Renting and Received Invoice for Electrician

I've been renting my current home for 5 years now. The master bedroom has 2 ceiling lights given there is a ceiling fan in the middle, and when I moved in only one of the lights was working, so noted it down on the inspection report and assumed it was faulty. The other light was bright enough on its own so didnt worry about it.

I recently changed some other blown globes in the house and decided to try changing the one that had never worked, screwed a new globe in and it still wouldn't turn on. Tried the new globe in the second light which has always worked, it turned on straight away, so wasn't an issue with the globe. Again, thought that fitting was just faulty.

Had a rental inspection recently so thought I'd mention the light not working, and the agent organised for an electrician to come out. He tried putting in a new globe then mentioned we hadn't tightened it enough, as it turned on. But he had to turn the globe a lot more than the second fitting in the room before it would turn even turn on. He was in the house for maybe 2 minutes.

The agent passed on the invoice to me today for $205.70. I think this is ridiculous for the following reasons:

  1. There seems to be an actual issue with the fitting given the second light in the bedroom didn't need to have the globe screwed in as much to actually turn on. I thought I would break the globe or the fitting if I tried to force it in further. I'm not stupid, I've changed other globes in the house without any issues.

  2. The electrician was here for 2 minutes. I can understand a call out fee for his time, but $100 per minute seems excessive.

  3. It obviously seems like the electrician decided to overcharge as he assumed the landlord would just pay for it, but now the agent is just assuming we're the stupid ones for not being able to change a light bulb and passing the bill onto us.

  4. We're good tenants and look after the house as if it were our own, we've had hardly any issues requiring maintenance. This is making me not want to report any maintenance issues if we're just going to be given an exorbitant bill.

Has anyone else had to deal with something like this before? Can the agent argue that the electrician overcharged and have the bill reduced?

Or is this just a case of too bad, just cough up?

Comments

  • +6

    and the agent organised for an electrician to come out.

    If you didnt agree to pay in advance then tell them to get stuffed lol. I assume you had no choice in which electrician to choose?

    • +3

      $50 to the REA
      .

    • +3

      Yes I had no choice. No opportunity to get quotes or anything.

  • +3

    The owner is responsible for lights and fittings, why would they pass on the bill to you ? Ask them why they think you are responsible for it.

    • That's what I thought. Ok I will do this, thanks.

    • +15

      The agent passed on the invoice because the light turned out to be not faulty.

    • +5

      It is the owners responsibility but since it wasn't faulty and they had to call out an electrician for a problem that wasn't a problem, then the tenants will be billed.

      • +2

        The tenant didn’t ask for an electrician. If the owner changed a washer or replaced a light bulb him/herself you couldn’t invoice the tenant.

        • +1

          If they tenant didn't want an electrician to attend then why call the agent to report an electrical issue?

          I mean what else could you expect to happen.

          • +1

            @trapper: We're only getting one side of the story but

            Had a rental inspection recently so thought I'd mention the light not working

            • @coxjon: Sorry yes, it was not a call, but reported it in person.

              Point stands though. What did he expect the agent to do about this electrical issue he reported?

              • @trapper: I was expecting an electrician for what I thought as a faulty light fitting. I wasn't expecting the electrician to find no fault and for the invoice to be given to me.

      • +1

        No, it's a bit of a stretch to ask for tenants to get savvy about this. I bet the agent won't even dare to pass the bill if OP was an elderly person or a single mum (no offence to those). I once had a sparky coming to fix wiring in the house and he tripped one of the RCD and didn't know how to reset it (threw it out thinking it was faulty once it tripped). He was able to fix the complex leaking current issue though so not a complete bogus.

    • But not for bulbs. This was only a bulb.

  • +3

    What state/territory are you in? I think you are on strong ground. They probably should have provided the property in a fit state of repair when you moved in, the fact that you flagged it in the condition report helps you out. Plausibly you might not have wanted to over-tighten the light bulb because of the damage it could cause, so you are hardly at fault for not considering that.

    So I wouldn't even go arguing about the cost - you shouldn't be liable for any of it. You could just ask them on what basis they are passing the invoice on to you.

    It would be different if you had caused the problem wilfully or negligently.

    • Victoria. Thanks I'll ask the question.

      Also the fact that the other fitting in the room seems normal and doesn't require the bulb to be screwed in too tightly makes me think there's an issue with this fitting.

  • +7

    The electrician was here for 2 minutes. I can understand a call out fee for his time, but $100 per minute seems excessive.

    Sounds like you don't actually understand 'a call out fee for his time'.

    • -1

      $100 per minute though??

