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Utility bills

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418 views 1 replies latest reply: 23 January 2017

Took up tenancy of a flat in a block of 13 flats in November 2013. On moving in I attempted to get meter readings as the agent had not taken them. Eventually I was given access to a plant room and took an electricity meter reading. As per my AST I transferred the electricity account into my name. I could not find the gas meter. I had noticed that what appeared to be a water meter was in the flat behind a board with a viewing hole. I contacted local water company, they knew nothing of this meter.  Made numerous requests to the agent for information as to the other meters. Failed to get a reply. Then get a bill for thousands of pounds for heating amd hot water costs via the management company. It transpires that the underfloor heating and hot water are supplied from a communal boiler. I dispute the amount and ask for explanatio of how the bills are arrived at. Did not get a satisfactory reply. Management company are then sacked and a new one takes over. In the meantime landlord asks for payment of the amount so he can pass it on to the Management company I ask him for an explanation of how the bills are calculated, amongst other things he says “I dont really fully undserstand it myself…but it is what it is”.  I make a payment of £1500 as gesture of my sincerity and as an acceptance that I must have some liability for the hot water costs. I left the property in November 2015 and the outstanding amount is still in dispute. I suspect that the Management company ‘average out’ the bills based on usage assumptions, which I think is now illegal under the Heat Network Regs? Anyway, I wondered if anyone had a similar problem, particularly the use of an AST that states the tenant must transfer all utiliies to their own name, when clearly that is not physically possible and furthermore where the AST makes no reference to communal supply or the method of billing?

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Thank you for this story ! We don’t get anything like this often, so it’s a good reminder for all tenants to always ALWAYS demand meter readings and inquire about details of utility services and billing when they move into a new property. 

I’d agree with you that without a clear description of the bill, what period it covers and how much energy is used in that period, you have a full right to dispute the bill and demand more clarification on the matter. Also, it’s advisable that you should not sign an AST, if it doesn’t include details about how utilities are going to be used and charged during your tenancy. 

Regarding transferring utilities in your name, this is the landlord’s way of disassociating themselves with the utilities at your address. If by any chance you leave with a fat bill unpaid, the utility companies chase you directly and don’t bother with the landlord at all. I’d say this is fair, except when it’s not possible to do it for all accounts, like in your case.

Usually, when you do the check-in, the landlord or managing agent will give you a walkthrough and go over these things, but if they don’t it’s good to remember to ask them about (and don’t let them leave until they figure it out and give you a clear answer):

  • Where all the meters are (gas, electricity, water) ? / What are the final readings up to this moment ?
  • Who do you pay utilities to ? / Who provides these utilities ?
  • What tariff are you on / How does your bill form ?

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