Victoria Utility Fees and Other Charges

During any tenancy, charges additional to rent arise including utilities, rates and taxes. In Victoria, 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 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 and for The landlord any installation or connection charges for electricity, gas, or oil utilities.

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. The landlord and tenant can also agree in writing for the landlord to cover any charges normally given to the tenant.

Who pays for water charges?

The tenant is only required to pay for water charges if the premises is separately metered. Furthermore, the tenant is only liable for the actual water usage charge in a water bill. This means that if a water bill includes other charges such as service or administration, then the tenant is only liable for the usage charges.

In addition, if the premises does not meet water efficiency standards then the landlord will be liable for the water charges.

Who pays for sewerage charges?

The tenant is only required to pay for sewerage disposal when it is separately metered for the rented premises and is charged by a government water corporation. In all other cases, the landlord will be responsible for sewerage disposal charges.

For example, the tenant can only be charged for sewerage disposal if their usage can be measured independently of the landlord’s. Generally this will only be possible when the landlord rents out an entire premises to the tenant and the landlord does not use it an any way.

How do reimbursements work?

It is common for the landlord or tenant to pay for a utility or other charge on behalf of the other party. In these circumstances, the person who has paid for the charge should seek a reimbursement.

Reimbursement requests should be made in writing and given to the other party. It is good practice for the written request to include details of the charge paid, such as a copy of the invoice or receipt. The person receiving the reimbursement request then has 28 days to pay the cost or utility.

If the landlord pays any utility fees on behalf of the tenant and then requests reimbursement, they cannot request more than the amount charged by the utility supplier and also must pass on any concessions.

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.

Who pays government rates and land taxes?

The landlord is responsible for any government rates or land taxes. If the tenant has paid any of these rates or taxes then the landlord must reimburse them.

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 electricity is separately metered for a share house occupied by co-tenants under one residential tenancy agreement, 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, or if the sub-tenant and head-tenant have a written agreement about sharing costs.

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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.