Is water bill landlord’s or tenant’s responsibility? At first sight, the answer may seem simple – of course it is the tenant’s, their lease states that they are responsible for all utilities. There is some truth to this statement, but quite often landlords find themselves in a situation where the tenant moved out, returned the deposit to the tenant and a water bill comes in. Or the tenant moves out and the landlord finds out that the water bill hasn’t been paid in months. What do you do when you are left with a sizeable water bill? This is where it gets sticky.
Since in most Denver neighborhoods, the city and not a private company owns the water, the city does have the authority to put a lien on your property if the bill isn’t paid. It is just like letting a friend borrow your car, and he gets caught speeding on camera. It becomes your responsibility since you own the car; the ticket comes to your address and gets attached to your record. Of course, you can go after the tenant in a civil suit and demand payment, but the costs, time and energy for doing this is typically not worth the effort. And you would have to pay off the bill before selling your property, or having the next tenant move in, so that water is available to them.
A lien against your property isn’t something to take lightly. You could potentially loose the property if you don’t take care of this water bill timely, and the water company pursues action against you, the homeowner. Just this past summer, a client of ours was selling his rental and a water company lien came up on the title search and had to be paid off before the transaction could be finalized.
So what’s a landlord to do? How can you protect yourself from being in this situation? There are several ways to go about it:
- Hire a professional property management company like Evolve Real Estate and Property Management to take care of your Denver property management needs and we will make sure this never happens to you.
- Or if you feel, you have the resources, knowledge and time to manage your own property – bill the tenant for water each month after you get the bill and have them pay this amount directly to you with next month’s rent.
- At the very least, contact the water company and ask to be copied on the bill. They can send a copy of the bill to you and still continue sending one to the tenants at your rental property. If the bill becomes delinquent, you will receive the notice and can address it with the tenant.
- Never return the deposit before the final water bill is paid. In the state of CO, you can hold the deposit up to 30 days after the tenant moves out, unless your lease specifically dictates a longer period of time. 60 days is the maximum amount of time you can hold onto a deposit if your lease specifies this. This is plenty of time to receive the final water bill and deduct the amount from the deposit.
Don’t get stuck paying your tenants’ water bill. Know your rights and responsibilities that come with owning rental properties. At Evolve Real Estate and Property Management we are proud to say that we stay on top of the legal issues and provide guidance to homeowners on how to maximize their return and protect themselves in their Denver rental property management endeavors.
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