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Homes North | Water Charges Policy
 

Water Charges Policy

Water Charges Policy

 1. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to explain who is responsible for payment of water charges for Homes North properties and how Homes North assesses and applies those water charges.

 

2. Scope

This Policy covers properties owned or managed by Homes North as social or affordable housing. It applies to Tenants occupying those properties under any form of residency agreement, including a residential tenancy agreement or an occupancy agreement.

 

3. Definitions

  • Residency Agreement – a residential tenancy agreement, occupancy agreement or similar agreement governing the terms on which the Tenant occupies the property.
  • Tenant – the person who has the right to occupy residential premises under a residential tenancy.

 

4. Policy Statement

All Tenants are responsible for water usage charges at their property. Homes North will charge all Tenants for water usage in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (RTA), the relevant Ministerial Guidelines and this policy.

 

Water charging is separate from all other charges including rent. The charge for water is levied each quarter and is due when billed. The water charges may be paid in full quarterly or may be paid in instalments.

 

Tenants are required to pay for their actual water usage, unless section 4.2 applies. Homes North determines whether to charge on the basis of actual usage or not depending on whether:

  • the property in which the Tenant lives has a separate or a shared water meter
  • the local water authority provides Homes North with sufficient usage information to determine the Tenant’s actual water usage.

 

4.1  Water charges to dwellings with separate meters

Homes North charges Tenants residing in homes that have a separate water meter for water based on their actual water usage. In accordance with the Ministerial Guidelines, a separate water meter must be readily accessible for reading by the water authority and generate an individual water meter reading on the property’s water account.

A number of homes in unit blocks owned or managed by Homes North have a central meter read by the water authority and separate meters measuring actual water usage of individual units. These meters are read by Homes North and charged on actual water usage.

 

4.2  Calculating water usage charges for properties with a shared meter

For properties with a shared meter (or where the local water authority does not provide sufficient information to determine each Tenant’s actual water usage) the water usage charges will be based on a percentage of total rent charged.

Water usage will be charged at a rate of 3% of rent charged, capped at a maximum of $8.95 per week.

Homes North will conduct an annual reconciliation to ensure tenants are not charged more for water than is paid to the water authority for the property.

To take account of water used in common areas 10% of the water usage charged by the water authority will be paid for by Homes North (unless the common area water usage is wholly sourced from a rainwater tank onsite).

 

Example:

Dave, Annie and their daughter Jemima are tenants in the unit block at 72 Relative Terrace. They pay $140 per week in rent which includes their CRA payment. Their water charge of 3% will therefore be $4.20 per week. This is the same every week, so Dave and Annie can budget this amount each week and it will not change until their rent changes. Each year Homes North will do a reconciliation calculation to ensure Dave and Annie have not over paid. In the very unlikely situation that they have paid too much, Homes North will reimburse the difference between what they actually paid and what they should have paid.

 

4.3  Determining water usage charges for new Tenants

This section applies to new, transferring, mutually exchanging and succession circumstances. Where Tenants move into a property that is charged on the basis of actual usage, they will be charged at a rate of no more than $8.95 per week until such time as the bill is received from the water charging authority and the actual water usage can be ascertained. An adjustment will then be made to determine if an additional payment will need to be paid or their non-rent account will be credited. Upon being tenant for a full billing period Tenants will be charged according their actual usage as billed by the water authority.

 

Example:

During the billing period 1 June to 31 August water charge from the water authority on the property was $50. Marion and her kids had occupied the property for 14 days and Ian and Molly and their kids for 21 days of the billing period. The property therefore was occupied for 35 days of the 92 day billing period. The property was vacant for 58 days of the billing period and therefore it is assumed there was no water usage. The daily usage is therefore based on the 35 days the property was occupied.

Therefore the calculation for a daily usage rate is $50 / 35 days = $1.43 per day.

