How to Win ‘I won’t pay my water bill’

Thursday, December 07, 2023

I bet you have heard this statement before from tenants when they receive their water usage account. They call you promptly and say “I have just received my account, but my tap was leaking for 3 months!” They either want the account substantially reduced or don’t want to pay anything at all.

So in the case where water has been lost due to leaking or dripping, what do you do?

In some cases, the tenant is right, because you may have delayed in fixing it, or in fact, the landlord said he would fix it but took months to do so. How do you properly deal with this situation without unnecessarily reducing the water account below what it reasonably should be?

With leaks and drips the answer is really simple! This is my method for dealing with this type of complaint. I call it ‘The Bucket Method’.

Step 1 – Use the measure of a bucket

A bucket is approximately 10 litres and is a size or volume that everyone can easily relate to.

Ask the tenant: ‘If you put a bucket under the leak or drip, how many buckets would it fill in a 24 hour period?’

The tenant may respond, “One bucket a day”. Once you have agreed on how many buckets a day (it may only be half a bucket or 2 buckets), move to step 2.

Step 2 – Buckets over an agreed period

Ascertain an agreed time period with the tenant regarding how long the leak has been going on – 1 month, 2 months or even 4 months. Get the tenant to estimate this (they feel they are in control of this exercise).

Step 3 – Calculate water loss over a period

Multiply the bucket volume of water by how many days the tenant has estimated the leak (or if you know how long it was leaking) has occurred.

If the leak has been for 3 months, then we can multiply 10 litres (1 bucket) by 90 days. This equals 900 litres over a 3-month period. Use this principle for any period length.

Step 4 – Talk out an agreement

Agree with the tenant on the water loss estimate. You may even agree on a bit more than the estimation so that the tenant can see you are being more than fair. Once you have agreed, and you can see that the tenant is happy with the agreement on water loss, state:

“Instead of 900 litres Jim, how about we deduct 1500 litres from the water account, will you be happy with this?’

Once you have an agreement- you are ready to now convert the water loss into a dollar value.

IMPORTANT
: Do not move to step five until your tenant fully agrees with the amount of water loss. Never give a dollar value on the water loss until the tenant agrees on the amount of water loss first.

Step 5 – Convert water loss to dollars

Convert the agreed water loss into dollars. From this point, you apply the current cost per kilolitre that’s applicable to your state. Tenants just don’t realise how little water loss is associated with a dripping tap or leaking toilet cistern. They expect big deductions when in fact it is not warranted at all!

When we use this method, they see that their attempt to halve the water account has been diffused and reality put back into the situation.

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