Tenants that abuse landlord-paid utilities

I have a tenant who used an extraordinary amount of water in 1 billing cycle. As a landlord, I pay the water/sewer bill and include it in the rent collected. Can I legally bill the tenant for the overage of water? I didn’t find out about it until the water company notified me that there was an extremely high meter reading. Then when I asked the tenant, they said there was a leaky toilet and even joked about it sometimes running on for days at a time!! The normal bill for this time of the year is around $60/ 2 months. The utility bill came in at $372! :shocked Obviously, I have replaced the toilet flapper valve, but wondered what I can do with this tenant and the overages. Their lease doesn’t come due for anoter 3 months. Other than this, they have been fairly good tenants but uncaring about using too much water.

Review your lease carefully and make sure it has a clause that the tenant is responsible for damages due to abuse and NEGLECT. The tenant neglected the water leak and if you have such a clause, is responsible for the damages.

You’re right. Many tenants won’t care about spending your money for you. Our local water dept. will give an adjustment to the bill if the customer shows a receipt for repairs completed. I think they’ll only do that once per year here. If there’s some rule like that where you are, you could show them your receipts and see if they’ll adjust the bill down to an average usage. Our lease says the tenants will immediately notify the landlord of all known dangers and hazards as well as the tenant is responsible for any damages caused by their neglect. Hope that helps.

My SFH lease agreement historically gave tenants a choice. They could choose, with rent adjusted accordingly, to pay the water and sewer (billed together) themselves or I would pay it, up to a fixed amount based on the historical 12 month rolling average, with them responsible for any overage as rent monies. As my properties have transitioned from unmetered water to metered water, I’m leaning towards setting rents with only one option, the allowance for the lease period with billing for any overage. I’ll review that with my attorney, along with more specificity with clauses regarding prompt reporting of maintenance issues. I know they’re in there but drilling down to big water wasters like toilets and sprinklers might be appropriate. In the past, it didn’t really matter because the water was unmetered flat rate.

In the OP’s case, if the lease has such specific clauses, his damages due to their breach are IMO billable. I’d bill with the next month’s rent, see what happens and, since their lease is about up anyway, take a hard line if they refuse to pay. IMO, a tenant who laughs about their landlord paying a multi-hundred dollar bill due to the tenants negligence is not a good tenant. What else are they going to laugh about?

Look at your lease. If it states tenants are responsible for it (like mine does) then bill them.
If not, you just learned a lesson.

my leases all gve me cause to evict over that reason.

That’s a good clause. It’s sad knowing there are really tenants who don’t seem to care about instances like this!

I went my rent house that the tenant’s just moved into last week to finish up a couple of make ready items I couldn’t get finished before they moved in. As I was coming out the gas man approached me at my car and asked me said he was there to turn off the gas. I told him I didn’t live there and what my name was and he said this was my turn off order and they didn’t have a turn on order so he was going to turn it off.

That is why I don’t rely on the tenants to change over the utilities. I put in a disconnect order and give the tenant the date so they can change it over before that date.

You need to have cause to evict with a nightmare tenant. I luckily haven’t had this happen yet, but my lease has a half page of conditions to me leasing them the place. It says stuff like:

  1. Tenant agrees to use in a reasonable manner all appliances, utilities, and plumbing fixtures. Failure to do this will be cause for cancellation of this lease.

  2. Use of profanity and foul language is not allowed. Profanity or aggressive actions or assault are cause for termination of this agreement.

  3. Smoking

  4. Pick up your trash.

  5. cars have to be tagged and run. No trailers allowed except with written permission.

  6. Grass must be cut

  7. they have to obey all city and municipality laws.

Those things are in my contract. My thinking is that with problem tenants I’ll have plenty of cause because they’ll be doing one or more of those things.

In a managed unit I have the lease is seperate from the utilities. The term of the lease is fixed but the utility payment is not. I would only change it if something drastic happened, but I make it clear to all tenants that the utilities are shared between all the units and the less they use the lower their bill will be. You’d think it would work, but I actually saw a tenant with the heat and AC on at the same time like he was having some kind of competition between the two to see which one will win.

Something else for you guys to watch for is utilities that pull the meter for nonpayment. If the meter gets pulled you pay a new meter charge to have it reinstalled - $6k or more around here. It’s only the rural water disctricts that do this, but I’ll have to get involved in paying tenants utilities in one rental house of mine as soon as I get connected to rural water. I can’t run the risk of them not paying.

Simply tell them to pay the bill on a half-half basis. At least you will both pay for that one. And that you will not shoulder it anymore on your own.

Then tell them that when it happens the second time around, they will be the one to pay the whole bill for the water or 70% of the water bill.

do some citys dont allow tenants to turn on water?

Our city allows tenants to turn on water as long as they have a copy of a rental agreement. A new owner needs a closing statement.

Our city water dept. also reduces the water bill when we bring in a plumber’s receipt showing that we fixed a leak. Here they would probably knock $100 off that $300+ bill. This happens to us about once every 2 years too.


Estrogen Hostage on theses (2) items 2) Use of profanity and foul language is not allowed. Profanity or aggressive actions or assault are cause for termination of this agreement.
3) Smoking
In eviction court in California the tenant will have a field day with you in court and there is a 98.9 chance the judge will give the tenant 3 months before they need to move.

Yes, you can mention overload bill of any supplies to the tenant which are above the mention amount in the tenant agreements. It is primary right of the landlords to collect bills of overload supplies to the tenants.