Renters: Make sure your water bill is right

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - If you live in an apartment, you know your water bill can be unpredictable. One month, it's high. The next month, it's low.

Consumer expert Amy Davis found that there is a way to determine what you actually owe.

If your apartment complex isn't submetered for water, that means the complex only gets one bill for the entire property. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Rules said those complexes can charge all tenants the same amount for water and just add that amount onto your rent each month. If your complex does this, the amount of you owe each month shouldn't change. If the landlord decides to split the bill up more between the tenants by estimating how much water each uses, the code allows him or her to do that one of three ways.

Landlords can charge you based on the number of people who live in your apartment, the square footage in your apartment or they can measure just the hot water going into your apartment to estimate how much total water you're using. The landlord must tell you which formula they're using to calculate your water bill each month.

The rule also entitles renters to see the last 12 months of water bills if they ask for them. Using the complex's water bill and the formula provided by your landlord, you can check to make sure you are only paying for the water you likely used.

If you're apartment management office refuses to show you the last 12 water bills and discuss the issue with you, print out the rule (TCEQ Rules Chapter 291- Utility Regulations, Subchapter H) of this code that explains your rights as a renter and take it with you to the office.

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