Water leak from meter to house. Does owner or tenant pay?

91 Replies

Ok so there was a water leak about 5 feet from the meter outside of the home. The tenant notified me of the leak 27 Jan and it was fixed 3 Feb. I spoke with the water company and the leak began during the billing cycle between 20NOV - 20DEC. The bill was issued early January. Her bill at the time was 229, indicating a leak. She did not inform me until she received her second high bill from the cycle from 20DEC -20JAN, receiving the 514.92 bill end of January. I will agree to pay the first bill and for the usage from 27 Jan - 3 Feb ( when leak was fixed) but do not agree with paying for the remainder. My justification is due to the fact that her inability to pay her bills on time resulted in the leak being undetected for approximately a month! Am I right or wrong?

Originally posted by @Robert Kough :

Ok so there was a water leak about 5 feet from the meter outside of the home. The tenant notified me of the leak 27 Jan and it was fixed 3 Feb. I spoke with the water company and the leak began during the billing cycle between 20NOV - 20DEC. The bill was issued early January. Her bill at the time was 229, indicating a leak. She did not inform me until she received her second high bill from the cycle from 20DEC -20JAN, receiving the 514.92 bill end of January. I will agree to pay the first bill and for the usage from 27 Jan - 3 Feb ( when leak was fixed) but do not agree with paying for the remainder. My justification is due to the fact that her inability to pay her bills on time resulted in the leak being undetected for approximately a month! Am I right or wrong?

I am not sure there is a right or wrong... Is this a single family home or multifamily?  

 

She was notified of the first high bill late December/early January.  I believe bills are due by 15th not sure. 

@Jim K. She was notified of high bill late December early January with bill being due by 15th I believe. She did not look at her bill at was late that cycle.

The first bill isn't high enough to have her concerned.  The second bill is.  She notified you as soon as she knew about the water leak.  If the utility company will work with her, she may be able to not have to pay the bill, as there was a repair needed.  If the bill does need to be paid, it is your responsibility as the property owner to come to a meeting of the minds on this.  After all, it is your property, and hence your leak.

@Dena Schrimsher average water bill is 40-60 around here so that is extremely high. My ultimate problem is that her negligence in paying bills on time resulted in leak going undetected for a month. If property was vacant (which is what she used as a what if) i would have received bill and released issue. She notified me of the bill almost a month late. In my mind this is very clear cut. Which is why im asking for others opinions. I want to be fair.

I might propose having the tenant pay a portion of the water bill for the high month.  For example, the tenant will pay a portion equal to the average of her last three months of water usage.  And then the landlord pays the remainder.  

In your area is it the tenants legal responsibility to pay water bill or not?  Around here it is the property owner since they can attach a lien!  So in my area even if it were in the tenants name the owner is still liable in the end legally.

Not all areas are like this though, so if the utility is attaching the bill to her name then it isn't your problem.

Well if they won't try to come after you when she moves out for not paying the bill then let her deal with utility company!  I'd just give her advice on talking to them to try to get them to waive it due to the leak, but ultimately its her problem.

You already "gave the mouse a cookie" by paying part of her bill so she will likely try to be entitled to think you owe the rest, stand firm and don't pay anything more.

Hi @Robert Kough

I think that one falls on the owner in this case. Assuming that the leak was outside and she didn't know about it. Had she "known" and didn't say anything it would be one issue, but she didn't know there was a leak. Had she even paid the $229 and just been "surprised" that it cost that much. Them not "associating" the cost with a leak might not be to surprising for a renter who has never owned a home.

Just my 2 cents.

@Mike Cumbie she recognized the issue and brought it to my attention as a leak. Just a month late. Had she been responsible with her bill she would have saved a lot of money and recognized issue early January . Also, tenants is fully responsible for utilities.