Marion will be charged an apportioned rate of $1.43 x 14 days = $20.02 and Ian and Molly will be charged an apportioned rate of $1.43 x 21 days = $30.03. During this period Marion has been charged for 2 weeks water @ $9 = $18 and will only have $2.02 owing and Ian and Molly have been charged for 3 weeks @ $9 = $27 and will only have $3.03 owing.

 

In the circumstances of a Tenant’s lease not covering the entire billing period where Homes North read individual unit meters, Homes North will take an ‘in coming’ or ‘outgoing’ meter reading as part of the Property Condition Report and Tenants will be charged for their actual usage base on the actual reading relating to their tenancy start or finish date.

 

4.4  Tenant is temporarily away from their property

There is no exemption from water usage charges for Tenants temporarily away from their dwelling.

For properties fitted with separate water meters, the water meter reading will reflect an absence from the property. The water usage bill relating to that period will be lower as no usage will have occurred during that time.

For shared water meter charges, water usage charges will continue to apply and remain payable during approved absences, subject to the following:

  • If the entire household is absent for more than six weeks with the approval of Homes North, the charges may then be waived, after those six weeks at Homes North’s discretion. See our Absence from Property Form.

 

4.5  Reviewing water usage charges / Part billing

A Tenant’s water charge may need adjustment in the following cases:

  • New residency arrangements
  • Tenants transferring
  • Tenants obtaining succession of tenancy or residency

 

Water charge amount before adjustment Tenant’s water usage amount from latest bill = Difference credited or debited to Tenant’s actual water usage amount

(See the calculations at section 4.3)

 

4.6 Unusually high meter reading

All unusually high water bills brought to Homes North attention will be investigated. An increase in water meter readings may be explained by visitors staying on the premises, garden watering in summer or other seasonal variations of usage or water leakage. Homes North’s assets administrator will alert tenancy managers regarding unusual variations in tenant’s water usage to ensure water infrastructure is adequately maintained.

Housing staff should regularly remind Tenants that water charges are their responsibility and that leakage of water may add to charges. It is the responsibility of tenants and in their interests to report any leakage issues as soon as they are detected.

 

4.7  Legislation and Compliance

Where residential tenancy agreements are in place, Homes North applies water usage charges in accordance with the RTA (section 139) which provides that: “a tenant under a social housing tenancy agreement must pay to the landlord any charges, determined in accordance with guidelines approved by the appropriate Minister, in respect of water usage by the tenant”.

The Standard Form Tenancy Agreement used by Homes North is, Schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010. The references to water charging in the standard form agreement are based on section 39 of the RTA and will not be consistent with section 139 of the RTA.  However, section 137 of the RTA states that Part 7 of the RTA will prevail over any other provision of this Act or the regulations in the event of any inconsistency.

Some Tenants may occupy properties owned or managed by Homes North under occupancy (or similar) agreements. In these circumstances, depending on the form and terms of the agreement, the RTA will not apply.

 

4.8  Appeals and reviews of decisions

If a Tenant has any concerns about their water usage charges they should raise those concerns with their housing manager in the first instance. If their concern dispute is unable to be resolved then the concern should be raised using the Homes North appeals policy.

Homes North provide all fact sheets on appeals in each office and on our website.

 

5.  Where to get more information

Contact Homes North on 6772 5133 or armidale@homesnorth.org.au

 

Policy Context

  • National Community Housing Standards – 1.2 Establishing and Maintaining Tenancies
  • Community Housing Water Charging Guidelines (Ministerial Guidelines)
  • Residential Tenancy Act (2010) (Section 139)
  • Absence from Property Policy
  • Appeals Policy
  • Absence from Property Form
  • Absence from Property Factsheet
  • Appeals Factsheet

 

Related Policies

  • Absence from Property Policy
  • Appeals Policy

 

Forms or other organisational documents

  • Absence from Property Form
  • Absence from Property Factsheet
  • Appeals Factsheet

 

 

Policy information

Policy no:                       1.2.1 V2.1

Adopted:                       February 2019

Download Water Charges Policy