Should I be responsible for a high water bill, if it took my landlord over a month to fix a leak?

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Should I be responsible for a high water bill, if it took my landlord over a month to fix a leak?

I live on my landlord’s property. We split the water bill which is in my name. An underground leak occurred in one of the pipes near the driveway. It took a month for him to fix it because he was out of the country. Now we have a huge waterbill in my name. Usually, we split the bill. Do I need to split this bill with him or is he responsible for paying the cost of the lost water?

Asked on October 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The moral answer, is no, you shouldn't have to pay what wasn't your fault.... however, what's moral and contractual do not always go together.  What will determine how much you will have to pay is your lease agreement with your landlord and your landlords sense of fairness.  If your lease says that it's split fifty-fifty, with no exceptions, then you're stuck.  If your lease does not specify a percentage amount but is more generic (like tenant will pay for water used by tenant), then you could legally argue that you should only pay for the portion of your normal billing cycle.  Regardless of the lease, your landlord can always agree to absorb the cost that he caused to be incurred.   Absent this agreement on his part, you will be stuck with the written provisions on the lease.  Your other sticky point is that even though you share the water with your landlord, the water bill is in your name.  This is somewhat unusual and is tricky in that if he refuses, you will have to sue him for his balance.  In the mean time, however, your name is on the account and your are still personally liable until the amount is paid.


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