Texas Water Code: Apartment owner sued for passing along inflated water, sewer charges to renters

Another apartment owner was sued under the Texas Water Code for improper billing:

The state’s water code prohibits apartment owners from charging tenants more than the actual charges for the water and sewer owners incur in each apartment.

Source: Lawsuit: Apartment owner passed along inflated water, sewer charges | Business | connection.news

If you are a current or former tenant of an apartment property and were charged a “New Account Fee,” “Activation Fee” or “Account Initiation Fee,” relating to the setup or initiation of utility services in your apartment, you may be entitled to a legal recovery under the Texas Water Code.  You may also be entitle to a legal claim if your apartment rental agreements did not otherwise comply with the provisions of Subchapter M of Chapter 13 of the Texas Water Code and/or Chapter 291 of the Texas Administrative Code.

What is the basis for a lawsuit against an apartment owner?

Texas Water Code-“Texas law does not allow property owners to profit from utility billing by adding extra fees or hidden charges to water and wastewater bills.” Source Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) publications, Tenant Guide to Submetered Water or Wastewater Service (GI-277) and Tenant Guide to Allocated Water or Wastewater Service (GI 276). 

See  and The Texas Legislature enacted and later amended Chapter 13, Subchapter M of the Texas Water Code5 (“the statute”), to specify how “apartment house6 owners” are allowed to pass-through their
water utility costs to tenants, prevent landlords from using water utility billing as a separate profit center, and encourage conservation through submetering of multifamily properties.
Apartment houses built after 2003 generally are required to be equipped with submeters for each dwelling unit to measure a tenant’s water usage precisely. Older properties are given the option
either to submeter or allocate water charges under a formula set forth in the statute and in rules promulgated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”)

Generally, the statute prohibits an apartment house owner from
imposing on the tenant any extra charge over and above the cost per gallon and any other applicable taxes and surcharges charged by the public utility to the owner.

The apartment owner must send the renter an itemized water bill and maintain adequate records regarding water billing for inspection by the tenant. In non-submetered properties, the owner additionally must set forth in the rental agreement the method of allocation used and the average monthly water bill for the previous year.

 
Regardless of whether the apartment house is submetered or if water bills are allocated, an owner is prohibited from charging a New Account Fee
What can I recover if I file a lawsuit?


The Texas Legislature further added a separate enforcement to the Texas Water Code that provides a private right of action for a renter under which he or she may recover three times the amount of any overcharge, a civil penalty equal to one month’s rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs from an owner who violates the statute.

 

The class action lawyers at the Tran Law Firm represents tenants and renter all over the state of Texas who have been cheated on their water bill. Call us at 713.223.8855

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