You can’t go a day in Sydney without hearing the words “housing crisis”
On the radio, television and at social events, the plight of first home buyers seems to be on everybody’s lips. But there is a group that is often forgotten in the debate, and that is the 50,000 plus households that are rented in Greater Sydney. Many renters are experiencing extreme hardship, with rents increasing and wages and Centrelink payments staying the same or decreasing.
Households on Centrelink or single incomes often cannot afford to rent individual houses or units, instead opting for affordable granny flats. Granny flats are small dwellings in the backyard of other’s houses. These are seen as an alternative to sharing a house with strangers as they have privacy and access to a yard.
But there can be hidden traps when renting granny flats. Over the past six months the Southern Sydney Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (SSTAAS) at Metro Assist has seen a steady influx of problems with granny flats, and we ask that you take note:
Only pay for electricity if your granny flat has its own electricity meter.
If the granny flat is on the same electricity meter as the house, or there are two granny flats that share a meter, then the electricity bill should be in the name of the landlord, not the tenant.
If you find that you have paid for electricity on a shared meter, SSTAAS can assist with an application to the tribunal to get your money back.
Only pay for water if your granny flat has its own water meter.
If there is only one water metre between the house and granny flat, then the landlord is responsible for the water usage. The landlord or the agent cannot simply divide the water usage in two. If they do, the tenant does not have to pay. The landlord or agent is required to provide the tenant with a copy of the Sydney Water account, and ask that the tenant pay only the water usage. If you do not receive a copy of the account or metre reading, do not pay.
Sometimes tenants do receive unexpectedly high electricity or water bills.
If this happens don’t rush to pay. Even if the tenant is responsible, there is help. SSTAAS may be able to help someone who receives a high account that pushes them into financial hardship. Emergency assistance for electricity and water bills is not just for tenants on Centrelink. But if you pay the bill before your appointment, SSTAAS Emergency Assistance vouchers cannot be used. You can always negotiate extra time or a repayment plan with your electricity supplier.
Please contact your Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service if you have a problem with your electricity or water bills.