EVERY DROP COUNTS: Household disputes arise over who pays council's compliance fines.
EVERY DROP COUNTS: Household disputes arise over who pays council's compliance fines. CHAYATORN LAORATTANAVECH

Landlords fear harsh penalties for tenants' huge water waste

LANDLORDS could be forced to fight hefty fines for excessive water use by tenants who flout the region's tough water restrictions.

Southern Downs Regional Council can determine whether it sends compliance fines to a tenant or landlord after speaking with the parties involved.

The murky situation became a reality for Warwick residents Jayne Shelley and Alexander Manfield this week.

They said a council worker rang to tell them they would be responsible for a $391 fine for each fortnight their rental property failed to meet its target.

Mrs Shelley said the tenant was using more than 2000 litres a day.

The landlords have also paid a whopping $2000 water bill which the tenant was paying back in drip-fed payments of $10 a week.

Mr Manfield said the council's call was a rude shock when he was not in control of his tenant's water use.

"They rang me and said if the water usage doesn't go down I will be issued with a fine,” he said.

"I said to the person that I believed that was unreasonable because I'm not in control of the property.”

Mr Manfield said the employee told him he agreed but said it was out of his control.

Later that day the employee called back to say the decision had been reversed and the notice would instead go to the tenant.

Threats of hefty fines angered the couple, who say they have worked diligently to curb water use at the property.

"Why should we pay when we've done everything we can except kick her out?” Mrs Shelley said.

"We installed a dual-flush toilet, got economical shower heads and got the plumbing sorted.

"It's her water usage, not ours.

"You would think knowing you have a $2000 water bill to pay you would have stopped,” she said.

As water compliance rules are relatively new there is no precedent to determine what the council should do, leaving both parties to fend for themselves.

Mayor Tracy Dobie said council would be talking with both tenants and landlords in future cases of excess water use to determine who is responsible.



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