      • +4

        Still not understanding the concept of the call out fee. The electrician would have a standard amount they charge for the 'call out' regardless if he's there for 2 minutes or 2 hours. He would also then charge on top for his time…so in this case the vast majority of the charge is for the 'call out'.

        • +2

          So you're saying it's nornal for electricians to have a minimum charge of $200 before they do anything actually substantial?

          • +4

            @kittymtd: I whole heartedly agree he charged too much.

            Tradies in Australia are wayyy overpaid for what they do, their jobs get poverty wages in many countries overseas yet here they get paid more than many professionals with years of experience. Thank the government and the unions…ironic though how some over entitled tradies protested against the CFMEU union in Melbourne…just LoL.

            • @Brucegonemad: Ok cool, just wanted to clarify because if these charges were actually normal I would have been shocked!

              Don't get me started lol. Protest about not being able to work 2 weeks when other people haven't worked since July??

            • +2

              @Brucegonemad: It's not the tradies fault, so much as the insurances for licenced work. It costs thousands just to roll out of bed before you even do any work at all.

              In contrast, manual construction labour is expensive due to unions pushing and pushing for benefits. Great for OH&S, not so much for payroll

            • @Brucegonemad: This is why these things need to be discussed before you ok them to come out. If they tell you it will be $200 before they start working, you can then tell them no thanks, and get your local handyman to drop by. They most probably charge a lot less and would do a decent job.

          • @kittymtd: ~$200 is not unusual at all.

            You could shop around and find a cheaper one on gumtree or whatever but the agent/landlord probably wants to use a reputable tradie who won't stuff them around. ie be available at short notice, come at the agreed time, look and act professional, return at no cost for any rework issues etc

            • @trapper: Ok $200 might be normal. It still stands that I reported what I thought was a fault and didn't know it was a possibility that the bill would be passed to me if the electrician deemed it not to be faulty.

  • +3

    Twist: sparky and REA are in cahoots

  • +1

    I have had a similar issue in the past, it is indeed the problem of the fittings but not the globe. But the good thing for me is that the electrician indeed tried a few globes and different fittings to make that problematic fitting work with a very specific globe. So the electrician told me that it is not my problem and I didn't receive the billing for that. My case is in VIC, broken globes should be taken care of by the tenant as shown on my renting agreement.

    In your case, I think you can try to put another good globe from other fittings to the problematic fitting (it won't work as usual unless you try very very hard as your explained) and take the video for this process, and send it to the agent to further clarify the whole case?
    I guess there also might be a probability that even you try hard, the problematic fitting still doesn't work. Anyway, worth a try in my view.

    Good luck with it.

    • Thank you for your input, sounds like you had a decent sparky!

      Will give this a shot, thanks.

  • Or is this just a case of too bad, just cough up?

    Pretty standard practice, If no fault is found, the 'bill' is passed to the renter who requested it.

    • Looks like it's just bad luck on my part. I've only ever reported faults while renting (including this one) and have never been given the bill so wasn't expecting this.

      • Technically it wasn't a fault, as you said it wasn't screwed in correctly.

        If it was faulty, then the bill would have went to the landlord.

  • +1

    Do you live in a remote area? Seems very high. I paid $100 to have an electrician install a cooktop in my daughter's property in Calamvale. It took about 10 minutes and included a small junction box.

    Big prices like you have been invoiced occur usually when the electrician has stuffed about ( multiple call outs, occupier late at appointed time). It could also be a result of the real-estate agent not negotiating a call out fee prior to booking the job. Agents unfortunately operate in what is often their own best interest. It could be they have already presented that bill to the landlord who has refused to pay it.

    Contact whatever Tennant's union you have in your state or even the rental tenancies authority. Listen carefully what they say. It could be they may have some advice where you can dodge the bill and not end up with blacklisting and or a claim against the bond.

    • South-east suburb of Melbourne, not remote at all. Thanks, will give them a call.

  • We're not the stupid ones… just a little more challenged than others in this area. Don't feel bad about it, I'm sure you excel in other areas.

    We had no patio light in our new home for years, I always said it was an electrical fault and not working. One day a mate just stuck a bulb in and turned it on and hey presto. I swear he didn't do anything that I hadn't tried. Except he did it right.

    The embarrassment fades. The fact that we're sharing publicly demonstrates that we're good with it.

