Renter’s water dilemma
Council CEO: Restrictions enforceable regardless of real estate agent demands Real Estate Institute CEO: Tenants not expected to go beyond legal boundaries but must do what they can to uphold agreed responsibilities
HOUSE renter Belle Wooderson feels stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fulfilling her lease agreement but also abiding by the Level 4 water restrictions that have been imposed in Dubbo.
Ms Wooderson claims she’s been told that the lawn is to be kept green at her Fitzroy Street property, otherwise she will be in breach of her lease contract.
Under current council water restrictions, everyone in the local government area can only water from one water outlet at a time, on Wednesday and Sunday for a total of 30 minutes, either before 9am or after 6pm.
Ms Wooderson believes it’s unreasonable for landlords to expect large lawns to be kept green while under such limitations.
“You can’t have a sprinkler going out the front and a sprinkler going out the back, and because they are keeping an eye on the consumption of water, I have to choose, do I do the back lawn or my front lawn? I may as well not do any and save the water,” Ms Wooderson told
“It’s causing me huge stress... I would like real estate agents to be more lenient to their tenants.”
Understanding that much of the state is in extreme drought, Ms Wooderson is doing everything she can to save and reuse water.
“It’s more about looking towards the future, we can’t just think that there is going to be rain coming, we have to put action in place now,” she said.
“We are recycling grey water from the laundry, we are using a dish in the kitchen sink for the washing up, we have a bucket in the shower and reusing water from the bathroom sink.
“We are limiting our showers to under two minutes and I even went out into the gutter when it rained on Sunday and bucketed water onto the grass.”
Dubbo Regional Council CEO Michael Mcmahon acknowledged Ms Wooderson’s concerns and said a letter to all real estate businesses within the local government area will be sent reminding them that tenants are not exempt from water restrictions.
“Under the Local Government Act 1993 these restrictions are enforceable for residents and businesses using potable town water regardless of the real estate agent’s demands,” Mr Mcmahon said in a statement.
Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) CEO Tim Mckibbin
said that while he has not read Ms Wooderson’s tenancy agreement, the circumstance has traits of a frustrated contract – something not uncommon in real estate.
“A frustrated contract is where a party has an obligation to do something or to provide something and it is just impossible to do it; circumstances have changed, and it is impossible to fulfil the obligations of the contract,” he said.
“Now, that’s not a breach of the contract, that just means that the contract to the extent of that particular obligation is frustrated.
“I haven’t read the particular documents, so I don’t know, but the frustration that has entered this contract is the restriction on the tenants’ ability to maintain the gardens.”
Mr Mckibbin said tenants are not expected to go beyond legal boundaries to fulfil obligations, but at the same time, tenants must do what they can to uphold agreed responsibilities.
“Conversely, because there have been water restrictions imposed, that is not a license for the tenant to say, ‘oh well, that’s good, I don’t have to water anything, it’s all over,’ because that wouldn’t be making a genuine attempt to fulfil your obligation,” he said.
Ms Wooderson said she will be keeping a water diary to prove she has been watering, as well as taking weekly photos of the lawn “to prove that it is not making a damn difference”.
THEN (March this year) and NOW photos of the lawn at the home Belle Wooderson rents. She says she’s stressed about her obligations to keep the garden green but still follow water restrictions. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED