One of the most asked questions is about what rights tenants have, and we’re going to do our best to give you the information you need to know.
The Simple Truth
Tenants have rights, and as a property manager or owner, you need to know what your renters can ask.
If they request information that they have a right to see, and you deny them, you could land in some seriously hot water.
Of course, if you’re following the law and are fully compliant in your billing practices, then you have nothing to worry about when it comes to utility info requests.
Why Does a Tenant Ask About Utilities?
They’re like everyone else – they don’t ask to see more detailed billing information unless they think there’s something wrong. Maybe tenants believe they are getting billed incorrectly, or their water usage doesn’t look right.
It’s up to you to be able to answer their questions lawfully. During business hours, it means you have to give them the proper records when they ask for it. If you don’t have the documents onsite, then you have 48 hours to fulfill their request.
How Do Billing Disputes Work?
When a renter feels like there’s a utility issue, they can file a billing dispute. Once that dispute is submitted, then the property owner or manager must reply within 30 days – there’s no getting around that.
The renter has the right to file a complaint with TCEQ if they see one. From there, it’s up to you to supply the documentation that proves otherwise.
If you don’t have the data readily available, then you’re going to end up with some trouble on your hands
Here’s What You Need to Have
In talking about water bills and what needs to be available for tenants, here’s a quick reference list for you to refer back to for what must be easily accessible.
Statutes, Rules, Rates, and Conservation
Water allocation statutes must be available for your tenants. That includes how their bills are derived and the way their water usage is calculated. If submeters are used or if you’ve got a RUBS in place, renters have the right to all of that information.
Water allocation rules and guidelines must also be easy for your tenants to get. Rules and guidelines include what your legal obligations are as an owner or property manager. When in doubt, consider printing out the Texas water billing tool kit – it makes things simple to understand.
A water utility rate card also needs to be available for your renters. It’s easy enough to come by – you need to ask your utility company for that information.
Finally, you need to have a list of water conservation ideas or plans available for your tenants. As an example, Southwest Utility Solutions has a conservation project in place for our clients, so we provide a copy for you.
For Property Management
The most critical thing to remember is that property managers and owners can get in a significant amount of trouble if you don’t follow up or provide the requested information.
Being non-compliant could result in hefty fines, so to avoid that, complying with rules and regulations is going to be your best bet.
For any questions, please feel free to contact Southwest Utility Solutions – we’re happy to help!