Hmo bills/ utility control over winter

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    Hmo bills/ utility control over winter

    Hi fellow landlords! I have a question for any other hmo landlords out there. Winter is approaching and the heating bills are going up. I for one, am trying to make sure I don’t get stung as sharply as last year. This is my second winter being a landlord. I had extortionate electricity bills last year due to tenants using portable heaters even though it’s agaisnt the tenancy agreement and also the law for PAT test on equipment which could cause a fire. So this year, I have hive heating. I want to get thermostatic radiator valves(6 bed hmo) so my tenants have no need/ excuse to use a portable heater. Do any other hmo landlords find this to work ? Do you use a different method. I can’t put separate gas/electric meters in every room right now. I tried to include a fair usage policy in my tenancy for bills, but I think will be too hard to police and will only work as a scare tactic as going yo
    small claims court and gettin reimbursement seems very hopeful to say the least. TIA!

    #2
    What do you mean by sting?

    with 6 people cooking, washing, showering etc your utility bills will be high.

    do you have any historic records of usage per week? Per month?

    Comment


      #3
      As you say, fair usage policies are often only useful as a threat unless they are carefully worded and very specific about the exact number of units of gas and electricity that are included in the rent. To enforce it you would need a smart meter.

      Hive and other remote heating controls are useful to monitor the temperature in the house and check the tenants are not turning up the thermostat to unreasonable levels, but be wary about using it to turn them back down as this could become harassment.

      My brother-in-law has the same problem in his HMO and last year was forced to switch to a commercial contract for gas supply because the usage was so great. There are no easy answers to this other than constant cajoling and the measures already discussed. Rent increases might ordinarily be a solution, but in many cases these will be constrained by the LHA rates available locally.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Neelix View Post
        What do you mean by sting?

        with 6 people cooking, washing, showering etc your utility bills will be high.

        do you have any historic records of usage per week? Per month?
        When I say stung, I mean them using portable heaters. As there’s no need for them to do so as I Maintain a warm temperature throughout, but because it’s free for them it doesn’t make a difference for them to make it too warm and sit with their shirts off.

        Comment


          #5
          Neelix,

          Yea I take readings regularly for gas and electric, but as I said this is second winter and last year they all wrongly used portable heaters which drove my electricity bill through the roof. If I write in my tenancy that they are not allowed heaters and they have signed it, if I see heaters in them room can I take them out myself? As it’s a big fire hazard is my main reason.

          Comment


            #6
            DPT57,

            Thanks for reply. Well I have smart meters already for gas and electric, but because I pay bills can’t monitor who is using what as they don’t have their own meters. As I asked above do you know if I’m allowed to confiscate the heaters as it’s a major fire hazard and hasn’t been Pat tested, if I seen them in their rooms when repairs are being done?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Hmoftw View Post
              do you know if I’m allowed to confiscate the heaters as it’s a major fire hazard and hasn’t been Pat tested, if I seen them in their rooms when repairs are being done?
              Almost certainly not I would have thought. That sounds like theft. You might be able to insist that the tenant gets them PAT tested, but I doubt there would be much you could do if they refused, other than report the matter to the Council to cover yourself.

              Comment


                #8
                yes, I can’t take them if they paid for it, i meant to say take them out of their rooms and put it in the storage room. I was just thinking of the immediate fire hazard and the risk it could potentially cause. I guess the only thing to do is serve them
                notice for breaking their tenancy agreement ?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Instead of Hive, fit an Inspire Home Automation landlord thermostat. With those you can set maximum temperatures and prevent the thermostat being excessively ramped up to 25/30 degrees.

                  The only way to prevent portable heaters is to make sure temperatures in rooms are reasonable enough for them not to be required. So your gas bills to run heating at such a temperature (21 degrees or so) will be by necessity quite high in order to prevent electricity bills (via portable heaters) that are 'shocking'. You also need to ensure radiators in rooms are suitably large enough to give room temperatures at or above that of the thermostat area.

