The Solar Bonus Scheme is a government initiative to reward home owners for using renewable energy sources. Under the scheme, eligible customers are paid for any surplus electricity generated from their rooftop solar system and exported to the electricity grid.
Understanding who gets to claim the rebate, the tenant or the property owner can be very confusing. However the answer is in the Electricity Act 1994. The Act states that the person whose name is on the electricity account is entitled to the rebate. (The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 doesn’t specifically mention the Solar Bonus Scheme but it does give guidance on service charging. It allows an owner of a rental premises to charge a tenant for the quantity of the service supplied to or used at the premises.)
Therefore, if the electricity account for a property is in the tenant’s name, the tenant can claim the rebate. If the account is in the owner’s name, they can claim the bonus.
Sometimes a property owner may set up the electricity account with the power company in their own name and recover the charges for any electricity usage from the tenant. If the property is individually metered for electricity, the owner cannot request the tenant to pay more than the amount the power company is charging the owner for the amount of service used.
Unfortunately, the “amount the power company is charging” is ambiguous. The pre-rebate amount is the maximum the owner can charge.
So if this is all sounding as clear as mud, follow our advice and that of the Residential Tenancies Authority: negotiate at the start of the tenancy how electricity is going to be charged. These are the options:
✔ The tenant has their name on the electricity account. They receive the rebate and pay the account directly to the power company.
✔ The owner has their name on the electricity account. They receive the rebate and then ask the tenant to reimburse them the full amount of electricity usage on the electricity account.
✔ The owner has their name on the electricity account. They pass on the rebate (or part of the rebate) to the tenant and ask the tenant to reimburse them the electricity account amount minus the rebate amount (e.g. $400 account, minus $150 rebate = $250 amount payable by the tenant).
✔ The owner has their name on the electricity account. They receive the rebate and the cost of the electricity service is absorbed in the rent. This is made clear in the tenancy agreement.
For their part, tenants need to understand all charges relating to the rooftop solar system on the property before they sign the lease. Details about the electricity charging should be outlined in the tenancy agreement.
A professional property manager should manage this process on the owner’s behalf to negotiate the best outcome for both parties. In addition to the Solar Bonus Scheme, there are many other government rebates and legislative compliance issues which can cost thousands if they are not adhered to or managed correctly.
Ideally owners and tenants should be able to work out these issues together. However if an understanding cannot be reached, they can apply for a dispute resolution service through the Residential Tenancies Authority. If the dispute remains unresolved, it might go to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal for a determination.
Navigating the Solar Bonus Scheme is only one of the areas in which Noosa Sales and Property Management can help you maximise your investment returns.
If you require advice or assistance with managing your investment property, Noosa Sales and Property Management can help.