Water rights: Do landlords or tenants pay for water in Massachusetts?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Usually, landlords in Massachusetts pay for water, not tenants. Massachusetts law does allow landlords to bill tenants directly for water—but only if all the following are true:

1. Your tenancy started on or after March 16, 2005.  

You can be billed separately for water only if you moved into your apartment on or after March 16, 2005. You cannot be billed separately if your tenancy began before March 16, 2005.

2. You have a written rental agreement.  

There must be a written rental agreement that:

  • You and your landlord sign,
  • Clearly states that you need to pay for a separate water bill, and
  • Explains how you will be billed and how to pay.  

3. Submeters are installed.  

Your landlord must have a licensed plumber install meters (called submeters) that measure how much water goes separately to your apartment.

4. The faucets, showers, and toilets are low-flow.  

Your apartment must have low-flow fixtures. Low-flow fixtures slow down the flow of water. As a result, faucets, showers, and toilets use less water. This also means that your water bill decreases in cost.

5. Your landlord receives required approval.

Your landlord cannot bill you for water unless they file a certificate with the local Board of Health or Inspectional Services Department. This certificate confirms that your landlord has done all of the above.  

If your landlord has failed to follow any requirement listed, they cannot bill you directly for water. You can learn more about water rights on the Massachusetts Trial Court Library website.



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