Recent polling of community services and property managers indicates that a majority of tenants in South East Queensland are being charged for water by their landlord or property agent. If tenants are required to comply with water restrictions it is essential that they have access to relevant information, education and support to help them manage their water consumption.
With the potential for water restriction measures to be in place for longer periods of time in the future, it is critical that all households and water users are supported to be sufficiently informed so they can actively participate and comply. We have identified several issues that may prevent tenants from complying with water restriction measures. These are as follows:
- Tenants do not receive any information from their water service provider to help them understand their water usage and inform behaviour change.
- Tenants cannot contact the water service provider to get information about their water usage.
- Property owners who charge their tenants for water are not required to provide tenants with a copy of the bill or any other itemised information about the volume of water used at the property.
- There are no set timeframes that landlords must adhere to when passing water charges onto tenants. Therefore, property owners can pass a backlog of multiple water bills onto their tenant at once, all of which are required to be paid within one month.
- Property owners can only pass the cost of water onto tenants if the property is water efficient. It is difficult for tenants to determine if their property meets these requirements as landlords are not required to have the property certified as water efficient and are not required to provide proof of this to the tenant.
- The water efficiency advice and education provided by water service providers and SEQWater does not target tenants.
The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 is currently being considered by the Community Support and Service Committee. The Bill proposes amendments to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. We note that this Bill does not include amendments to require property owners to pass itemised water bills onto tenants within a reasonable timeframe.
There is an opportunity to amend the Bill to ensure water usage information is provided to tenants in a timely manner, which would improve tenants’ capacity to respond effectively to water restriction measures in the future.