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Water and power to dwelling not separately metered

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  • Water and power to dwelling not separately metered

    Hi there,

    I am renting half of a house as a separate dwelling, and on a standard tenancy agreement. However the part of the house I rent is not technically separate, as it doesn't have its own address, nor its own power or water meters. The tenancy agreement has a special term added which states that the utilities are to be shared evenly between all on the property (which includes those in the half of the house who are not part of my tenancy agreement). For the last 4 years I have been diligently paying my share of the bills without thought (including, I've just realised, a share of the fixed water charges).

    Recently there's been a dispute about utility bills that are too high due to a water leak in the mains, and I am being asked to continue paying the excessive amount in full each month until the leak is fixed, with a promise of reimbursement once (or if) watercare agree to reimburse the landlord for the leaked water. I think this is unfair.

    Is it possible for this special term in the tenancy agreement to over-ride section 39(c) of the RTA? Or am I under no legal obligation to continue paying for these utilities until separate meters are installed?

    "39(c) The tenant is responsible for all outgoings in respect of the premises that are exclusively attributable to the tenant’s occupation of the premises or to the tenant’s use of the facilities."


  • #2
    Basically, your landlord's being pulling a swifty all this time. There are two legal ways that a landlord can handle situations like this. 1) Install 'check' meters that measure the actual power/water used by one of the flats then subtract this from the total bill to work out what the other flat used and on-charge to the tenants. 2) Include an amount for power/water use in the rent, so tenant doesn't have to worry about it. The danger to the landlord is that the tenant is a huge user and the landlord hasn't built in a big enough margin and takes a hit for the duration of the tenancy.

    What is not allowed is what your landlord's done - arbitrarily decide who uses what and expect the tenants to then pay that. They're also not allowed to on-charge the fixed portion of the water bill, but many landlords don't realise that.

    Your landlord is being a dick over the water leak, as you don't have the power to fix it or negotiate with the water company. But you have him over a barrel. If you were to go to the tribunal, he would have the book thrown at him. Think carefully, decide on your preferred outcome and be firm.
    My blog. From personal experience.


    • #3
      If you are happy to leave go to TT. He is breaking the law.


      • #4
        Thanks very much for your replies, it's very helpful to get perspective from other landlords.

        Up until now I've been very gentle in relaying my concerns to my own landlord, so as not to provoke. It is a shame that I am now in a position where my options appear to be either pay up and shut up, or escalate to the TT.

        Bobsyouruncle, I am wondering why you've implied I should be prepared to leave if I do escalate this? Are you suggesting that the TT may order my tenancy to end?



        • #5
          TT should be your last resort. Unless you have a very good relationship with your LL they will take offence and could make your tenancy uncomfortable or even terminate it. Though they would have to be careful how they went about that as not to be accused of retaliatory action.

          Try to gently 'educate' your LL. They may not realise they are acting illegally.


          • #6
            Tenant it's because the LL is likely to get shirty. He/she might 90 day notice you just out of spite, especially if they lose at TT.
            One can only assume they are not good people or you wouldn't be having to go this route. Assuming there isn't a lot more to the story of course :-).


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tenant17 View Post
              It is a shame that I am now in a position where my options appear to be either pay up and shut up, or escalate to the TT.
              I don't think those are your only options. You are now armed with information. If you were to take TT action, your landlord would likely be ordered to pay you thousands. And yes, that would basically be the death knell on your tenancy. How good are you at planting seeds rather than outright threats? ;-)
              My blog. From personal experience.


              • #8
                However if the LL does give you notice, you can easily claim retaliation and they will get pinged even more !!


                • #9
                  You've got the LL over a barrel but are you going to get another flat for similar money and is the move worth the hassle?

                  Perhaps a compromise? Work out the average power/water bill you should be paying and offer to adjust your rent and tenancy agreement to bring it in line with the law.


                  • #10
                    If a landlord would do this he or she is dishonest and a prick. Get it sorted, get as much money back as you can and find a human landlord to rent from. Plenty of them in here 17.


                    • #11
                      Why not talk ring the tenancy tribunal describe the situation and see what they say. You don't need to lodge a claim after you talk to them. Their advice is free.


                      • #12
                        I can appreciate now why many people might have a reluctance to escalate matters, as it's not a nice process really for anyone involved. Nevertheless the wheels are in motion now, and judging by LL's continued refusal to negotiate fairly and reasonably it's looking likely this will end up at the Tribunal.

                        I will refrain from posting any further information for now, at least until after the dust clears.

                        Thanks again for the advice.


                        • #13
                          I was in the same situation with a rental in Christchurch years ago. Property was originally house with separate garage/sleepout. Landlord separated house and garage with a fence so he could run his business out of the garage/sleepout and rent out the house.

                          He never split the power off, and never notified us of this set up. 3 months of unusually high power usage during the day (gas hot water and us being a working couple) we approached the PM with out suspicions who then received confirmation from the owner.

                          He had installed a meter in the garage and subsequently reimbursed us his usage each month but I have to wonder if we were clueless about power consumption whether we would have subsidised his whole businesses power costs.

                          The lengthy email correspondence did come in handy as ammunition at the end of the tenancy when the PM attempted the typical bond clawback on "rental damages", all of which were noted on the pre tenancy inspection form that I also kept a copy of, as well as emails early on in the tenancy notifying them of pre existing damage that needed fixing which was never actioned.


                          • #14
                            It's been a long time since I posted this thread, however I thought I would provide an update nonetheless, as a matter of interest.

                            In the end, the Landlord did agree to settle the matter for $7,500 and a full bond refund, both of which they have since paid in full. The settlement came through on the morning of the day that the case was due to be heard at the TT. I had claimed over $20k in my application and probably would have won it. A settlement by mediators order was preferable to both myself and LL, however, as the details do not get noted on the public record as they do with TT decisions.

                            As a result of lodging the application the LL did of course kick me out, giving me 42 days when I should have been given 90. I had good relationships with my neighbours though and was lucky to get a good reference from them, meaning I found a new flat very quickly and was able to give the LL 21 days notice to vacate, and did not need to dispute the 42 days short notice they'd given me. As an aside, the LL did not check their emails and therefore did not see my 21 day notice, so they had no idea I'd moved out early until I texted them a week later to ask why I hadn't yet received the final flat inspection report and bond refund form.