Landlord 101 – Water Bills

August 16th, 2010 · 12 Comments · Property Management, Rental Property

Old Town Alexandria at Dusk (1) - Virginia, USA
Creative Commons License photo credit: M. Khatib
I’ve said before that tenant quality has been deteriorating. I talked about it a little in my post at Million Dollar Journey about Good News For Landlords & Investors. It used to be that most tenants paid their bills religiously. Because of the increasing number of water bills not getting paid, at some point the City of Toronto decided in all their great wisdom to get the landlords to be responsible for these bills.

Transferring the City of Toronto Water Bill

What a hassle! For a while they had a special form you would sign and the tenant would sign so that the water could be transferred to the tenant. Then you had to mail or fax it in. Utilities all over the world have developed a great system for completing this process over the phone. Clearly this process was too simple for the city. I also have no idea why it was required for the landlord to sign the form as well. It’s pretty fair to say that random people do not call in to transfer any bills into their name unless they have to.

Now You Cannot Do It At All

The landlord is always responsible for the water bill. The best you can do is designate someone else to receive the bill. Her’s the link to the City of Toronto site where you can designate a tenant.It also costs $16 per bill to get the bill mailed by the city.

Inherently Unfair

Fundamentally there is a serious problem with holding the landlord who does not use the services responsible for paying for those services. Utility companies have a lot more power to collect money for services rendered. First of all they can with hold more services until arrears are paid. Secondly as a large company, they have access to collections and credit reporting.

How I handle Water Bills

What happens is that I chose to keep the bill going to the owner. The owner faxes the bill to me when it comes in and I arrange for the tenant to pay it. It might be easier to designate the tenant as a recipient, but most landlords are frugal. I agree that asking the tenant to pay an extra $16 just to get a bill mailed is too much. Instead I have this awkward complicated system.

Disturbing Trend

There have been other attempts to transfer responsibility from the tenant to the landlord. Utility companies have discovered what landlords are already quite familiar with. Deadbeats won’t pay bills. Rather than lose the money or try to collect it from the tenants they’d much rather find someone collectible like the landlord. This adds insult to injury. Usually the landlord has already taken a financial hit themselves from the tenant not paying rent. Next they’ll get an additional bill for water from the City of Toronto.

Transfer Utilities Before giving the Keys

A cautious landlord will verify that the tenant has transferred the utilities before handing over the keys. Once the tenant moves in there is no guarantee they will call in and get it transferred over to themselves. If they don’t you cannot turn it off! This would be withholding vital services. If it takes you a while to figure out that the utilities have not been transferred it may be assumed that you have agreed to be responsible.

This happened to a landlord I spoke to who was not aware that the bill for the gas had not been transferred or paid because the bill went to the rental address. She also had a verbal lease. She had to pay all the balance for the entire tenancy… or they were going to cut services to her house and obviously ruin her credit as well. Obviously the tenant was also not paying the rent!

Sucks to be a Landlord

Basically utilities and other companies are very aware that they would much rather charge the landlord than the disappeared tenant. You have much more ability to pay than they do. Landlords are rich! Aren’t they? You can also look forward to more of this type of offloading of liabilities in the future. Believe me they’ll do it if they can get away with it. Don’t let them…the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Kayla Andrade

    Hello My Name is Kayla Andrade and I am local Landlord in the City of Cambridge . A major group of Landlords are heading to Queens park . A Petition will be Done as of Monday Feb 14 . We are also working on many other few things . Please contact me at my andrade_k1985@hotmail.com ..home phone 519 740 7903 ..I look forward to speaking with you on this issue ..
    Great Work 🙂

  • Warning: Death By a Thousand Paper Cuts Water bill edition | Property Rental Agency & Property Management Services - Landlord Rescue

    […] post at your peril, landlords of Ontario. Back in this post in 2010 I was upset about the City of Toronto’s Water Billing Tactics where you can hardly even send a bill to your tenants and they must pay $26 per bill to get it sent […]

  • Ray Blewitt

    Hi there, I am commenting as a tenant here in support of landlords. I think this business is arcane and is a totally unnecessary burden on the landlord to have to forward the bill. It seems all landlords are suffering because of some poor tenancy choices.

    I have a query in relation to the designate form. Is it possible for the tenant to pay the bill online and eliminate the paper bill which seems like a total waste of money and paper if you are willing to set up online payments?

    Thanks,

    Ray

    • Rachelle

      I’m not sure to be honest Ray. What a lot of tenants don’t understand is that the good tenants pay for the bad ones. Even if you might not know it. It’s in everyone’s interest to have healthy landlord businesses around after all how will you get housing if all the landlords go out of business?

  • Isabel

    “I’ve said before that tenant quality has been deteriorating.”

    The same could be said of landlords. Trying to rent from a bevy of unscrupulous and insane landlords and supers has been nothing short of a nightmare. And I pay my bills.

  • Sam

    Fuck the landlords. They deserve. Especially in Toronto.

  • Kayla Andrade

    Really Sam ? Not all landlords are bad just like all tenants are not bad . We are protesting for the good landlords and the good tenants . Since the landlords have this ruling pressed on them the tenants will feel the burn too , good and bad . Affordable housing is disappearing as we know it

    • Rachelle

      They deserve to give tenants a free life I guess.

      • Alex

        Everybody deserves shelter, it’s a human right. That landlords only own property because they have the capital to purchase it in the first place is a travesty, they are parasites sucking the lifeblood out of the poor and desperate. As a tenant I can say that nothing is more soul-sucking and anxiety-inducing than looking for decent affordable housing in Toronto; greedy landlords are definitely to blame. The “good” landlords are so few and far between to be anything but outliers. Hopefully one day we will live in a society that actually takes care of its citizens and bans landlordism for good.

  • Kayla Andrade

    Alex……Yes I agree everyone deserves shelter …but you have to work for it .Nothing in this world comes free and if you think it might one day ..then wake up cause it is a dream. You may have had a bad experience with a landlord , but don’t paint all landlords with the same brush ! Landlords invest into rental properties as a long term investment plan for their retirement and you would too if you had the option.Landlords have to deal with far more bad tenants then a tenant having a bad landlord. Landlords who invest in the industry know that they have to maintain a proper safe and clean home so they can attract the right tenant, so slum landlords will be pretty slim in my opinion. When a tenant has a bad landlord , they can LEAVE the property at any time , when a landlord has a bad tenant it will cost the landlord 10 or more months wait time to evict that tenant , plus missed rent ,damages ,legal fees and stress to the landlord from dealing with all of it. The landlord and tenant board is completely on the side of the tenant so landlords in Ontario now have to do what ever they can to protect themselves. Investing in rental properties is a business , so don’t take it personal if you get evicted .

  • John

    Let me tell you about my sweet old landlord: My bathtub leaks non-stop. My landlord has known about this issue for months and does nothing. In my previous apartment, water was leaking from my shower into the apartment below. Landlord was too cheap to call a plumber so me and the guy downstairs eventually cut through his ceiling and fixed it ourselves. Also, my baseboard heater stopped working in January and the landlord NEVER fixed it. I bought a plugin heater from Canadian Tire to last the winter.

    Is this who you want me to feel sorry? I’m going to lose sleep because my rich landlady has to pay the water bill on her multiple properties?

    If it’s such a bad business and you’re losing money because of your water bills, then don’t be a landlord! Oh wait, you’re young and probably making good money and just upset because running a business isn’t as easy as you thought.

    Please tell me how I can get my landlord, who pays for the wasted bathtub water, to actually fix the bathtub????