Water Advice and Consistent Residential Water Billing Guidelines Frequently Asked Questions
Water Advice Guideline
When must I comply?
The requirements took effect from 16 November 2011. Water service providers are required from this date to send a water advice notice to tenants at the same time rates notices or accounts for the supply of water are issued to owners. If this is not possible, a water advice notice may be issued separately to the general rates payment notice.
How do providers determine which residential premises are occupied by the owner and which are tenanted?
Providers may be able to refer to land records to assist in this task. Some larger local governments already distinguish between owner-occupier and rental properties in their land records.
Alternatively, a database could be used to identify instances where the rates notification address is the same as the residential address, indicating that the premises are owner occupied. All other residential premises are likely to be tenanted. While some premises may still receive water use information as well as information in their rates bill, the instances of this occurring will be minimised.
Such a database could be updated by including a note with the water use information to contact providers if the recipient is the owner and does not want to receive the information (as they will already be receiving it with their rates).
An information sheet on providing a water advice notice to non-owner residents (PDF, 103K)* provides more information
What if some residential properties are not metered?
The requirement to provide water use information to non-owner residents relates to premises that are supplied by a retail water service provider and where that supply is measured (metered) and charged for. Therefore, providers do not need to provide water use information to premises that are not metered.
What happens when the length of tenancy agreements don’t align with the rate notices—that is, when different tenants occupy the premises during a billing period?
The water advice should be addressed to ‘the occupier’. Therefore service providers do not need to maintain a record of tenants’ details or any tenancy arrangements.
What if a property is a rural address and has no postal delivery?
Providers must make a reasonable attempt to comply with the requirements to give a water advice notice to all tenants. If a provider is unable to identify all non-owner residential addresses, they should contact the DERM regulator to discuss alternative arrangements to suit their individual circumstances. In this case there is no way of identifying non-owner residential addresses. Therefore, providers would be unable to issue a water advice notice.
Are community/group titles schemes excluded?
No, providers are required to give water use information in the form of a water advice notice to all residential premises where the supply of water is individually measured and charged and where the premises are occupied by tenants. This includes residential community or group title schemes, if supply to each unit is individually metered and charged for accordingly. Only the supply to the common area is excluded from any water advice notice requirements.
Are mixed use community or group title schemes (e.g. where there is a mix of commercial and residential premises), also subject to the water advice requirements?
Yes, within a mixed scheme, if one or more premises are for residential purposes and water supply is individually measured and charged, providers must give a water advice notice to tenants of the residential units but this does not apply to the non-residential premises. If however the supply to a residential premises is not individually measured and charged accordingly (and therefore actual water use can’t be determined) the requirements do not apply.
How does a water service provider apply the local area average by suburb?
This depends on the provider’s access to information and their ability to show comparative water usage with a similar postcode or suburb or tariff arrangement, etc. However, for the data to be useful, it would be most appropriate to compare areas with like areas (this may be more than one suburb if it is similar). For example, unless metering is based on different water sources, a water usage comparison could be achieved by using the average of the whole region. Alternatively a provider could review their land use code information (removing the non-residential water users) and base the comparative graphs on that data. It is up to each provider to determine which method they choose to show comparative information.
How do owners of rental properties pass water costs to tenants?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1994 lessors (owners) can pass on water consumption costs to tenants provided particular criteria have been met.
The Residential Tenancies Authority has further information on water charging (PDF)*.
Are providers required to give water use information to tenants in Class 1b buildings?
Water service providers are required to give the water advice to tenants residing in class 1b buildings only where those individual residences are individually metered and where the person ordinarily resides at the premises for a residential purpose.
According to the Building Code of Australia, class 1b buildings include a boarding house, guesthouse or hostel with four or more unrelated residents who do not form a common household.
Consistent Residential Water Billing Guideline
What if the service provider issues bills three times per year?
Under the new billing requirements, small providers are required to distribute water bills annually. Medium and large providers are required to distribute bills half-yearly. These are minimum standards only. Providers are encouraged to apply quarterly billing when practical.
When should trigger messages be used?
The trigger messages are not mandatory, however these messages should be considered when water use at particular premises is high. Trigger messages could be automatically generated when certain use thresholds are reached.
Can water service providers develop their own messages?
Yes. The messages in the Guidelines for issuing a rate notice or account for the supply of water to residential premises (PDF, 100K)* and information sheet (PDF, 150K)* are examples only.
How do providers sort and supply the information in response to triggers (i.e. trigger messages)?
Software can be used to automatically generate messages for households where water use exceeds a particular threshold.
Do I have to put trigger message information on the bill or advice notice?
No, however providers may wish to include a brochure or information sheet targeted at specific issues, such as detecting leaks and reading water meters, waterwise gardening or being waterwise around the home. A package of Waterwise resources has been developed for Queensland councils/providers to support community awareness and education about water conservation and water efficiency.
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Last updated 16 March 2012