How to Dispute a Water Bill with Your Landlord

Getting an unexpectedly high water bill can be upsetting. If you rent, it may be unclear if you or your landlord is responsible for the charges. Disputing a water bill with your landlord takes some preparation, but you have options to contest unfair fees.

Understand How Water Bills Work

First, learn how water billing works in your building:

  • Master meter: The building has one main meter that measures total usage. The landlord pays the bill then divides it among tenants.

  • Submeter: Each unit has an individual meter to track exact usage. Tenants pay for what they use.

  • Included in rent: The landlord covers water costs as part of the rent.

Review Your Lease Agreement

Your rights related to water billing are outlined in the lease. Read it closely to see if:

  • You’re required to pay for water usage
  • Bills will be divided based on unit size or number of occupants
  • The landlord can pass along rate increases

If the lease doesn’t mention water bills, the landlord likely can’t charge you.

Gather Evidence

If you want to dispute a water bill from your landlord, you’ll need proof. Collect:

  • Lease agreement: Highlight relevant sections.

  • Past water bills: Show when charges started and increased.

  • Usage records: Obtain meter readings to verify your usage.

  • Communications: Note discussions about water billing.

Calculate Your Share

For master-metered buildings, landlords should divide bills based on unit size or occupancy. Do the math yourself to check the landlord’s figures.

You can dispute the landlord’s formula for allocating charges if it seems unfair. For example, a single tenant shouldn’t pay the same amount as a family of four.

Check for Leaks

A leaking toilet or faucet can lead to a spike in water usage and charges. But you shouldn’t have to pay for leaks on the landlord’s property.

Request proof that your unit doesn’t have leaks. You can also call 311 to have DEP check the meter.

Negotiate with Your Landlord

First, request a face-to-face meeting with your landlord to discuss the bill. Explain why you think the amount is inaccurate or inappropriate based on your lease, usage, occupancy, etc.

Offer to split the difference or propose another fair compromise. If the landlord won’t budge, suggest mediation to resolve the dispute. Having a neutral third party can help you reach an agreement.

File a Complaint

If talking it out doesn’t work, file a complaint with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).

You’ll submit:

  • A rent overcharge complaint form
  • A copy of your lease
  • The water bills in question
  • Your evidence challenging the charges

DHCR will investigate and make a ruling. The landlord could be ordered to refund you and/or stop improper billing practices.

Request an Audit

For serious billing issues with your landlord, ask the NYC Comptroller’s Office to perform an audit.

The Comptroller has legal authority to analyze water bills and meters in buildings with six or more units. If overcharges or leaks are found, the agency can order repairs and refunds.

Consult Housing Agencies

For additional help, contact:

  • NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Investigates landlord violations

  • NYC Rent Guidelines Board: Advises on rent and utility overcharges

  • Housing nonprofits: Offer legal assistance and representation

These organizations can provide guidance on disputing your landlord’s water bills and exercising your tenant rights.

Hire a Lawyer

For complex disputes, a real estate attorney can be invaluable. They’ll review your case and use their expertise to negotiate with the landlord.

If necessary, they can represent you in housing court against any unjust bills or illegal billing practices. Legal fees vary, but many firms offer free consultations.

Conserve Water

A good way to avoid exorbitant water bills is to reduce usage. Simple habits like taking shorter showers, fixing drips, and running full loads of laundry can decrement your usage substantially.

Installing water-saving faucets, toilets, and showerheads provides long-term savings. Just be sure to get landlord approval first if you rent.

Move Out

As a last resort, you may opt to end your lease if the dispute cannot be resolved. Review your lease contract to understand requirements for proper notice and early termination.

Moving is a big hassle, so only consider this nuclear option for persistent and extreme water billing problems with an uncooperative landlord.

Dispute Unfair Water Charges

Don’t overpay for water usage that isn’t your responsibility. With the right evidence and persistence, you can challenge unreasonable bills from your landlord. Get informed on proper billing practices and work to reach a fair agreement. If needed, contact housing agencies or legal professionals for assistance getting inflated costs reduced or waived.


Can landlords charge for water in NY?


A landlord can charge you for heat and hot water BECAUSE New York Mandates Landlords to provide it.

Can a landlord tell you to use less water?


Generally, landlords cannot restrict how much water a tenant uses. In California, however, there are special cases when landlords may be allowed to ask tenants to use less water.

What happens if you don’t pay your water bill NYC?


What are the consequences of non-payment? Eligible customers who do not arrange for payment before the deadline on the lien sale notice will have their water and sewer charges sold in the lien sale.

What are the rights of renters in upstate NY?


#1: Renters have the right to safe, livable, and sanitary homes. #2: Renters have the right to make a housing complaint – without experiencing retaliation. #3: Renters have the right to live free from discrimination in their housing. #4: Renters cannot be required to give up their rights when they sign a lease.

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