Originally posted by @Robert Kough :

Ok so there was a water leak about 5 feet from the meter outside of the home. The tenant notified me of the leak 27 Jan and it was fixed 3 Feb. I spoke with the water company and the leak began during the billing cycle between 20NOV - 20DEC. The bill was issued early January. Her bill at the time was 229, indicating a leak. She did not inform me until she received her second high bill from the cycle from 20DEC -20JAN, receiving the 514.92 bill end of January. I will agree to pay the first bill and for the usage from 27 Jan - 3 Feb ( when leak was fixed) but do not agree with paying for the remainder. My justification is due to the fact that her inability to pay her bills on time resulted in the leak being undetected for approximately a month! Am I right or wrong?

 I would've done the same thing as you have suggested. Except I would take the tenants monthly avg and make them pay that for each month (they still used water during that time). I would agree to pay the difference of the first month of the leak, because no one knew it was there so thats an owners responsibility at that point. But then I would do what you have done and have them pay the second bill in full. Their negligence is not your fault. 

@Robert Kough

You are welcome to handle it anyway you want. You asked for other opinions. I think she should still pay her average bill. 

I would say she has an argument that your faulty pipes cost her $743.92 and as the owner you should have been inspecting them on a regular basis and knew they were nearing end of life before they leaked. 

@Robert Kough

My opinion is that the owner is ultimately responsible for leaks up to the meter. However, the tenant should be responsible for her average monthly. Also, I had a problem like this once and because of the leak the water company was willing to knock off about 70% of the bill. They usually only do this as a one-time in any say 10 year period o

r so but some of them will do it. Also, nowadays they have water meter apps such as "Water Hawk"

that can alert you if your water usage is going above normal

and things of that nature you may want to check with your water company regarding this so that in the future you would be alerted the minute that a leak surface

@Robert Kough

Things to consider here:

1) Ultimately the lack of up keep on your home is the reason she has to pay more.

2) She probably has no where near enough to cover the bill comfortably.

3) If you make her pay the whole bill it will more than likely leave a bad taste in her mouth and she will probably move out when the lease is up. This in theory could cause you to spend more money to get a new tenant in.

@Mike Cumbie inspecting below grade pipes is very difficult and typical the life expectancy is much much greater than 12 years. Thank you for your opinion though. I appreciate it. I will come to a reasonable solution

Definitely check with the water company to see if they are willing to help you out. My water company will do that if you can prove that a repair was made and that the water usage was actually related to a "leak" and you aren't selling water from your hose or something crazy. This can often be as simple as a home depot receipt etc. As for the cost of the utilities, I would agree if average is around $50, than she should be responsible for the average of the first months and her negligence is hard to ignore here. I guess it would depend on your current relationship with the tenant and what they are asking. If they are very long term tenants and pay on time every single month with no issues, I may be willing to negotiate more on the utility payment for that second month. If they are newer or routinely late on rent....sorry not my problem! I hope you find peace in your decision! These types of problems can be tricky bc you want to stay fair and reasonable but also not be a push-over. Best Regards!

Originally posted by @Robert Kough :

@Dena Schrimsher average water bill is 40-60 around here so that is extremely high. My ultimate problem is that her negligence in paying bills on time resulted in leak going undetected for a month. If property was vacant (which is what she used as a what if) i would have received bill and released issue. She notified me of the bill almost a month late. In my mind this is very clear cut. Which is why im asking for others opinions. I want to be fair.

Off subject... I just had to post something to the different values of water. My water bill for my SFH is around 10X what you indicated. Just my service and sewer costs would be more than your bill. It is what I get for living in a desert. Plus we may make up for some of that extra costs with cheaper heating and cooling costs (our energy cost is high for what we use but we do not need to use the heater or AC much and I have solar).

Back to subject …   I think if she notified you when she knew then you are likely stuck with the bill.  I could see an exception if your lease is so specific to call out that the water bill must be looked at each month to determine if there is a water leak but I suspect it is a very rare lease that would be that detailed (mine is quite a few pages long and it not that specific).

Good luck