Is a tenant responsible for a high water bill that resulted from a leaking pipe under the house?

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Is a tenant responsible for a high water bill that resulted from a leaking pipe under the house?

My wife and are renting a house. Recently our water company has switched so we haven’t had a bill in 3 months. On average our water bill is $35-$45 a month. This month however, it was $500. We asked the water company why our bill was so much and they suspected we had a leak. They came out to inspect and confirmed there was a in fact a leak in the piping under the house. When we presented this to our landlord to ask for her assistance in paying the excessive bill she said she was not responsible because we failed to bring it to her attention. We offered to split the difference with her and she still refused. What are our rights? Are we stuck with the bill?

Asked on October 17, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a tenant is only responsible for costs which were under his/her control. Therefore, a tenant would be responsible for costs from a leaking pipe only 1) if the tenant caused the leak (e.g. banged into and damaged the pipe) or 2) failed to report a leak of which the tenant was aware to the landlord. If you reported the problem to the landlord once you became aware of it--presumably, after the water company confirmed the leak--your landlord, not you, should be responsible.


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