How to avoid share house disasters

Are you living in a share house? Are the electricity or gas bills in your name? You should know that by having the bills in your name, you're taking personal responsibility to make sure they're paid. Read on to find out some common issues others have experienced share houses, and what to do to avoid these share house disasters happening to you.

Is power and water included in your rent?

Make sure to check your tenancy agreement to see how utilities will be charged. Your electricity, gas and water costs could be:

  • included in your rent
  • passed on through your property manager or landlord
  • charged directly to you by your provider.

It's important to note that as a tenant, you can only be charged for water consumption if the property you're renting is:

  • individually metered (or water is delivered by vehicle) and
  • the property is water efficient.

These bills will be passed on through your property manager or owner as the water account will be in the owner's name.

For electricity and gas you may have to set up your own energy connection and account or it might be charged through your property manager or owner.

We previously helped a customer who lived in a share house with two other people and thought that power was included in their rent. After living there for two years, they received a letter from an energy company addressed to ‘The Occupier’ which prompted them to open an electricity account in the name of one of the house mates. Once they had opened this account, they received a $5,000 bill from the energy company for the previous two years’ electricity usage. Read more about this customer and how we helped.

Read the Residential Tenancies Authority’s information about charging for utilities or download Tenants Queensland’s Rent and other charges fact sheet for more information about service charges and water charges.

Know your responsibilities

When you open an energy account in your name, you take personal responsibility for all future bills. If you’re in a share house and split the cost of energy bills with your house mates, the buck stops with you if the bills aren’t paid as far as the energy company is concerned.

To ensure you’re not the one stuck with the bill (or any debt), make sure all bills are paid on time and in full by all house mates, otherwise you’ll be deemed responsible by the company supplying the energy for your share house.

Read the Australian Energy Regulator’s Electricity and natural gas information for tenants to find out more.

Make an agreement with your house mates

Make an agreement with your house mates on how you’ll pay for the shared services in your house including electricity, gas and water. Agree on:

  • how to split the bills
  • how to pay the bills
  • how you, as the account holder, will collect payment from your house mates.

You might like to consider putting this agreement in writing. Download Tenants Queensland’s Share Housing – Your Legal Status fact sheet for a sample agreement between co-tenants.

Get the best deal

Find the right energy plan for your share house to save energy and money. You can compare all the energy providers on the Energy made easy website to make sure you get the best deal for your circumstances. Remember to read the fine print before signing up to an energy contract.

Read more about choosing an energy company, choosing an electricity contract and setting up an energy account.

If you live in an apartment block or housing complex, there's a chance your energy might be connected via a privately owned energy network called an embedded network. In this case, you may not have a choice of who your provider is. You may also receive your energy bill from your body corporate or landlord instead of a provider. Read more about embedded networks and your rights.

Pay your power bill on time and in full

Did you know that a default can be listed on your credit file if you’re more than 60 days late in paying an energy bill and it’s more than $150? This is known as a default listing and will negatively affect your credit score, which can make it hard to get loans approved in the future.

We’ve helped many people who’ve been default listed because of unpaid energy bills. In many cases, they weren’t even aware of their default listing until they’d been declined for finance.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by paying your power bill on time and in full. Read more about how to avoid getting a default listing and how we helped a default-listed customer who couldn’t get finance to purchase a car because of an old share house debt.

Close your account when you move out

Not closing an energy account in your name is a common cause of issues we help with, including accrued debts and default listings.

If you’re moving out of a share house and the electricity or gas bill is in your name, close your account. Remember, you’re personally responsible for energy accounts in your name.

Get in touch with your energy provider and give them:

  • your forwarding address
  • a final meter read
  • payment for the full amount owing.

Even if your house mates still owe money towards the energy bill, close your account. Don’t leave it open for them to pay their share – and don’t assume they will pay their portion of the final bill. Despite closing their energy account after moving out of a share house, we’ve helped people who’ve still accrued debts and default listings when they have relied on their house mates to pay what they owe directly to the provider.

Do you have a complaint about an energy company?

If you've already found yourself in a share house disaster and have had no luck resolving the issue with your energy or water provider, we may be able to help. EWOQ offers a free, fair and independent dispute resolution service.

Find out more about complaints we can help with.