Responsibilities for household utility and service charges are allocated between the renter (or resident or Part 4A site tenant as the case may be) and housing provider by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) (RTA). The allocations in the RTA cannot be overridden by agreement.
Practice tip: There is no automatic right to representation at the Tribunal in the applications outlined on this page. Accordingly, leave will be required under s 62(1)(c) Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 (Vic) for the applicant to be represented if the other party does not consent or is not represented by a professional advocate. See further Where do I go? What do I say?.
A renter is liable for the following utility charges: s 52 RTA:
If the rented premises are not separately metered, the renter is not liable to pay these charges.
Under s 53 RTA the residential rental provider is liable to pay for:
A fault in infrastructure, fixtures or buildings at or connected to the rented premises may result in charges for excessive usage of utilities (for example, charges relating to a leaking underground water pipe).
Under s 53A RTA, the residential rental provider is liable for the part of the excessive charge that is in addition to the renter’s ordinary usage by the renter, provided that:
The residential rental provider must reimburse a renter for any reasonable costs incurred for diagnosis of the fault by a suitably qualified person: s 53A(3) RTA.
The residential rental provider is not responsible for a fault caused by property that is the responsibility of a service provider: s 53A(4) RTA.
Where there is disagreement about excessive usage charges, the provider or renter may apply to the Tribunal to determine who is liable: s 53B RTA. In making a determination, the Tribunal must have regard to (s 53B(2) RTA):
A residential rental provider is liable to pay the cost of water, electricity or gas supplied to or used at the rented premises for as long as the residential rental provider is in breach of s 69 RTA or any law requiring the use of an appliance, fitting or fixture with a rate that is of or above a prescribed level of rating in the efficiency rating system: s 54 RTA.
The prescribed energy efficient levels are set out in regulation 24 of the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic) (Regulations).
The Solar Homes Program is a Victorian Government program which provides loans and rebates for the installation of a solar energy system. It is governed by the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Act 2017 (Vic).
If a renter wishes to participate in the Solar Homes Program, a renter and residential rental provider can enter into an agreement under which the renter is liable for a portion of the costs and charges for the installation of a solar energy system at the rented premises: s 53AA RTA.
The agreement must be consistent with the Solar Homes Program. Information about the requirements of the Solar Homes Program is available on the Solar Victoria page.
Under s 108 RTA, a rooming house operator may charge a resident for electricity, gas and water consumed in the room only if:
The rooming house operator cannot charge the resident more than the amount paid to the utility supplier (i.e. they cannot profit from the charges).
The rooming house operator must provide the resident with a separate schedule of amounts relating to the services before the resident takes up occupancy, as well as an itemised account showing the resident’s individual use of the services: s 109 RTA.
For caravan park residents, the caravan park owner is also liable for the cost of water, gas or electricity supplied to or used in a caravan for as long as the owner is in breach of s 181 RTA or a law require the use of an appliance, fitting or fixture which a rating that is above a prescribed level of rating in an efficiency rating system: s 164 RTA. The prescribed energy efficient levels are set out in regulation 62 of the Regulations.
Under s 498ZM(1) RTA, an SDA provider is liable for:
Liability for utility charges in respect of SDA enrolled dwellings is not otherwise prescribed by the RTA.
An SDA provider is prohibited from seeking payment or reimbursement for a cost or charge that is more than the relevant utility supplier would have charged the SDA resident: s 498ZN RTA.
The excessive usage caused by fault regime for SDA enrolled dwellings differs from other accommodation types. Under s 498ZM(2) RTA, if an SDA resident has been charged for excessive usage of a service at an SDA enrolled dwelling caused by a fault in infrastructure or any fixtures or buildings at or connected to the dwelling, the SDA provider is liable for that part of the charge that is additional to the amount of ordinary usage by the SDA resident. There is no notification requirement on the part of the SDA resident, nor an exception if the resident caused damage.
The Director of Housing, an incorporated body that receives financial assistance from the Director of Housing to provide non-profit housing, or a registered housing agency may impose charges on renters or rooming house residents for water, central heating, laundry or utility services. However, they can only do so if it is not possible or practicable to measure the actual use of the service by that renter or resident: ss 57, 109A RTA.
The renter or resident must be provided with written notice of the charge and any changes to the amount charged, including particulars of any change in the cost of providing the services or facilities: ss 57(3A), 109A(3A).
The renter or resident can apply to the Tribunal for an order requiring the Director of Housing or the registered housing agency to withdraw or vary the amount of a service charge: ss 57(4A), 109A(3B) RTA.
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