Housing tenant complaints
Renting can create challenges for tenants, who have limited control over the water and energy efficiency of their homes. Conflict over responsibilities can also arise between tenant and landlord as well as between tenants. These case studies highlight some of the situations that affect tenants who have made complaints to EWON and how the matters were resolved.
- Tenant moves out but doesn't advise gas and electricity supplier
- High consumption goes unnoticed due to estimated reads
- Solar installation by landlord causes cancellation of tenant’s account
Marlene moved out of her rented apartment in August, but didn’t advise her gas and electricity supplier. In November she received a $485 energy bill for usage at those premises from June up until November.
She contacted the supplier to say she’d moved out in August and the supplier received verbal confirmation of this from the landlord. However, the new tenants denied responsibility for the bill on the grounds that their rent, which they paid directly to the landlord, included bills.
Marlene came to EWON for assistance as she considered that she was not responsible for any part of the bill after the date she moved out. We explained to Marlene that a customer may be held responsible for all charges up until the provider becomes aware that the customer is no longer residing at the premises or another customer opens an account for the same premises.
We suggested Marlene present some documentation to prove her move-out date to her supplier, which she did. The supplier maintained that Marlene was responsible for the bill, but made an offer to reduce her account by $219 as a customer service gesture, which she accepted.
Sian and Mark each rent one floor of a house and share the gas bill as the premises are not separately metered. Mark, who moved in before Sian, hadn't established a gas account in his own name when the previous account holder moved out. The meter was in the garage, which the provider considered inaccessible, so Mark had been receiving customer read cards. Mark didn’t provide reads for some time, so bills were estimated at around $100 for several quarters.
When Sian and Mark received a bill for $5612, they disputed this with the supplier. At this point, Mark opened an account in his name and the supplier arranged a special meter read, which confirmed the consumption had been billed correctly. A gas leak on Sian’s floor had been reported to the landlord and fixed just prior to Sian moving in, but it was unclear how long the problem had existed.
Investigation revealed that the disputed bill had arisen from an incorrect under-reading eventually provided by Mark, combined with no actual read being taken for almost 3 years.
The previous customer’s account had been closed based on an estimated reading as they did not provide access or a customer read, and Mark had not provided a move-in read to the supplier. Mark explained that the meter was in fact accessible as the garage was never locked, but the supplier hadn’t been advised of this prior to the billing dispute. As a result, the high consumption had gone unnoticed.
We told Mark that it was his responsibility to open an account when he moved in. It was also his responsibility to ensure access to the meter or to provide regular and accurate customer readings. The supplier offered to waive half the arrears, but Mark and Sian believed they had a strong case to make against the landlord through the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) and so did not accept the offer.
The supplier agreed to extend the hold on Mark’s account until the CTTT hearing was concluded and decided to keep the offer open to Mark should the hearing not go in his favour.
Caroline’s landlord advised her that tradespeople would be attending the property to quote on solar panel installation. When Caroline returned home after the tradespeople had been to the house, she found that panels had been installed and there was no power.
When she called her electricity retailer to report a fault, they told her that the account was no longer in her name. The retailer reconnected the electricity to the property but maintained they could not discuss the transfer of the account with her as she was neither the account holder nor an authorised party.
Caroline raised the issues with a tenancy advice service and she also contacted EWON for help getting her account reinstated.
EWON discussed the situation with the retailer who explained that the account had to be transferred into the landlord’s name in order for the landlord to receive the solar credits. Caroline’s account had been closed automatically as part of this process. They also confirmed that an account cannot be split between solar energy generation and usage.
We advised Caroline that as the account was in the owner’s name, he was now responsible for the charges and that a new tenancy agreement would have to be established if he wanted her to pay for her consumption. Caroline advised that the owner was intending to invoice her for usage.
We explained that she needed to speak with the landlord or her agent to discuss a revised leasing agreement and referred her to a tenancy advice service to discuss this invoicing arrangement.
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