Wat-er you on about? Talking charges with your housemates

Water tap
Photo: Conor McMahon
Water tap
Photo: Conor McMahon

 

The first water charges will gush in early next January, so its a good idea to consider how much responsibility lies with the landlord and how much trickles down to you?

If you are a student living in rented accommodation, here are a few quick talking points you should run by your housemates when it comes to thinking about next year’s bill.

Who pays – us or the landlord?                                                   

Landlords should have received application packs from Irish Water, which they should have forwarded on to you. The Water Services legislation says “It shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the owner of a premises is also the occupier of that premises”, so it is their job to pass the application on to you unless they want to foot the bill. It is your responsibility to submit the form by October 31 (or apply online using your PPS number). Your landlord is only responsible for any unoccupied properties they own. If Irish Water doesn’t know that you are renting, then the pack will be addressed to you as ‘The Occupier’.

We live in an apartment, so how will we be metered?

Metering properties with a shared water supply (like an apartment complex) is a bit tricky. For now, apartments will not be metered, so renters will be issued a set unmetered bill in January. After that, the official line is: “Irish Water is looking at metering options for further phrases of the metering programme and apartments will be a part of this analysis process.” In other words, they don’t know how to monitor your water consumption just yet.

We’re students. Don’t we get some sort of deduction?

Probably not – especially since students are the most likely to own an iPhone, much to Joan Burton’s disgust. The Budget is rumoured to include a €100 per annum payment to long term unemployed people and some sort of tax relief for homeowners. No mention of broke ass students.

If we don’t return the form, can Irish Water still charge us?

Yes. If you don’t return the form, you’ll be billed as ‘The Occupier’ and Irish Water will base your bills on a “default unmetered charge”. In other words, they will assume you are a household with two adults and you will not be able to avail of the allowance of 30,000 litres of water that you won’t be charged for (worth 48c per litre).

If I don’t pay, will my water be shut off?

No, Irish Water doesn’t have the authority to do that. But they can restrict your allowance (a last resort, they say). So if you go down that route, get used to having Electric Picnic “showers” – a quick baby wipe under the pits followed by a douse of Lynx.

Are we being charged for that leaky tap in the kitchen?

Yes, but it is your landlord’s responsibility to get it fixed. Pipework past the property boundary is the responsibility of the landlord to maintain and repair at their own expense. The government has promised €51m to pay for fixing certain leaks on private property for “free”. The details have yet to emerge.

If we move in to a place just as the first bills come in, will we have to pay charges racked up by the previous occupant?

Nope. Irish Water should have their PPS number, so they can pursue them for any outstanding charges.

And what should we do when we’re moving out?

If the apartment becomes vacant, it is up to both you and your landlord to let Irish Water know. Any outstanding charges will be charged to your new account.

Why does Irish Water need our PPS numbers?

They said they need them to validate eligibility for water allowances (the 30,000 free litres). Irish Water is likely to share your PPS number with the Department of Social Protection to validate it. You have the right to request your personal data from Irish Water.

How can we save money?

The average Joe consumes 150 litres a day – two bathtubs full. That’s 54,750 litres per person a year. So how might you cut down this figure?

  • Never let the water run: Brushing your teeth with the tap on can use up to six litres of water per minute. Don’t say Barney didn’t tell you so.
  • Cut your shower time: Unsurprisingly, showers are big guzzlers of water, and power showers use up way more than electric showers. See if you can manage a three-minute shower (yes, it is possible). Seven minutes is now a luxury.
  • Pull the plug on baths: The average bath uses 80 litres of water compared to an average shower using 49 litres.
  • Tea for two, not four: Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you want to use.
  • Kill two birds with the one stone: We know that showers use a lot of water, but so too do toilets. One toilet flush equals about 10 litres of water a day. So you could try Go with the Flow’s idea: pee while having your shower (your housemates might not be impressed). Or if you’re not feeling adventurous, put a displacement device into the cistern – it can cut the volume of water per flush by three litres.
About Conor McMahon 7 Articles
Freelance journalist.

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