NSW Utility Fees and Other Charges
During any tenancy, charges additional to rent arise including utilities, rates and taxes. In NSW, the law requires tenants and landlords to pay for different charges. It is important to read this section carefully to see what you may be liable for under your agreement.
This guide covers landlords (or head-tenants) and tenants (or sub-tenants) in a Residential Tenancy. This applies to the majority of share accommodation and residential property rental situations. To confirm it covers your situation visit What is my share accommodation situation?
Who is responsible for General Utilities?
The tenant is always responsible for the payment of the following charges:
- supply of bottled gas to the rented premises
- pumping out of septic system for the rented premises
- excess garbage charges caused by the tenant’s use of the premises
When does the tenant pay Electricity, Gas and Oil Charges?
The tenant is only required to pay for electricity, gas, and oil charges if the rented premises is separately metered. A premises is separately metered if the usage by the tenant is measured distinctly from the usage of the landlord. The landlord is liable for all electricity, gas, oil charges if the rented premises is not separately metered.
For example, if the tenant and landlord live in the same house, then the usage by the tenant of electricity, gas, and oil must be measured independently of the landlord’s usage for the tenant to be liable. Alternatively however, if the landlord does not occupy or use the rented premises in any way, then the tenant will be liable for electricity, gas, and oil charges because they are measuring only the tenant’s usage.
If the rented premises are not separately metered, it is common and good practice for the landlord and tenant to negotiate an increase in rent to cover an estimation of the utilities used by the tenant. Doing so helps to protect the landlord from any charges associated with excessive use by the tenant.
What about Water Charges?
The tenant can only be required to pay for water charges if the following 3 conditions are met:
- the rented premises must be separately metered for water OR water is delivered to the premises by vehicle because there is no water supply service
- the rented premises meets the following water efficiency standards:
- all showerheads have a maximum water flow of 9L/minute (3 star water efficiency rating)
- all internal taps have a maximum water flow of 9L/minute (3 star water efficiency rating)
- there are no leaking taps at the premises
- if the landlord is seeking a reimbursement from the tenant for water charges they have paid on the tenant’s behalf, the landlord cannot charge any more than the amount of the water charges.
If the requirements above are not met, then the landlord will be liable for all water charges.
How are water charges paid?
Before the tenant can be required to pay water charges, the landlord must give the tenant a copy of the water bill if the water charges are sent to the landlord or the landlord pays for them initially. If the tenant is paying the water charges to the landlord, the landlord must give the tenant at least 21 days to pay.
Further, if the landlord does not request payment from the tenant for water charges within 3 months of receiving the water bill, then the tenant cannot be required to pay for that water usage. Landlords should therefore notify tenants of water charges as soon as possible. If the landlord receives any rebate for water charges from the water supplier, then the rebate must be passed on to the tenant.
Who pays government rates and taxes?
The landlord is always responsible for the payment of the following charges:
- all rates, taxes, or charges levied by governments
- installation of electricity, gas, or oil services to the premises
- electricity, gas, or oil services that are not separately metered
- charges for supply/hire of gas bottles at the beginning of the tenancy
- installation of water services
- all water charge costs that are not separately metered
- all sewerage supply services
How are internet or phone bills paid?
How charges for internet and phone bills are paid should be agreed between the tenant and landlord at the beginning of the tenancy agreement. As it can often be difficult to determine how much of an internet or phone bill any one person is responsible for, the best approach is for the landlord and tenant to agree on an increase in rent to cover the tenant’s estimated usage.
How do utility charges for tenants work in share accommodation?
When there are multiple co-tenants under the one residential tenancy agreement, they are all jointly responsible for paying bills, costs, and charges that tenants are normally liable for. This means, for example, that if the electricity charges for a share house occupied by co-tenants under one residential tenancy agreement is separately metered, then all the co-tenants are responsible together for paying the electricity charges. It is up to the co-tenants to agree between themselves on how the costs of the charges are shared.
In a sub-tenancy, the head-tenant is the landlord to the sub-tenant. Therefore, if the sub-tenant is renting a room in the head-tenant’s house, the sub-tenant can only be required to pay for water, electricity, gas and oil charges if they are separately metered.
These legal guides provide a brief summary and introduction of the laws and regulations affecting share accommodation. They do not cover all cases in all legal jurisdictions and might not apply in your specific share accommodation situation. It is important that you use this information as a guide only and seek independent Legal Advice or consult the Relevant Acts. We do not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.