Some landlords install prepayment meters for electricity and gas in rental properties. This is often to ensure that certain utility provider bills are paid without having the problem of pursuing the tenant for any bills that may be outstanding at the end of the tenancy.
However, many tenants may not have much, (if any), experience of prepaid meters so here is some information and advice that you might find useful.
If your landlord or letting agent supplies you with a key or card to top up the electricity or gas prepayment meters you should understand that the money is not on the card. Immediately you place the key or card into the meter the money is recorded on the meter.
Moving into a rental property
If you are moving into a rental property that has prepayment meters you need to be certain that you are not paying the previous tenant’s or your landlord’s debts. If the landlord sells cards to you, the money you pay will be used to pay your energy bill. If the bill is not paid by the landlord or letting agents, the debt will be added to the meter by the energy company. This means that you will not only be paying for your own consumption of gas and electricity but also a percentage of the debt.
You can contact the energy company direct to check on the meter. You will need to provide them with the following information:
- The date you moved in
- The reading on the meter
- Your address
- The serial number of the meter
If you landlord sells encrypted cards to you so that you can top up the meter, the landlord is obliged to follow strict rules and is not permitted to make a profit.
Leaving the property
If you are nearing the end of your tenancy you should try to keep the money on the prepayment meters to a minimum because it may be difficult to get a refund of any money left on them. Letting agents or landlords should have the meters reset when a new tenant moves in but if this doesn’t happen the new tenant could end up using the electricity or gas that you have paid for and it could be difficult to prove how much money was left on the meters.