Help for tenants experiencing problems with their energy or water provider

The Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) assists consumers who are having problems with their energy or water provider. EWON is an independent body – we don’t advocate on behalf of consumers or represent the interests of the energy and water providers. Instead, we investigate and resolve complaints by working with each party to understand their perspective, and consider relevant laws and codes, good industry practice and what is fair and reasonable in the  particular circumstances.

EWON logoEWON helps consumers, including tenants, with issues including high and estimated bills, debt and credit default listings, disconnection or restriction of supply, provider actions that affect someone’s property, reliability and quality of supply, connection or transfer issues, contracts, marketing practices,  poor customer service, and more. Best of all, our services are free.

Who is responsible for the energy and water bills if you’re renting?

As a tenant you can only be charged for energy or water if you have separate meters. If you have a standard Residential Tenancy Agreement, you are responsible for electricity and gas charges. You need to open and close your own accounts at each rental property.

Public housing tenants are required to pay for their water use in addition to rent. Generally private landlords are responsible for paying service charges for water and sewerage, however tenants in private rental accommodation can be asked to pay for their water usage – this should be stated in your rental agreement. You can only be charged for the metered amount of water you use, so make sure the meter reading is noted on the condition report when you move in or out.

If you live in a share house and open an account in your name, you must take responsibility for all future bills. If the account is in more than one name, each person can be held responsible. If you are living in  share accommodation, make sure the account holder details are kept up-to-date. Everyone in your household needs to agree who’s responsible for the bills.

Residential parks or strata scheme tenant?

Embedded networks are private electricity networks that serve multiple premises through a transmission system with one ‘parent connection point’ in the National Electricity Market. This type of system is used for residential parks, caravan parks, retirement villages, apartment blocks and shopping centres. The operators of embedded networks, known as exempt sellers, pay to receive energy from the grid and then on-sell the energy back to the individual customers.

EWON has jurisdiction to receive and investigate complaints from embedded network customers, however, exempt sellers are not required to be members of EWON. This means that while we can handle and generally resolve complaints about exempt sellers, currently those who are not members of EWON are not bound by our decisions.

Having trouble paying  your utility bills?

All energy and water providers must offer payment plans to allow customers to pay off the debt they’ve built up over time, and  most now also have hardship programs. Customers  experiencing financial difficulties should ask their providers what payment options are available  to help them to pay off debt and  keep on top of their ongoing usage. If you can’t work out an affordable payment plan with your provider, call us for assistance.

The NSW and Federal Governments offer a range of rebates and vouchers to assist people with their bills. These include Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers, the Family Energy Rebate, Low Income Household Rebate, Gas Rebate, Life Support and Medical Equipment rebates. Customers can talk to their energy or water provider or call EWON to find out which rebates they may be eligible for.

Saving energy and water around the home

You don’t have to be a home owner to save energy and water around the home. Making small changes can lead to big savings on your next bill. For example, turning off a second fridge can save up to $300 a year and washing clothes in cold water will save you up to $124 a year. For more energy and water savings tips, visit ewon.com.au/factsheets.

If you or someone you know is having trouble sorting out a problem with an energy or water provider, call us on 1800 246 545, email complaints@ewon.com.au, or  visit us online at ewon.com.au