Darwin Community Legal Service

Bills in tenancies

What could I be asked to pay for?
As a tenant you may be required to pay for electricity, gas or water supplied to the property you rent. Things like internet, phone bills, home & contents insurance the tenant will also generally need to pay for, unless it is specifically written in your agreement.

You do not need to pay for council rates, landlord’s insurance, body corporate fees or any other charges, levies, rates or taxes that may be owed at the property.

TIP: If you are unsure or you don’t think you should pay something you are being asked to pay, it is always a good idea to seek legal advice before paying it.

 

How do I know what I have to pay?
You can only be required to pay for electricity, gas or water if it is written in your lease agreement. If it is not written in your lease agreement, you do not have to pay for electricity, gas or water even if the agent or landlord insists that you do.

If there are multiple groups of people living on a property, (e.g. a block of units or apartments, multiple dwellings on a rural property etc) then either:

  • each unit must be individually metered; or
  • your lease agreement must set out what service you need to pay for, how your portion of the bill is to be calculated, and how you are to pay this bill to the landlord.

If this is not written in your agreement, then you do not need to pay for bills.

If you are unsure whether your property is individually metered you can contact Jacana, PowerWater, your real estate agent or landlord.

You should always ask to see a copy of the bill you are required to pay. This way, you can check the amount based off your usage and make sure that you are not being overcharged.

 

How do I set up my power and water at the start of the tenancy?
Generally, in the Northern Territory, the electricity will be in the tenant’s name. This means it is your responsibility to organise for the power to be connected before you move in.

Before you move into a property, contact Jacana to arrange for the electricity to be connected. You are responsible for paying the connection fee. If the electricity is already connected when you move in, you can arrange for an account to be opened in your name from the start of your tenancy.

Generally, water will be in the landlord’s name. Water and sewerage services usually remain connected and you will not be required to set them up.

 

What should I do at the end of the tenancy?
A landlord can keep part or all of your security deposit (bond) to cover unpaid electricity, gas or water charges owed by the tenant. See the DCLS ‘Security deposits’ factsheet for more information.

You can disconnect the electricity after the landlord or agent has conducted the final inspection, or after 3 business days of your tenancy ending. Once you have moved out of the property and your tenancy has ended, you do not need to keep paying for electricity (even if you broke the lease).

If you were provided with a full gas bottle at the start of the tenancy, you need to ensure it is full at the end of the tenancy.

 

Excess water charges
Some tenancy agreements may require a tenant to pay for water charges beyond a certain amount of usage, for example usage beyond 125 kilolitres per quarter. Make sure you carefully read your tenancy agreement and make sure you are happy to pay excess water charges. It is a good idea to insist that agreement says that the landlord or agent must provide you with an excess water bill within 30 days after the bill is generated. That way, you will not get to the end of your tenancy agreement and have thousands of dollars in unpaid bills to pay. Remember don’t sign anything you are not comfortable with.

If you are asked to pay an excess water charge, always demand to see a copy of the bill.

 

My bill is much higher than usual, what can I do?
A bill that is much higher than normal, usually signals a problem such as a water leak, gas regulator leak, a faulty electrical appliance or that your usage was more than usual for the period that you are charged.

A failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply at your property is an emergency repair and you should notify your agent or landlord immediately in writing.

It is a good idea to check previous bills and compare to the current bill to see if the difference in your usage for the period is correct or you think a repair is needed.

If you find that you are getting nowhere with reporting a problem to the agent or landlord, it is a good idea to seek legal advice.

 

Share house arrangements
All tenants living at the property have a responsibility to pay their share of any bills that come in.  Even if you have paid your share of a bill, the Agent or Landlord can pursue all tenants named on the tenancy agreement for the unpaid cost of that bill.

If disputes occur about individual usage and you have not been able to resolve the dispute through talking about it, you can contact a Community Justice Centre for free mediation services in order to try and settle the dispute.

To avoid disputes, make sure at the beginning of the tenancy that there is a clear understanding of who pays for what and the amount.

 

Darwin Community Legal Service 2019: Non-profit community groups have permission to reproduce parts of this publication as long as the original meaning is retained and proper credit is given to DCLS, as the publisher.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is a guide to the law in the Northern Territory. It is not a substitute for legal advice. You should talk to a lawyer about your particular legal issue. The information contained in this factsheet is current as at November 2019.