How to split energy bills with housemates when someone’s working from home

If you’re living in a sharehouse, chances are someone – or more than one person – has started to spend a lot more time at home since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Where household bills used to be a simple matter of splitting it equally between everyone, the reality is someone might be taking up more electricity at home than normal.

Since the coronavirus crisis, a Gartner HR survey revealed 88 per cent of Aussie organisations have encouraged or required remote work amid the pandemic and Roy Morgan research found more than two thirds of workers in Australia have had their job impacted by the virus in some way or another.

And according to Finder, 58 per cent of renters are concerned about energy bill costs following the shutdown.

“What was previously an even split can get messy if one or more people start working from home and using more power,” said Finder insights manager Graham Cooke.

So if one or more of your housemates start using up more energy at home, here are two handy ways to sort out the difference:

1. Remote workers pay the difference

The simplest way to sort this out is to look at your last few energy bills, pre-coronavirus, and work out a rough average.

Compare the average against your most recent energy bill.

“If your bill has increased, the extra amount could be covered by the person or people who are now working from home,” said Cooke.

So if your energy bill has risen by $100 since one or some housemates started working from home, they cover it or split that amongst themselves, while everyone else pays about the same as they’ve always been paying.

2. The 25% method

If you want to calculate this the long way, there’s a formula to work it out.

According to financial adviser James Gerrard, the way people spend time at home can usually be divvied up into three different eight-hour periods: sleep, downtime, and day-time, which we usually spend out at work.

But for many, that work window is now spent at home, meaning running costs like electricity and gas will rise.

“To calculate how much extra the person working from home should pay, [a third] of home usage will increase five out of seven days a week, which equals approximately 24 per cent.

“So the person working from home should be paying 24 per cent more than the others who don’t,” Gerrard told Yahoo Finance.

But to make things easier, just round that up to 25 per cent.

So when the bill hits, split it evenly between every house member as normal. Let’s say the bill is $1,000 between four people.

Those working from home should add 25 per cent on top of their share. If that’s just one remote worker, the sum they pay is their share of $250 with an added $62.50 on top, which comes to $312.50.

The remaining three housemates are left to split the remainder, which is $687.50 split between three.

If you have two people working from home, the same rule still applies: have both housemates add 25 per cent to the bill.

The two remote workers pay $312.50 each. The remaining balance is $375, which comes to $187.50 for each worker who doesn’t work from home.

What happens at tax time?

Aussies who work from home are able to claim back a part of their home expenses at tax time.

Recently, the Australian Taxation Office raised the amount of tax people can claim back on remote work running expenses from 58 cents per hour to 80 cents per hour.

All you need to do to calculate these expenses is figure out how many hours you worked from home, and multiply that by 80 cents. Come tax time, simply claim that under ‘Other work-related expenses’, and you’ll see that amount as part of your tax refund.

The tax ‘shortcut’ also means that if you have more than one person in the household working from home, multiple people can claim it in the same household.

The other, more labour-intensive method for claiming work from home expenses is called the ‘diary method’, which would involve keeping track of various expenses like home office equipment, lighting, heating, cooling, and phone and internet expenses.

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