant. Keep a signed copy of the tenancy agreement in a safe place. In the event of a dispute, this will ensure you have evidence that a formal agreement is in place.

You can read more about making a tenancy agreement here.

signing an agreement
  • Make a note of water meter readings at the start and end of each tenancy. This will help you keep a record of usage that can be shared with your supplier if necessary.

Can a tenant change water supplier?

If tenants are responsible for paying the water bills directly, they have the right to shop around for a different utility supplier. However, they must inform you and the previous supplier of the change in water company, and you should include this requirement in the tenancy agreement.

Bills between tenants

When your property is in-between tenants, the responsibility for paying water bills falls to you.

End of Tenancy Water Bill

When a contract ends, most water suppliers require a few days’ notice before the tenancy ends. If your tenants are responsible for paying the water supply, it is entirely their responsibility to arrange the termination. However, it may be helpful for you to be aware of the obligations so that you can remind your tenant to organise the contract termination.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I check my tenant’s water meter?

You can choose how frequently you wish to check the meter, but it is wise to take a reading at the start and end of a tenancy.

What happens if a tenant moves out without paying a water bill?

If the tenant was liable for the water bills, they remain liable for any unpaid bills during their tenancy. If they keep refusing to pay, they could be taken to court. Just be sure you have completed all the steps under ‘How to avoid being responsible for unpaid water bills’.

Is the tenant responsible for paying high water bills due to leaky pipes?

If your tenant informs you of leaky pipes, it immediately becomes the landlord’s responsibility to address the problem. From this point, additional water usage caused by the leak could be deemed your responsibility. However, if lots of water leaks from the pipe and the tenant doesn’t inform you, this is their responsibility. It may be wise to include this information in your tenancy agreement. Can landlords hire a private company to collect for services?

There are private companies that can help tenants arrange their services, but it is their decision whether or not they wish to use them. If a tenant refuses to pay a bill, a debt collection company can be used to try to clear the debt. This will usually be the responsibility of the supplier unless the debt is owed directly to you.

Can you evict a tenant for not paying the water bill?

In most cases, the water supplier will take action against a tenant who doesn’t pay their bills. You can give yourself the right to evict the tenant for not paying their water bill by writing it into the tenancy agreement, but it is usually best to try and urge them to pay the bill where possible.

What if the tenancy agreement doesn’t state who is responsible for the water bill?

If the tenancy agreement doesn’t clearly state that the tenant is responsible for the water service, they could refuse to pay, and it will be you who is liable. It is important to make sure you don’t make this mistake.

Making water bill payments easier for tenants

For many people, a tenancy where the bills are included in the rent is attractive. It eliminates the stress of having to manage multiple payments and contracts for the tenant – all they have to do is pay their rent. This is particularly attractive for HMOs like student lets, but it can also work for single-tenant properties as well.

However, you will have to manage all those bills and ensure the rent covers the costs. Sometimes, the tenant’s energy usage could be higher than expected, and the bills could cost more than what the rent covers. It can therefore be helpful to get expert support from a bill-splitting company like Split the Bills. We can support landlords in facilitating an all-inclusive rental agreement that works for both landlords and tenants.

Find out more about our services for landlords here.

Related content

Landlord Responsibilities: Utility Bills, Council Tax, Maintenance

Student Housing Bills Advice for Landlords: Choosing an Agreement

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