                  Thermostatic valves (TRVs) will allow tenants the opportunity to turn room heating down (and are required in order to give them 'control' ), but don't expect that opportunity to ever be used. Window opening is soooooo much easier for cooling purposes. Dependant on common area usage you may however be able to use TRVs in the common areas to claw back a touch of the bill money you are losing in the tenant rooms. (As here the tenants have 'control' ability to turn common area TRVs up but once again will never bother and instead probably retreat to their cosier rooms). Again you don't want portable heaters introduced to common areas so need to be careful.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Hmoftw View Post
                    I want to get thermostatic radiator valves(6 bed hmo) so my tenants have no need/ excuse to use a portable heater.
                    Yes this is essential - however it only controls the heat given off by the radiator when the heating is on.

                    Originally posted by Hmoftw View Post
                    I tried to include a fair usage policy in my tenancy for bills, but I think will be too hard to police
                    Correct it is almost impossible.

                    Normally you fit a programmable thermostat and fix the times of the heating coming on and maximum temperatures at certain times during the day. I allowed the tenants to 'over-ride the system and put the heating on by +3º for one hour. All of this depends upon the lifestyle of the tenants - for example if the guy in the attic room is a night time gamer and wants his room to be 20ºC at 3.00 in the morning then that's not going to work with the system which usually gives no heat between 10.30 and 6.00 am. Likewise if people work at home during the day then they will need the house to have heating on.

                    I used to run two 7 bed HMOs and heating was a major issue. I have caught a tenant putting the heating on to dry one shirt ( and yes there was a dryer) and another switching the thermostat up to 30º. You need to inspect regularly and take readings at the same time every month. Where a tenant had a particular issue I allowed a portable heater where all other tenants were basically ok - it's not ideal but kept the bills down to a reasonable level.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The reality of heating costs is that you have absolutely no control over the weather, and almost no control over the tenants usage and topically almost no control over energy costs

                      Comment


                        #12
                        AlexR,

                        Thanks for that reply! When you say the TRV wil only control the heat given off by that radiator. I think that’s fine for me as there is one radiator per room.
                        im thinking this will fix my issue, as their room will always be gtd warm and I control the temperature in their room/ schedule it from my
                        phone via hive for eg. But I’ve heard hive TRV don’t work that well and the Calibration is off and doesn’t really solve the problem. It’s £200 for 5
                        pack too, so looking to make sure I haven’t overlooked a different way to solve the issue. Yes tenants really can take the piss it seems, without choosing better words. They tell
                        me they’re cold but I know they’re all in shorts and their shirts off. I think now I’ve told them how it’s a fire hazard and it’s also against their tenancy agreement to keep heaters, in conjunction with TRV should be able to keep on top off it.
                        what do you think about having electric meters in their rooms and I supply electricity for the communal
                        areas ? I’ve read this allowed and some landlords do this. Thanks

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Neelix View Post
                          The reality of heating costs is that you have absolutely no control over the weather, and almost no control over the tenants usage and topically almost no control over energy costs
                          Furthermore in a Victorian terrace or similar old style build where the insulation is bad massive amounts of heat can be used to try and overcome that feature. If there is any damp then that makes the house feel even colder.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            If they are all say that they are cold, and have even bought electric heaters, then the likelihood is that the property is cold. (Or you have somehow chosen a house full of people who all share the same quirks). You don't live there, so their opinion is rather more relevant.

                            Electric heaters are designed for home use, they don't suddenly become a fire hazard. PAT testing is not needed for their domestic use.


                            Comment


                              #15
                              In a domestic property a portable electric heater is likely to be turned off when leaving the property. In an HMO it's highly likely to be left on so the room is cosy on return massively increasing the fire risk. Portable heaters in multiple rooms amplify that significantly. If normal heating is to an acceptable standard its well within reason to ban portable electric heater usage in a contract under fire risk reasons.

                              Comment

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