Published: January 2023

Budget tips for renters

Start of the year is tricky for household budgets

For too many renters, the start of the calendar year can prove tricky when balancing the household budget.

As bills pile up and the cost of living puts pressure on people’s ability to meet all their commitments on time, here is some practical information about which outstanding payments to prioritise.

The question: should I pay utility bills or rent first?

Tenants Victoria’s recommendation is to pay the rent first.

If you are behind in the rent, it’s a lot easier to manage outstanding utility bills, gas and electricity, than to delay in addressing your rent arrears. Whether you have paid work or not, many people might need to strike payment arrangements right now with the utility companies. You won’t be alone in doing so.

Utility companies – gas and electricity – are heavily regulated. This means they are legally required to give you payment plans or extensions and this can be arranged over the phone.

Your utility provider must consider your personal hardship and offer guidance about how to stay connected to power. If you are communicating with the gas or electricity company and working to come to an agreement about repayment plans, it’s very unlikely you will be disconnected.

Put simply, it’s going to be easier to broker such a payment plan for your utilities than to deal with more complicated issues relating to rent arrears involving the landlord, the real estate agent and possibly VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).

So, pick up the phone and get that extension for your overdue gas and electricity bill and catch up on your late rent!

Useful links

For more information on rent arrears see our website’s Overdue rent page.

For helpful resources for people in private rentals see our website’s Financial hardship page.

For more information on overdue utilities bills see the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria’s website.

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