Utilities and renting

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Utilities in tenanted properties

Water

If the property has its own meter, the tenant must:

  • pay for water consumption, and
  • (in the Melbourne metropolitan area) sewage disposal, unless the landlord has agreed to pay these charges.

The landlord must pay all other charges related to water supply, although different rules may apply when a tank is the main source.

Other utilities

  • The landlord must pay all installation and initial connection costs for electricity, gas and oil supply. If there is a separate meter, the tenant must pay for all other charges, unless otherwise agreed. If there is no separate meter, the landlord must pay. 
  • Where bottled gas is provided, the landlord pays for the supply or hire of bottles and the tenant pays for the gas. A landlord must reimburse the tenant for the costs of any utilities for which the landlord is liable. 
  • The landlord must reimburse the tenant for any rates or taxes paid to a public authority that are not part of consumption charges for the service. However, the tenant may be responsible for these costs if their lease is for a fixed period of more than one year and the lease agreement states this. 
  • Director of Housing tenants may be charged separately for expenses such as heating and laundry.
  • Tenants are responsible for phone line and internet connections, unless the lease states that the landlord will provide these services. 
  • If an external antenna is part of the property and cannot receive digital signals, the landlord must upgrade or replace it if the: 
    • original antenna could receive analog signals when the tenant moved in, and 
    • lease is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
For information about who is responsible for smart meters, visit the Department of Primary Industries website

Utilities in rooming houses

A rooming house owner can only charge a resident for electricity and gas if their room:

  • has separate meters for these utilities, and 
  • is occupied exclusively by them.

The owner cannot charge the resident more than the utility provider charges them.

Utilities in caravan parks and on sites rented under site agreements

This information applies to:

  • site owners and site tenants (who own a movable dwelling but rent the land it is on) under site agreements, and 
  • owners and residents in a caravan park.

'Separately metered' refers to meters that have been installed or approved by the relevant utility supplier.

Who has to pay what?

Owner’s responsibility

Resident or site tenant responsibility

Installation costs and initial connection charges for supply of electricity, water, gas or bottled gas services to a site

If services are not separately metered, the costs of all services to a site

If services are separately metered:

  • water supply service charges that are not based on how much water is supplied or used
  • drainage and sewerage service charges that are not based on how much those services are used

If services are separately metered, supply and usage charges for:

  • electricity
  • gas
  • water (except for supply service charges that are not based on how much water is supplied or used)
  • drainage and sewerage (except for supply and use charges that are not based on how much those services are used)

Reimbursement of utility charges

If a resident pays for any charges that should be the owner’s responsibility, they should provide a written request for payment (attached to a copy of the account and the receipt). The owner must reimburse the resident or site tenant within 28 days of receiving their request.

Caravan park residents: we recommend you use the Notice to owner of caravan or caravan park (PDF, 2.5MB).

Site tenants: we recommend you use the Notice to part 4A site owner (PDF, 667KB).

If an owner pays for any charges that should be the resident's responsibility, the owner should provide a written request for payment (attached to a copy of the account and the receipt). The resident must reimburse the owner within 28 days of receiving their request.

It is an offence for an owner to ask a resident or site tenant to reimburse them for more than what the relevant utility supplier would have charged.

There are also legal limits on the amount an owner can charge for supply - see the Essential Services Commission website for more information. 

If a site tenant is required to reimburse a site owner for payment of separately metered services, details of the payment arrangements should be included in the site agreement.

Bills for service charges 

Under the Australian Consumer Law, residents and site tenants can ask the owner for an itemised bill. 

An itemised bill specifies the individual cost of any services for which a resident or site tenant may be charged; it may include:

  • administration fees
  • hourly labour rates and cost of any materials used (for ongoing service and maintenance)
  • any costs for supply and usage (including bottled gas), as well as the supply period (if the site is separately metered). 

The resident or site tenant must make this request within 30 days of receiving the original bill from the owner. The owner must provide the itemised bill:

  • free of charge
  • within seven days of receiving the request
  • in plain language, legible and clear.

For electricity bills, Victorian law also requires an owner exempt from holding an electricity retail licence to provide residents and site tenants with an itemised electricity bill at least every three months

The electricity bill must:

  • show meter readings, energy usage, tariffs and any other charges, and
  • comply with the agreement in place with the owner.

Informing water providers when tenants change

When a tenant starts living at a property, the landlord (or owner or operator) must inform the relevant water provider.

When a tenant leaves the property, the tenant must inform the water provider.

These laws relate only to properties that have their own meter, and cover: 

  • tenants in private rental properties
  • caravan park residents, and
  • site tenants in movable dwellings.

Last updated: 24/04/2014

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