Utilities: who is responsible based on the signed contract

10 Replies

Need help. This is what the contract says—

UTILITIES: Landlord shall not pay for any of the utilities and services and will be the responsibility of the tenant.

Temperatures this past winter caused the pipes to burst resulting to water bill around $1,500. Whose responsibility is this bill — the Landlord’s or the tenants?

Originally posted by @Avvy Morales :

Need help. This is what the contract says—

UTILITIES: Landlord shall not pay for any of the utilities and services and will be the responsibility of the tenant.

Temperatures this past winter caused the pipes to burst resulting to water bill around $1,500. Whose responsibility is this bill — the Landlord’s or the tenants?

 Whose fault was it that the pipes burst?

Originally posted by @Avvy Morales :

It is due to the cold weather. The pipes were 2 feet underground that the tenants did not notice until their bill came in. 

 Pipes burst 2 feet underground?  That's very unusual.

Is there an agreement that the tenant lets the water run during cold snaps?  Keeps the heat at a certain temp?  I lived in the mountains of WA for nearly 20 years, so I know about freezing pipes.  But, I've never heard of the pipes bursting 2 feet underground.  It's usually where they come up out of the ground.

Are you the landlord or the tenant?

yes I am the landlord. I do not live in the property. During winter season, it is rainy and cold in our area. This is I think why my tenants did not noticed the burst pipes because, like what I said pipes were 2 feet under ground, the water from the burst pipes go up on and mixed with the rain water. 

It is an unusual here in Mississippi to have really cold temperatures. That’s why I think people here are not used to knowing what to do if weather hits freezing point particularly with letting the faucets on. 

@Avvy Morales   Usually the water company will notice when water usage is constant and high for a period of time and contact the person on the bill.  I had a tenant with a leaky toilet-water running inside, not outside of the bowl.  The water company tried reaching her and failed, so they got hold of me.  We replaced the flapper valve which solved the problem and the tenant (who was responsible for the bill and apparently knew about the flapper valve but never told me) and water company worked out a solution-they reduced the bill.

Have the tenant contact the water company to see if they will reduce the price after they explain the problem.  ultimately if they don't pay, the water bill is often attached to the house (ie you) unlike electricity or cable which is attached to the person paying the bill (ie the tenant).

Originally posted by @Avvy Morales :

It is an unusual here in Mississippi to have really cold temperatures. That’s why I think people here are not used to knowing what to do if weather hits freezing point particularly with letting the faucets on. 

However, in Jackson at least, they will lower your water bill if the problem is based on a broken pipe. 

 

Our water department here in our town says that they were having issues with the satellite that’s supposed to track down any discrepancies on the meter. So, it was not caught early. They gave us a discount but but it is still high. Initially, January bill was $1,200 and February was $900. They reduced bill for January to $597 while February bill was reduced to $700 only. 

So, in this case, based on the contract, should I be the one responsible on this bill on it is my tenants since it is in their name?

This can be approached from a legal perspective or not.  From a legal perspective based on the contract verbage it seems your tenant could be responsible.  It would seem the reason for the high bill does not matter, whether it is a pipe burst or the tenant leaves a faucet running then go on vacation for a month.  But I am not a lawyer.  However, this then leads to what if your tenant disagree and does not pay?  The water company will then cut off his/her service, and if left unpaid, depending on the jurisdiction, down here where I am they will then impose a lien on the property. regardless who's name is on the account.

For this reason I would suggest getting with the tenant and work something out where the burden can be split.

It's not your fault because you don't live there, can't be there to notice anything unusual, like noise behind the walls with water moving when no one is using water.

It's not your tenant's fault because they are not "in tune" with home maintenance.  I have young tenants who does not know the difference between water supply pipes and drain pipes, totally clueless.  They can take, edit, resize, annotate, add smilies and post a picture on a tiny phone with ease but can't change a light bulb or swap out a battery at the back of a wall clock, let alone keeping an eye on a buried pipe or a leaky water heater relief valve.  They just expect things to work.

This is probably what I would do in your shoes.

First, I will contact the water department again. Many water bills have multiple components to the bill.  In my town they charge me water usage and sewer usage.  They assume the water being used is sent down the drain which they have to collect and treat, the sewer charge is actually more than the water charge.  Of course this is not applicable when you are filling up a 25000 gallon swimming pool, so we could call them and say we are filling up a pool and have the sewer rate waived for the time the water is used for the fill.  You should ask the water company to deduct out of the bill the sewer charge because they never made it to the drains for treatment, that should be on top of whatever consideration they gave you for the water leak.

You may also be able to work something out with the water company so the outstanding balance can be paid over a period of time.

It may be necessary for your tenant to call since the name on the account is not you.  Perhaps a visit to the water company together for a scheduled appointment with a supervisor is best, but don't know if this is feasible with the coronvirus threat these days.

Whatever balance is outstanding after all these efforts I would probably propose to the tenant to split it after pointing out the clause in your lease.