Share house hit with $5000 bill

Misunderstanding about lease inclusions leads to very high power bill

When three friends moved into a share house, they thought their electricity was included in their rent. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

After two years living in the rental house, the tenants received a bill addressed to ‘The Occupier’, which prompted them to contact their energy provider and open an electricity account in one of their names.

The first bill they received was a huge shock as it was for the full two-year period they had been living in the house and totalled more than $5,000.

The housemates were unable to pay this amount and sought help from a financial counsellor at a local community neighbourhood centre, who contacted EWOQ for advice.

How EWOQ helped

We raised an investigation with the energy provider to find out whether they had attempted to notify the tenants about establishing an account, how the debt had been allowed to accrue, and why there had not been any action to disconnect supply, which would have alerted the tenants to the problem earlier.

Our investigation identified there had only been one notice sent to the property to notify the tenants of their unpaid electricity usage. Although it was the tenant’s responsibility to open an account when they moved in and to pay for the power they used, the energy provider is responsible for issuing bills when a property is vacant (called vacant consumption notices) in a regular and timely manner, to prompt the tenants to establish an account.

We found that the actions of the energy provider contributed to the high, unmanageable debt. We negotiated for charges to be reduced so that the tenants were responsible to pay for the past nine months of usage. The bill was reduced to $1,875.  The energy provider sent the tenants a Home Energy Assistance Scheme Application (HEEAS), which reduced the balance by a further $720, to $1,155. The tenants were provided with an affordable bill smoothing payment plan over 12 months, which took into account the remaining account balance and future consumption.

What you can do

As this customer story demonstrates, it is important to understand your tenancy responsibilities related to energy and water consumption.

Read more about how to avoid share house disasters and understanding your responsibilities when entering or existing a tenancy.

Contact your retailer about any issues as soon as possible. If you’ve contacted you retailer and your issue hasn’t been fixed, contact us.

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