POWERING TENANTS AND LANDLORDS


Who pays for Solar power when it comes to renting a property? It isn’t the most exciting topic to be writing about but it is certainly one that causes a lot of issues and confusion for agencies, landlord and tenants.


What doesn’t help is that the legislation is also grey on exactly who, how and what is charged if a property has Solar power. The only real saving grace is to have a clear line in the sand at the start of a tenancy and of course sticking to the golden rule, have everything in writing.


So let’s start from the beginning, the Queensland Solar Bonus Scheme is a government initiative that pays eligible customers for the surplus electricity generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems which is exported back into the Queensland electricity grid. This scheme is managed by the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS).


While the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act) does not make specific reference to the solar bonus scheme, it does provide guidelines for service charging. The RTRA Act allows a property owner or landlord of a rental property to charge a tenant for the quantity of the service supplied to, or used at, the property. However, the most important thing to remember here is that the person who has the electricity account in their name is entitled to the bonus according to the Electricity Act 1994.

This means if the electricity account is in the tenant’s name the tenant is able to claim the bonus, or if the electricity account is in the property owner/landlord’s name, the property owner/landlord is able to claim the bonus. In many cases, the property owner/landlord may set up the electricity account with the supply authority in their own name and then seek to recover the charges to their account from the tenant.

Now this is where the issues really start to arise. If the rental property is individually metered, the tenant cannot be asked to pay more than the amount charged to the property owner/landlord by the supply authority for the quantity of service used (s165 (3bii), RTRA Act). However, this ‘amount charged’ is ambiguous: the pre-rebate amount is the maximum that can be charged by the property owner/landlord.

It is important for agencies, landlords and tenants to communicate and negotiate at the start of the tenancy and determine exactly what amount is to be paid by the tenant. The RTA offers several options for how the solar power can be negotiated between both parties:

  1. The tenant has the electricity account in their name. They pay the account directly to the supply authority and receive any rebate.
  2. The property owner/landlord has the electricity account in their name. They pay the account, receive the rebate, and ask the tenant to reimburse them the full amount.
  3. The property owner/landlord has the electricity account in their name. They pay the account and the tenant is asked to reimburse the property owner or landlord the full amount minus the rebate amount (e.g. $400 account, minus $150 rebate = $250 amount payable by the tenant).
  4. The property owner/landlord has the electricity account in their name. They pay the account and receive the rebate. The cost of the electricity service is absorbed in the rent.

 
It is important these options are fully explained to both parties and confirmation of the agreement reached for solar power payment is provided in writing. For agencies to avoid any issues or disputes arising during, throughout or at the end of a Tenancy, details about electricity charging should also be included in the tenancy agreement, which is agreed and signed by both parties at the start of the tenancy.

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