Home Buying in Seattle>Question Details

Ctr, Home Buyer in San Diego, CA

Is it customary for landlords to bill tenants for the water bill in a 1 bedroom apartment?

Asked by Ctr, San Diego, CA Tue Apr 2, 2013

I recently moved from CA to WA State and was shocked to see a bill on my door for $85 for 7 weeks of a water bill. This was not explained to me upon move in and it was not spelled out clearly in the lease that this is a tenant bill. Do I have any recourse here? In CA only tenants in single family homes pay for water. Tenants in apartments never have to pay for water.

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Part of the reason I was so caught off guard is that I'm not familiar with the customs in WA State. Apartment dwellers in CA NEVER pay water, garbage or sewer. Those are covered by the landlord 100% of the time. I also own 4 rental properties in CA and I clearly state in my leases what utilities a tenant pays for and what they don't, so there is no room for confusion. Now single family homes in CA are different, in those cases tenants do pay water. But never in condos or apartments.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
I totally understand your feeling!!
I moved from Davis, CA. In Davis, every year we needed to sign a new 12-month contract to keep at a low rent. Here in Seattle, once the contract expires, it goes month-by-month. If you stay in the same rental for 5 years and you pay the same rent for 5 years. Few landlords will raise the rent!!! That actually surprises me!! just different custom to get used to I suppose!!
Flag Thu Apr 11, 2013
My bill was $82 for 7 weeks, so not $82/mo. So more like about $46/mo.

There is a section called "addition charges" under rent, where it has a utilities heading and then only the box for garbage is checked (I pay $10 to the landlord for this). Then there is a separate section for utilities that says below. But there is nowhere in the lease where it says specifically that I have to pay for water. This section below refers to section 4, and in section 4 it only says I have to pay the landlord $10?mo for garbage. In any case it is not really clear.

"In addition to tenants convenant to landlord to pay for gas, water, sewer, garbage, as set forth in section 4 above, tenant agrees to pay all other utlility charges individually metered or charged to tenants specific apartment before delinquency or default. This shall include, without limitation, electricity, telephone, data services and cable television. Landlord should not be liable for failure of any utility services whether paid to landlor directly or though utility company"
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
it most definitely should be spelled out in your lease...any or all of the utilities, i.e. water, garbage and sewage need to be specified in the lease as the tenant's responsibility or stated otherwise as part of the rent...

marcia h chase
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
I have been a month-to-month tenant in sacramento for almost 9 years. I received a notice stating i was now getting an additional $30 a month fee, on top of my rent for water/sewage/garbage.
It states in my rental agreement, that these were included in the rent, and i specifically asked the LL about it, before signing the rental agreement.
I contacted the management company, and they said i have to pay anyways. I asked them what the increase was for, has these utilities costs risen. they said yes, but refused my request for itemized monthly billing. My complex has 52 units, 51 rentable, and 1 manager on site unit. So i contacted the uti;ities companies themselves, and got the current monthly bill for the property for each, and what the bills will be, with rate increases on the first of january. I took the 3 monthly bills, added them up, and divided them by 52 (units). The bill came out to $10.34, for the rates increases in january. is the difference in billing legal?
Flag Tue Dec 1, 2015
Water is one of those things that a tenant can control, like electrical and gas use. Some folks take very long hot showers and others are in and out so quick they barely get wet. The landlord has no control of your choice, so it seems reasonable for you to be responsible for this.
You are correct though that your lease should spell out what utilities and expenses you are responsible for.
Start by double checking the lease and have a polite conversation with your landlord. Sorry for the unwelcomed surprise.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
It is somewhat common. I suspect if you look at your lease it mentions this. If it does not, then you would have an argument.

In the future you should carefully review documents that you sign.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
It should be stated in the contract you signed. There is no standard. I am a landlord and I ask my tenants to pay a share, but they know this before the sign the contract. Tenant laws are very strong in the Seattle area, if there is a dispute and it's not in your contract you could probably have a strong case to refute the bill.
As an aside, our water bills in Seattle also contains the sewer charge (which runs about 2xs as much as the water bill as well as the garbage. $85 for 7 weeks probably wouldn't cover all those costs here, but again, it should be stated in your contract that you are paying additional utilities.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
It all depends on the terms of your rental agreement. I encourage you to review your lease contract, then get in touch with the Tenant's Union, in Seattle. The Tenant's Union is a non-profit agency that assists in landlord-tenant disputes. Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
Wow, $85.00 seems outrageous for a one bedroom apartment and I am surprised an apartment would have a separate water meter read. I have a rental home 2,600 square feet and the water in mid summer might reach $85.00 per month, so I find it hard to understand it being that high, let alone metered separately.

In any event, it should be in the lease how and who pays the utilities. It may be worth sitting down and talking to the landlords about the confusion.

Good luck,
Linda M. Bagley
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
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