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:
See below for bottled gas and water usage charges (which are special cases) and for 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'.)
You do not pay for electricity and gas used in common areas or adjoining premises and if you are being charged you can negotiate with the landlord for compensation. If this fails, apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for orders that the landlord carry out repairs in order to stop this from continuing and for compensation. Contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) for help.
The landlord pays the costs or charges for installation of the initial connection for bottled gas supply and for supply or hire of gas bottles at the start of the tenancy. You pay for all gas bottle charges after that.
|Premises are||Who pays|
|Separately metered1||Water effiicient2|
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.
The legally prescribed water efficiency measures are:
You are only required to pay for water usage if the landlord bills you correctly. They must:
If Sydney Water, Hunter Water or a local council supply the water and the landlord fails to pay charges as required, you may be able to pay the outstanding charges in lieu of rent. Receipts from certain suppliers count as rent receipts so check with your supplier. (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. Ask your landlord for a copy of their policy if they charge you for water.
Where tank water is the only form of supply, the landlord must ensure a 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 upkeep of tanks, as well as associated pumps and electrical systems. Regularly check any tanks, pipes, pumps 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 NCAT for compensation for the cost of replacement water. You can also seek a rent reduction for withdrawal of facilities.
You are responsible for getting the septic tank pumped out 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 the landlord/agent asking for it to be repaired or emptied.
A landlord is not required to provide telephone, television and internet connections with the premises.
However, existing phone/TV/internet sockets are facilities provided with the premises for use of the tenant. As such, the landlord is obliged to ensure such facilities are in reasonable condition and to maintain them – unless this is specifically excluded in the tenancy agreement. (Also see Factsheet 06: Repairs and maintenance; and the case Varghese v Liang & Huang (Tenancy)  NSWCTTT 973).
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.
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 NCAT 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. (Also see Factsheet 11: NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance of utility connections/services within the boundary of the property. Normally if there is a problem with supply, for instance there is a gas leak, then the first step is to ring the provider and report it. They will then check where the problem is – if it is outside the boundary of the premises then the provider is responsible for the repairs. Where the problem is within the premises you need to contact the landlord/agent in writing. If it is urgent you can phone first but you should record the details of any conversations and send them a letter. You may decide to arrange for repairs to be done yourself, but then you need to negotiate a written agreement with the landlord/agent in advance. (Also see Factsheet 06: Repairs and maintenance.)
If there is a dispute over payment of an account and the supplier threatens disconnection, consider writing to the supplier to explain the situation. Include supporting documentation. The following bodies may be of help:
The Tenants' Union of NSW is running a campaign to highlight how the interest from your bond is spent.
Find out more at yourbond.org
Leave a comment on the Tenants’ Union’s Facebook page.
Join us on Twitter.
Read and comment on stories about the value of TAAS on the Tenants’ Union’s blog The Brown Couch.
Send us an email with your story to tenants[at]tenantsunion.org.au.
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