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Utility charges

Information about who is liable for which utility changes, reimbursement, disconnection and reconnection.

What are utilities?

Utility charges are things like water, electricity, gas or oil, sewage disposal charges.

Is the service separately metered?

Basically, who pays depends on whether the utility service is separately metered or not. If there are no separate meters for the service (for example if there is only one gas meter for more than one property), then the rental provider is responsible for all payments.

The renter is not liable for the cost of installation and charges for initial connection. These costs must be paid for by the rental provider.

See s. 52—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Where services are separately metered

A renter is liable for all utility charges that relate to:

  • electricity, gas or oil
  • the installation costs and charges relating to the initial connection of the service
  • water supplied to the rented premises
  • sewerage disposal charges during the renter's occupation
  • all charges relating to the use of bottled gas at the rented premises in respect of the tenant's occupation of the rented premises.

The rental provider is liable for all utility charges that relate to:

  • the installation costs and charges relating to the initial connection to rented premises of any electricity, water, gas, bottled gas or oil supply service
  • services that are not separately metered
  • all charges related to the supply of water service even if separately metered if the charge does not relate to the amount of water supplied
  • all charges related to the supply of sewerage services or the supply or use of drainage services to or at the rented premises if not separately metered
  • any taxes and charges payable under other Acts
  • charges related to the sale and hire of gas bottles
  • all charges related to the supply or hire of gas bottles to the rented premises.

See ss. 52, 53—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Rental provider may pay by agreement

It is possible for the rental provider to agree to pay for any utility costs. This agreement must be in writing and signed by the rental provider.

See s. 53(2), (3)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Liability due to excessive use caused by faults

The rental provider is responsible for the additional costs relating to excessive use (for example of gas if there is a gas leak, or water if there is a broken pipe). The renter must notify the rental provider as soon as possible after receiving their excessive charge.

The rental provider is not responsible for excessive cost if the fault was the responsibility of a service provider. For example, if the electricity company created a leak when they installed a smart meter.

See s. 53A—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Water efficient appliances

When a water using appliance, fitting or fixture needs replacing, the landlord must replace it with one that has a water efficiency rating of at least a 'A' rating. This could include a shower head, dishwasher or hot water system.

If the landlord does not do this, they are liable for any additional water use that is due to this breach.

See s. 69—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Safety checks

The rental provider must:

  • undertake any safety-related repairs and maintenance set out in the rental agreement
  • keep and produce records of gas and electricity safety checks.

See ss. 68A, 68B—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Reimbursement

The tenant or landlord must make any reimbursement owing within 28 days after receiving written request.

If the tenant paid for utilities that are the landlord's responsibility, they should write to the landlord. If landlord does not pay within 28 days, the tenant can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order that the landlord must repay.

See s. 55—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Landlord is not to profit from the cost of the utilities

The landlord is not allowed to charge more than the actual cost of utilities that would have been charged by the supplier.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for overcharging by the landlord is 20 penalty units.

See ss. 55, 56—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Reconnection

The tenant should give utility providers at least 48 hours notice to arrange for service to be connected and the meter read.

The water authority must be notified when moving in, so they don’t charge the previous tenant for water usage.

Disputes

Either party may apply to VCAT if there is a dispute about who should pay excessive use charges.

See s. 53B—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Disconnection

The tenant must tell utility providers when vacating a premises, so the provider can arrange for a final meter reading and disconnection. They should give them at least 48 hours notice.

If a tenant does not disconnect utilities they could end up having to pay next tenant's bill.

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 52—renter's liability for various utility charges
  • s. 53—rental provider's liability for various utility charges
  • s. 53B—application to VCAT re dispute over excessive charges liability
  • s. 55—reimbursement
  • s. 56—rental provider is not to make a profit out of the utility charges
  • s. 54—rental provider is liable for costs due to non-complying appliances, fittings or fixtures
  • s. 68A—rental provider's duty to comply with safety-related repairs and maintenance
  • s. 68B—requirement to keep and produce records of gas and electricity safety checks
  • s. 69—if an appliance, fitting or fixture needs replacing the landlord must make sure that the replacement is at least an 'A' rating for water efficiency

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Updated