California Tenant Water Service Bill Rights
As water plays a vital role in daily life and sustenance, understanding California law regarding water service bills is essential for California tenants to prevent excessive water usage, high water bills, and waste. Please continue reading for clarity regarding California tenant rights regarding their water service bills, including late fees, administrative fees, and the contents of California water service bills.
May Landlords Charge California Tenants Late Fees for Untimely Water Bill Payments?
Yes. However, California tenants may only be charged a late fee after failing to pay the water bill within twenty-five (25) days after it is mailed or otherwise transmitted to them. California Civil Code § 1954.213(a). Where the twenty-fifth (25th) day falls on a weekend or holiday, the landlord must wait until the next business day for payment.
What Late Fees May Landlords Charge to California Tenants That Do Not Pay Their Water Bill Timely?
California tenants may only be charged an initial late fee of $7.00 for the first untimely water service bill payment. California Civil Code § 1954.213(b)(1). However, California tenants may be charged a $10.00 late fee for each subsequent untimely water service bill payment. Id. However, the total late fee imposed in twelve (12) months upon an unpaid water service bill charge cannot exceed ten percent (10%) of the unpaid amount. California Civil Code § 1954.213(b)(2). This limitation does not include administrative fees, as discussed below.
How Must Landlords Credit Partial Payments Made Towards Multiple Late Water Bills?
A California tenant’s partial payments are credited to the bill that has been outstanding the longest. California Civil Code §§ 1954.205(a)(4), 1954.213(a), (b).
Are Administrative Fees Permissible for Water Bill Processing?
Yes, but they are capped. Under California law, California tenants may only be charged the lesser of $4.75 (adjusted for CPI) or 25% of the volumetric usage charge. California Civil Code § 1954.205(a)(3).
What Information Must California Tenants Receive on Their Water Bills?
Under California law, California tenants are entitled to receive the following information on their monthly water service bills:
- The submeter reading for the beginning and ending date of the billing cycle, dates read and indicated consumption;
- Amounts charged according to California Civil Code section 1954.205(a);
- Rates charged for volumetric charge per unit of measure;
- Amount, if any, due from the previous months’ bill;
- Amount, if any, due from bills before the previous month;
- Late fees, if any, imposed based on Civil Code section 1954.205(c)(4) or (5);
- Total amount due for the billing period;
- Payment due date;
- If the landlord charges a late fee, a statement of when the late fees apply;
- Procedures to contact the landlord or their billing agent with questions or concerns regarding the water service bill. The landlord or billing agent must respond in writing to any questions or disputes from the California tenant upon the California tenant’s request;
- The water service bill must include the landlord’s:
- Mailing address;
- Email address; and,
- A toll-free or local telephone number for the California tenant to contact the landlord or their agent to report leaks, drips, water fixtures that do not shut off properly, such as toilets, water-saving devices, or other water system components.
- Where the landlord utilizes a billing agent’s services, the water service bill must include the billing agent’s:
- Mailing address;
- Email address; and,
- A toll-free or local telephone number and regular telephone hours for the California tenant to contact regarding billing inquiries. California Civil Code § 1954.206(c).
Must California Tenants Pay Water Service Bills Electronically?
No, California tenants cannot be forced to pay their water service bills electronically. California Civil Code § 1954.206(b). However, in writing, a California tenant may agree to receive electronic water service bills. And, the California tenant may agree to rescind the authorization.
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