Factsheet 23: Utilities
As a tenant you have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010. This factsheet explains the law in NSW about power, water and telecommunications services in rented premises.
Under the terms of the standard residential tenancy agreement, the landlord agrees to pay the costs or charges for:
You agree to pay for:
Water usage charges are a special case – see below. Also see below about telephone, television and internet connections.
Where premises are separately metered, you pay for electricity or gas. If not, you cannot be charged for electricity or gas. (See sample letter 'Electricity bill – no separate meter'.)
If you are being charged for electricity or gas used in common areas or adjoining premises, you can negotiate with landlord for compensation. If this fails, apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) for orders that the landlord do repairs in order to stop this from continuing and for compensation. Contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) for help.
If the premises are supplied by bottled gas, the landlord pays for the gas bottles at the start of the tenancy. They are responsible for upkeep of the connection to the premises. You pay for your gas usage.
|Premises are||Who pays|
|Separately metered [note 1]||Water effiicient [note 2]|
|yes||no||landlord [note 3]|
Note 1: Includes where premises are not connected to the water supply and water is delivered by vehicle.
Note 2: Premises have prescribed water efficiency measures installed.
Note 3: See below about tenancies started before 31 January 2011.
The legally prescribed water efficiency measures are:
You can be asked to pay for water usage until 31 January 2012, whether or not the premises are water efficient. After this date, you can only be asked to pay if water efficiency measures have been installed.
You are only required to pay for water usage if the landlord bills you correctly. They must:
If Sydney Water is the supplier and the landlord fails to pay the charges as required, you can pay the outstanding charges in lieu of rent. Receipts from Sydney Water count as rent receipts. (See sample letter 'Unpaid Sydney Water charges'.)
If the premises are not separately metered, you must pay for water usage as determined by ministerial guidelines.
For the premises to be habitable, the landlord should ensure the tank has water in it at the start of your tenancy. Note the water level on the condition report. You are responsible for refilling the tank, if needed.
The landlord is responsible for the tank's upkeep. Regularly check the tank, pipes and gutters and report any problems to the landlord/agent.
If they fail to do needed repairs and water is then lost or contaminated, you can apply to the CTTT for compensation for the cost of replacement water. You can also seek a rent reduction for withdrawal of facilities.
You are responsible for pumping out the septic tank when it becomes full as a result of your usage.
A standard tank should need emptying every 3–5 years with normal usage. If a tank needs emptying a few months into the tenancy, it may be that it is faulty or the previous occupant did not empty it. Write to landlord/agent asking for it to be repaired or emptied.
A landlord is not required to provide telephone, television or internet connections with the premises.
Existing phone/TV/internet sockets are facilities provided with the premises for use of the tenant. As such, the landlord is obliged to provide such facilities in reasonable condition and to maintain them – unless this is specifically excluded in the tenancy agreement. (Also see Factsheet 06: Repairs and maintenance.)
In the case Varghese v Liang & Huang (Tenancy)  NSWCTTT 973, the premises had a phone socket. The tenant assumed there was a working landline but there was not. The CTTT found that the landlord is responsible for ensuring a landline is available unless there is a specific exclusion in the tenancy agreement.
At the start of the tenancy, note on the condition report whether or not socket/s work. If they do not, negotiate with the landlord/agent about having them fixed. Get any agreement in writing.
The landlord is responsible for repairs to a connection provided with the premises. However, as a customer of the supplier, you may have to arrange for the repairs, pay for them and then seek reimbursement from the landlord. Negotiate a written agreement with the landlord/agent in advance.
If you want a new connection installed you must have the landlord's consent. They must not unreasonably withhold consent if the work required for the installation is of a 'minor nature' (see the NSW Fair Trading factsheet 'Asking to make an alteration' at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au).
You will have to pay for installation (although the landlord may agree to pay or contribute to the cost).
You pay for repairs to connections you have installed.
A landlord/agent who interferes with the supply of gas, electricity, water, telecommunications or other services to the premises is in breach of the tenancy agreement (unless it is to avoid danger to any person or for maintenance or repairs).
You can apply to the CTTT for order/s that:
For (a), (b) and (c) apply within 3 months of the breach. For (d) apply any time before the end of the tenancy. Contact your local TAAS for help.
If there is dispute over payment of an account and the supplier threatens disconnection, consider writing to them to explain the situation. Include supporting documentation. The following bodies may be of help:
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The information in this factsheet:
• is intended as guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice
• applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.
© Tenants' Union of NSW