Excessive power bills

Chanel asks:
(updated on Monday, January 11th 2016)

Myself and a few friends are currently flatting at the moment and have had issues with our power bill due to a faulty hot water cylinder - causing our bills to be in excess of $450..

When we told our property manager this, she claimed that this wasn't really a high power bill in Winter and that we should be more careful with our power usage or perhaps choose a different power company. We have all been renting previously and are well aware that this type of power bill is absolutely not normal.

Throughout this issue which carried on for another two months, the property manager was extremely unhelpful and always seemed to doubt our problems with the house and said that she would need to send her own people out to make sure we were telling the truth. We are currently claiming compensation on excess power but we want to know if we can go for the letting fee of around $750 as we feel she hasn't done her job as our property manager.

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a property manager can charge a tenant a letting fee “relating to the grant or assignment of the tenancy”. It covers the work done and costs incurred by the property manager prior to the start of your tenancy. It does not extend into the ongoing period of your tenancy. The property manager works for the owner of your property to manage the property during your tenancy. For this reason you have no claim against the letting fee.

If you are concerned about high power usage you will do well to look at all the types of electricity usage, including lighting, heating and cooking. Is anything different from your usage last year? The number of units used will be an important indicator, as will the charge rate of your supplier. I suggest you look at www.whatsmynumber.org.nz to see how your costs would compare with a different supplier. Different people can use hot water differently (such as taking longer or shorter showers).

If you are sure that the problem is the cylinder you can send the property manager a 14 Day Notice to Remedy, requiring the cylinder thermostat and element to be checked and/or adjusted. If the property manager fails to have it checked, you can then apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a work order to have the cylinder checked. Depending on the findings, the Tenancy Tribunal may award you an amount to cover your losses.

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