  • From a landlords point of view. They may have been told that there is nothing wrong with the light fitting and that the tenants should have tightened the bulb. So they are thinking, why should we have to pay a $200 bill?!
    Similar thing happened to us. We got a call from our RE saying that one of our rentals had called to complain that the spray from the shower had become patchy… not spraying evenly. The agent called in a plumber.
    Plumber walks in, unscrews the shower head, rinses it under the tap, screws it back on and leaves. 5 minute job and $329 that we had to pay.
    Another tenant complained that a sliding door squeaked and our RE wanted to call a tradie out. We bought a $10 can of silicone spray and that fixed it.
    I think the thing that annoys me about tenants is that they won't lift a finger to try and solve minor problems. They are straight on to the RE to get tradies out.
    If they were owners of the property, I bet they would try a whole lot more to fix minor issues!

    • +5

      Yeah but as you can see from the OP, he tried to help and now its might end up costing him $200 for his effort. Nah, Landlords want the tenants to lift a finger, but then in a case like this, want to start finger pointing.

      It's reason like this, unless otherwise stated, as a tenant, not to lift a finger.

      • As a tenant it is far better to fix any minor issues yourself.

        That way when something non-minor goes wrong, it's not your fifth annoying call this month, the landlord far more likely to act quickly and sort it out.

        • +1

          I can't even remember the last time I reported a fault prior to this. Agent asked if there was anything requiring maintenance so thought I'd mention it given I'd never seen that light working.

    • +1

      I think the thing that annoys me about tenants is that they won't lift a finger to try and solve minor problems.

      Because that is what they are paying you for as a land lord,

      why would you expend more energy then you have to,

  • +1

    Just throw the bill away and tell agent if they want to force the issue they are welcome to try. You have been there for 5 years. That should be enough to be taken into account and it was noted when you moved in and not addressed by the landlord. Have a coffee.

  • Unfortunately you will have to pay this bill.

    Think of it from the landlords perspective.

    The tenant reported an electrical issue, so he duly sends out and electrician to fix it. Electrician arrives and discovers that there is no electrical fault, was just a bulb not fitted properly by the tenant.

    Also the callout fee of $205.70 is just that, the fee for the call out, it's nothing to do with how long he's there. This is not unusual for any type of tradie call out.

    • Yeah lesson learned. Better next time to just force the bulb and if I happen to break the fitting, well then it will be deemed a fault.

  • +4

    As many have said, the REA passing on the invoice is common.

    However, what is being left unsaid is that you are supposed to be informed that if the "fault" is determined to be user-error then you will get the invoice. This is so you have a choice about how to proceed.

    I would go back to the REA and say that you were not informed of this possible cost, had no opportunity to agree to it, and if you had been notified then you may have tried other options before mentioning it to them.

    A practical example: a tenant of mine reported a blocked shower drain. I agreed to get a plumber out, who found the drain blocked with hair. I covered that cost. 6 months later they raised the same issue. I agreed to get a plumber out again, but if the blockage was caused by them, then they would have to pay the invoice. They agreed. The plumber found it was blocked with hair again, so the tenant paid.

    • Yes this is what my main issue is. I've only ever reported faults requiring maintenance previously and hence have never received a bill so wasn't aware this could happen. I've already contacted the agent and they said unfortunately this is what happens if no fault is found. Not even sure if the landlord received the full story or not.

  • You reported a problem that required an electrician, electrician came and no fault was found.

    You are required to pay for the electrician, not the owner. If there was a fault found, owner pays, simple.

    I know all well about renting as I was in that place from QLD to VIC and we all start off in that place somehow. As I was in a trade and a bit of a handyman, little was required for callouts if that and it saved having to be at home while some stranger comes into your living space, apart from the rental inspections.

    I hated those rental inspections as I had numerous agents - they send a letter that they will be there on such a day and never turn up.

    • Yeah I've accepted this was bad luck on my part. I've never been given a bill for other faults I've reported previously while renting so didn't know there was a possibility the bill could be passed to me, especially when I thought it was a fault.

  • What's it say on the invoice? If he fixed the light eg got it working again then the light was faulty…. Just because he got it working again screwing it in a lot harder doesn't mean he didnt fix a problem right..
    If it says no problem found then you could argue the bill was excessive.

    • It said this:

      "Call out to inspect bedroom light.
      Upon inspection found fitting to be in working order.
      Supplied and installed one new globe and tested.
      New globe is required to be tightened quite a lot to in order for fitting to operate."

      So a $205 globe essentially lol.

  • Did the electrician say anything about the fitting being damaged or faulty. If they say it's fine I don't think you have much push back.

    I guess you could sure the fact it was listed as faulty on your entry report and never rectified, meaning they knew there was an issue this entire time unresolved. But can get nasty.

    • No he didn't, and I wish that when he was here I'd questioned him about it as the other fitting in the room doesn't have the same issue.

      I did mention that to the agent but they just reiterated that if no fault is found, that the bill is passed on.