My water bill is very high. Who is responsible for that!? And what should I do?

Posted on August 24, 2017

throwing money down the drain

High water bills? That’s like throwing money down the drain! If you notice a toilet or other water using device running when not in use, shut it off, try to fix it, and contact us for help. We don’t want you to have a crazy high water bill (almost as much as you don’t want to pay it)!

Your water bill is, well, your water bill and you are solely responsible for paying for it.

The city calls. They tell you your meter read was really high. That’s not good. Or worse, you simply receive a water bill and its many times higher than it has been in the past. Ouch. It’s happened to most of us at one time or another. And its no fun! But, wait, you can prevent this is most cases. Be watchful, turn off any devices that may be “running,” and submit a work order. Read on…

Who is responsible for your water bill?

Unfortunately, in life, sometimes bad things happen, and no one is at fault, but someone is responsible. In this case, its your place. It’s your water bill. It’s your responsibility to watch for and correct, or have us correct for you, any problems, and its up to you to mitigate your bills by turning off water supplies if you suspect a problem. We are happy to help, you just have to let us know.

Your lease says this about water usage:

Tenant must report any concerns with water usage and tenant remains solely responsible for all associated utility charges regardless of any delays in identifying and correcting the reported problem.

And your policies and procedures say this:

WATER USAGE. If you report an issue with excessive water use, such as a toilet leaking, you remain responsible for all associated charges regardless of any delays in correcting the reported problem. If you believe there is a problem, you should turn the water off to the fixture when not in use.

And also…

“RUNNING” Water seems to be continuously trickling through the toilet. Try jiggling the handle or lifting the lid to make sure the flapper is not up or the chain off. If that doesn’t fix it, turn it off and report it to the office immediately, as a running toilet can cost you lots of money on your water bill!

Beyond responsibility… let’s watch for, and fix, problems!

Top 2 things to do:

  1. Be vigilant about paying attention to water using devices in your place. Since you live there, only you will be able to notice if something is “running.” If one of them seems to be making noises when not in use, turn it off and submit a work order to the office. 
  2. Receive a high water bill? Report it, then try to find a toilet that is running (perhaps you already noticed one?!), and turn it off.

Figuring out causes of high water usage is the key thing–and of course taking steps to reduce that usage as we work together to fix the underlying problem.

Identifying and fixing a running water problem can often be complicated and take multiple trips despite everyone’s best efforts, so you need to make sure you do everything you can to reduce the chances you will have a large bill to pay.

The Toilet?

running toilets waste lots of water

Toilets are the prime suspect when water bills are really high. Even when they “run” almost silently, they will waste thousands of gallons. Be on alert for noise when not in use.

Generally, the culprit is a toilet. Since you live in the home, and are responsible for its day to day upkeep, you have to pay attention to whether a toilet, or some other water source, are running constantly. A drip in a sink won’t markedly affect your water bill, but a toilet that is running, even one that is barely noticeable, can increase your bill tens of thousands of gallons (and $100s of dollars) over a very short period of time.

Toilets can have this happen to them at any time, and keeping an eye (ear!) out for signs of a running toilet is an important part of living in a place of your own. Be on the lookout for a constant or intermittent sound even when the toilet isn’t–and hasn’t been–in use. These noises are always a good indicator. You can even play detective yourself. But the reality is sometimes the trickle in a toilet is so quiet that the first thing you will notice is, well, a high water bill.

If you would like to try to fix it yourself, here’s our FAQ about Running Toilets. However, make sure you pay close attention to it any time you turn the water back on until you are sure it is fixed.

Not the toilet?

It’s possible its not a toilet, or that a toilet is running so slightly as to be very hard to detect. Or that it is happening intermittently. Those can be tough. What we typically do for you in that case is a water usage maintenance protocol that generally involves one or more of the following:

  • Check that no water using devices are currently in use in a home
  • Check the meter for “meter creep”–this involves looking at the meter and seeing if the meter is moving at all. It should not be at this point if not water is being used.
  • Record and/or take a photo/video of the meter at the start
  • Inspect toilets and other devices for any obvious signs of leaking, especially if a tenant has not specified a toilet or faucet of concern
  • Possibly conduct a dye test
  • Record the meter at the end of the maintenance call
  • Depending on the results, we may also record the meter for you an additional time within the week to see if the water usage maps to a normal range for the unit — this can catch an intermittent problem.

Remember, throughout this process, do your best to identify any unusual usage or sounds or other clues to help with the process, AND turn those water devices off when not in use.


In a nutshell: water use in your place is your responsibility but we are here to help.

water meter

When your toilet or other water devices use excessive water, your meter will spin (and spin and spin), costing you lots of money before you know it. Be watchful for signs of running toilets and take immediate steps to mitigate your loss (e.g., turn off the toilet’s water supply).