Understanding utility responsibilities in Victorian rentals

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Navigating utility responsibilities in rental properties is a key aspect of tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 in Victoria. This act clearly outlines the duties of both rental providers and renters in handling various utility costs and charges, ensuring a fair and equitable arrangement for both parties. Below is a simplified breakdown of the responsibilities:

10 February 2020

Rental Providers’ Responsibilities: 

  • Initial Connection Costs: Rental providers are responsible for the initial connection charges for utilities like electricity, water, gas (including bottled gas), and fixed internet and telecommunications connections, including through the NBN. 
  • Excessive Usage Charges: If excessive utility usage is due to faults in the property's infrastructure or non-compliant appliances, rental providers are liable, provided the renter has notified them about the issue. 
  • Rates and Taxes: Rental providers must cover all rates and taxes related to the property. 
  • Utilities in Shared Meters: If the property does not have a separate meter, rental providers are responsible for the entire utility costs, including electricity, gas, and water. 

Renters’ Responsibilities: 

  • Separate Meter Charges: Renters are responsible for utility costs in properties with separate meters, covering the supply or use of electricity, gas or oil, and water consumption. 
  • Negotiated Agreements: Renters can negotiate agreements with rental providers for certain utility charges, like water consumption for maintaining a garden, but must get these agreements in writing. 
  • Reimbursement: If renters pay a bill that is the rental provider's responsibility, they are entitled to reimbursement. 

Shared Responsibilities and Considerations: 

  • Modifications: Renters seeking to install energy-efficient appliances or fixtures need to negotiate with the rental provider, especially if sharing costs. 
  • Public or Community Housing: In some cases, especially in buildings where installing separate meters is impractical, renters might pay service charges for utilities. 
  • Moving In and Out: Renters are responsible for connecting and disconnecting utilities in their name during their tenancy. It's crucial to arrange for these services to avoid being charged for the next tenant's utility usage. 
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Understanding these responsibilities is crucial for both rental providers and renters. Rental providers need to ensure they are not unfairly passing on costs to renters, while renters should be aware of their liabilities, especially in properties with separate meters. Open communication and clarity in agreements are essential in creating a fair and stress-free rental experience. Both parties should refer to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 for detailed guidance and ensure compliance with the current laws. 

If you have any queries regarding property management or leasing, please contact the Marshall White Property Management Team who will be happy to assist. Call us on (03) 9822 8711.

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