In my area, water providers are allowed to place liens on the property if the bill is unpaid. I've had tenants skip out owing water bills. So, on the most troublesome property I've kept the bill in my name and require the tenant to pay me. This has proven to a pain, too.
The water bill arrives right at the end of the month, usually about the 25th. It covers from about the 20th to 20th. Rather than require the tenant pay immediately, with the rent that's due on the 1st, I've given them a copy of the bill and told them to pay with the next month's rent. Trouble is, water usage from (say) the 11/20 to 12/20, which shows up on the 12/25 bill I give to the tenant on 1/1 isn't getting paid until 2/1. The delay isn't really a problem for me, but this particular tenant is moving out on 1/31. So, the 12/25 bill that was due on 2/1 plus the 1/25 bill that would have been due on 3/1 are both due when they move out. Not to mention the partial bill for the end of January, which won't show up until late February is still owed by them. Water is expensive in this location. The minimum bill is about $90. So, these folks owe me something over $200. They're not happy with the big bill at the end, and have forgotten about the fact they paid no water when they moved (Feb '10) nor in March '10. The first water they paid was for the first half of Feb, which was on the April bill. Doesn't help we have a language barrier. The son (early teens) understands the situation, but mom's very unhappy.
Now, if they don't pay when the vacate, I will take it out of their deposit. However, they have done other damage to the property. Between repairs, cleaning and carpet cleaning, and now the water bills, I don't think they will get back much, if any of their $800 deposit. They have already been asking when they're going to get their deposit and have been strongly hinting they want it back right away.
I'd like thoughts on a better way to handle this. I think I will just tell them the minimum bill is about $90, and they should add that onto each rent payment. I'd also like to ask for a $100 water deposit up front, which would be applied to the last water bill. However, in this area, people have a tough time coming up with the full deposit plus a month's rent at move-in. I also don't want to add $100 to the rent and say "water included", because it doesn't take much to push the bill up over $100 a month.
Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC