There’s plenty to consider when you first sign on for a tenancy, but typically what can come to mind faster than others are what service charges or usage charges do you need to be aware of.
One grey area that tenants in Victoria deal with is water and sewerage. Other utilities are set up simply and fees are straightforward, so why are water services a grey area?
Turns out, there’s plenty of different parameters that a Victorian tenant needs to follow to determine if you’re forking up cash or if your rental provider will be paying the water bill forward.
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The key item that determines who pays for your water and sewerage all lies with your meter (barring separate rules in specific tenancy agreements).
If the rental property has a separate water meter, meaning it is separately metered from other rental properties, then the VIC tenant is required to pay for the water supply.
Renters should bear in mind, however, that they’re only liable for the actual water usage charge in a water bill. Therefore, when the water bill arrives, the tenant is only liable for the usage charges and not the other charges mentioned on a typical bill, like service charges or administration charges.
Sewerage service is in a similar vein, as the tenant will be required to pay for sewerage disposal when it’s separately metered and charged by the local government water corporation. Any other instance would require the landlord to pay the sewerage disposal charges.
For more information about energy meters, meter readings, and the high impact water use can have on your bill, check out our article here.
Other Water Charges
Meters aren’t the only difference in payment between different parties. For example, water charges for a property that does not meet water efficiency standards will fall upon the landlord.
The rental provider must also pay for drainage charges relating to the cleaning and pumping out of sewerage tanks (unless the renter is the cause of blame for damaging the tank). If a water tank is the main source, different rules may apply.
Cartage charges are paid forward by the rental provider for drinking water also unless the charges relate to the amount of water supplied to the rental property during the renter’s tenancy.
Refilling any fire safety water tanks must be filled by the rental provider also.
Reimbursements & Taxes
It’s not out of the norm for one of the parties (property owner or tenant) to pay a charge intended for the other party.
Should the renter pay a charge intended for the property manager, this payment can be reimbursed by the landlord using a Notice to rental provider of rented premises form.
The inverse is similar, where the rental provider supplies a Notice to renter of rented premises form for the renter to sign upon. Both forms require the charge to be repaid to the intended party within 28 days.
If the rental provider has paid utility fees on behalf of the tenant and has then requested reimbursement, the request must not exceed the amount initially charged by the utility supplier. Concessions must also be passed onto the renter.
The party who has requested to be repaid must show proof (possibly in the form of a receipt). Should there be an issue over payment between the landlord and the tenant, either party can apply to VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal) to come to a decision.
For more information about your rights as a landlord or tenant, the Residential Tenancies Act was created for this very reason. Check out the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 here.
All Utility Connections
Skimming through the rules surrounding water in VIC can be a huge hassle, and similar rule grievances apply to other utility connections.
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If you are needing some help getting your electricity online or your utilities connected, please call MyConnect on 1300 854 478 or use the Get Connected form here! If you’re unsure about using a utility connection company, this post here can assist you.