Who pays for Tank Water?

By Dianne Boyle

Up until the Residential Tenancies Amendments Act 2010 it was the responsibility of the owner/landlord of a property to provide, and pay, for any water required to keep a leasehold going. During the summer periods, especially very dry summers, this meant that owners had to pay for all water deliveries and tank fills, – sometimes an onerous burden!

The 2010 Amendment changed this and now the owners responsibility is to “provide adequate means for the collection and storage of water”, for premises that do not have a reticulated water supply.

Adequate has been defined by The Department of Building and Housing, who administer the Act, such that “an average-sized house should have a tank of about 5000 gallons (22,500 litres). The tank needs to be properly connected by a guttering system to a roof of reasonable size so the tank will be topped up from time to time by rainwater. There should be no leaks or contamination”.

The interpretation of the requirements imposed on owners of properties where the water supply is from a tank is that,“… the landlord should provide a full tank at the start of the tenancy,” and that the tenants will arrange and pay for any tank refills required as a result of their water use.

In theory it’s fine that the owner is required to provide a full tank at the start of all tenancies, but compliance has a number of impracticalities. For example, it would not make any sense to arrange a tanker of water to be delivered to top the tank up only to find it required just  a portion of the tanker load to do so. Owners would still be charged for the full load.

An alternative suggestion is that, if the tank is more than half full and to fill it completely may involve wastage, then the landlord agrees to supply and pay for, one only full tanker load of water (10,000 litres) to the tenants at the tenants request at any time. After the tenant has received one tanker load of water then the tenant shall be responsible to order and pay for all subsequent supplies of water to the premises.

As yet, there have been no Tribunal   Hearings since this amendment to tank water supply came into being so there are no precedents to work from, but our betting is that sooner or later there will be.

Notwithstanding any of the above there is the question of who determines the tank level at the start of a tenancy, and how?

We do not believe it is either appropriate, or safe for our Property Manager to be climbing up onto water tanks to check    levels. Recently, one of our girls had an accident with one of the concrete caps and ended up in Accident and Emergency having her entire toe-nail removed. It becomes an Occupational Health and Safety risk which is inadvisable and, our people do not carry ladders in their vehicles.

The most practical, and cost effective, solution to this situation would be to have a tank gauge installed on the tank. These gauges monitor the level of rainwater in the tanks. So an added bonus is that they would also reduce the risk of tenants     getting caught short as they would always know how much water is on top at all times which in turn minimises the risk of the water pump   being run dry.

There is a selection of gauges available ranging in price. The most economical recommended has a retail price of $65.00. We have been able to negotiate a deal which can have the unit installed on-site for $60.00 plus travelling and plus GST. Under separate email we will contact all property owners who have tank water supply to inform them of their options and to give us clear instructions on how they want us to deal with water supply issues, going forward.

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