Rental properties: Water efficiency and passing on usage charges

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In NSW, to pass the water efficiency standard, there must be no leaking taps and the maximum water flow from taps and showerheads must be no more than 9 litres a minuteiii. A simple test is to turn the water fully on and use a container and stopwatch to check the flow.

Restrict the kitchen tap's water flow to save the environment.

Australia's Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme (WELS) has a three star label to indicate products with a maximum flow rate of 9 litres a minuteiii. In NSW, it may be possible to add aerators or regulators to showerheads and taps rather than changing the fittings.It's a good idea to note your water efficiency devices on the ingoing Condition report, and keep any receipts or instruction bookletsiii. If tenants remove an efficiency device, they still have to pay for the water.

What's excluded in NSW includes bathtub taps, laundry taps, outside garden taps and taps that supply washing machines and dishwashersiii. In Queensland, water efficiency fixtures must be added to laundry troughs, garden irrigation systems and toilets. Toilets need to be dual flush with less than '6.5 litres on full flush and 3.5 litres on half flush and a maximum average flush volume of 4 litres (based on the average of 1 full flush and 4 half flushes)'iv .

Landlords in most states can only charge tenants the water usage cost, not water service fees, sewerage services charges, late fees or any extra administration fees. In NSW you must ask the tenant to pay within three months of receiving the bill: you can't save up several bills and pass them on at the end of the tenancyiii. If you haven't received the tenant's payment, you still need to pay the water supplier's bill. When the tenant leaves, check that the efficiency devices are still intact on the outgoing Condition report.

Different water rules

In NSW, the water efficiency requirements are outlined in the NSW Residential Tenancies Act 2010, section 39 and at NSW Fair Trading.

Efficient showerheads help reduce water usage.

In Queensland, look at the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, section 166. The water charge agreement must be included in the tenancy agreement. If there are no water efficiency measures, a tenant can still be asked to pay excess water consumption (section 166(4)).

In Victoria, under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, section 52, you can also charge for sewerage disposal in addition to water supplied. If tenants want to install an efficiency device, they have to negotiate with you regarding who covers the cost, and whether you want them to remove it when they leave, as section 64(2) states tenants should remove any fixtures and return to premises to its original condition.

In Western Australia, under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, section 49A, tenants pay for water usage, regardless of whether there is a meter or water efficiency measures. The rate must be negotiated in the case of unmetered premises, and can exclude the costs for watering gardens. The owner also needs to maintain the property to ensure that water is not being wasted by faulty plumbing such as leaking tapsv.

In other states and territories, check your relevant legislation.

iNSW Government, Residential Tenancies Act 2010, section 39, viewed 4 June 2015,

iiQueensland Government, Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, viewed 4 June 2015,

iiiNSW Government Fair Trading, Passing on water charges, viewed 4 June 2015,

ivResidential Tenancies Authority 2013, Water charging fact sheet, Queensland Government, viewed 4 June 2015,

vTenant Help, Water charges, viewed 10 June 2015,