Landlord forced by Council to top up tenants meter

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    Landlord forced by Council to top up tenants meter

    I've reproduced below an extract from a post on one of the landlord association forums along with the advice given by the association helpline. I have never heard of this immediately doubted it was true. I wondered whether people here have come across this situation:

    "I have been informed by the local Council that - where tenants at my HMO property have been falling out over who will put money onto gas and electricity and all are refusing to pay money onto the meter that I will need to ensure they have gas and electricity supply, which means I have to put money onto the meter... is this correct?"

    The advisor replied:

    "I am afraid so, it is the case that as an HMO manager, you are responsible for maintaining the supply to the tenant - not just to the meter. Where they are left without gas and / or electricity due to there being no money on the meter, by the fact that a meter is installed, you are technically causing an interruption to supply which is a breach of the HMO Management requirements and under the Housing Act you could be prosecuted."

    He went on to say that "as charges for electricity and gas are generally more expensive and continually making trips to top up the meter is inconvenient, possibly the best option would be to remove the meters and when the contracts come up for renewal increase the rent to include the average cost of gas and electricity in the rent amount. In this way you would not suffer additional losses nor be in breach of your responsibilities."

    #2
    That sounds about right, you must ensure that tenants have utilities.

    From what you describe there the supply for the whole of the HMO is on a pre-pay metered supply.
    Which is nearly always going to cause problems with multiple tenants. (He's using more than I am so should pay more than I do).

    The solution is to get the meter changed and to add a service charge to the rent, especially if it's a common heating system.

    If it's not common heating then maybe sub-meters for the electricity in each room and coin meters for the shared shower/cooker/etc.
    (So you will have to go round regularly and empty the coin meters).

    BTW if using sub-meters or coin meters it's illegal to change tenants more than it costs you for the utilities.

    Comment


      #3
      Hi Nukecad. I agree that the solution would be as you suggest and that a sensible landlord would charge an inclusive rent in an HMO and pay the bills themselves. However, the scenario you describe of tenants squabbling over how much each has used is not limited to pre-payment meters. My understanding has always been that the landlords duty stops at ensuring there is a fully functioning supply, not that they have to step in and pay the bill if the tenants fall out.

      Comment


        #4
        fROM THE 2 LINES ~~( IN 1. AND 4. )

        1. Maintenance.
        You have maintained the Water, gas and electricity supplies and drainage facilities; in repair, good order and a clean condition.
        They just don't want to pay for the electric.

        4. Supply and maintenance of gas and electricity.
        You have NOT interrupted supplies of gas or electricity.
        They just don't want to pay for the electric.

        Tell the council in plain and simple wording as above.
        It is there to be used, and if they do not wish to pay for the use, then it is not your fault. Adding that if they wish to lose in court and pay your thousands of pounds costs, then poceed with taking you to court for your tenants deciding the don't want to use the electric which has been provided.

        H.M.O. REGS ( UTILITIES )

        Scope of the Regulations for Landlords etc

        These duties include the following:

        1. Maintenance of common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
        Managers are required to maintain the following in repair, good order and a clean condition.
        · Water, gas and electricity supplies and drainage facilities;
        · Appliances such as cookers, heaters, washing machines
        · Shared lighting and heating facilities, including hot water supplies
        · Shared toilets, baths, sinks and basins;
        · Shared cooking, food storage and other installations
        · Staircases, handrails, halls and landings, including floor coverings;
        · Windows and other means of ventilation
        · Outbuildings, paths, yards and garden areas

        2. Maintenance of living accommodation
        Managers must ensure that:
        · Each unit of living accommodation and any furniture supplied are in clean condition at the beginning of a person’s occupation of it;
        · The internal structure of living accommodation and any fixtures, fittings or appliances supplied within it are maintained in good repair and clean working order, subject to the tenant behaving in a tenant-like manner.

        3. Safety Measures
        Managers must take reasonable safety measures to ensure that:
        · Tenants are protected from injury;
        · Means of escape from fire are free from obstruction and in good order;
        · The fire alarm system and any fire fighting equipment provided are maintained in good order;
        · Ensure that notices are displayed indicating means of escape in case of fire

        4. Supply and maintenance of gas and electricity
        Managers must:
        · Not unreasonably interrupt supplies of gas or electricity
        · Supply the local authority on demand the latest gas appliance test certificate for the HMO;
        · Ensure that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at intervals not exceeding five years by a person qualified to undertake such inspection and testing AND obtain a certificate from that person specifying the results of the test AND supply that certificate to the local authorities if requested to do so.


        Comment


          #5
          As you know DPT I shared your views, bonkers.

          Some so-called expert bodies are surprisingly pig-headed about their stated views.
          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

          Comment


            #6
            Yes, indeed. Having said that, I can see an argument that in an HMO with room only tenancies and a shared electricity/gas supply served by a prepayment meter, the landlord, by refusing to have a rent that includes utility costs could be regarded as denying the supply to the individual tenants who have no relationship with each other and can't agree between them a process for topping up the meter. What I am not clear about is what the legal position would be and what the Council can do about it.

            Comment


              #7
              This sounds completely crackers to me.

              If this is a joint tenancy, then there is only one tenant who is not paying for their supply. The fact that it is HMO is not relevant to whether there is one legal tenant. I also cannot see how the existence of a meter is relevant, since exactly the same could apply without a meter and in the absence of payment the supply would be cut off.

              In any case if the tenant is responsible for paying for utilities, and if the AST mentions that responsibility, I would make it clear to the tenant that a) They are entitled to apply to have the meter removed b) Any top-ups you provide will be regarded as non-payment of rent and that you will sue them.

              Comment


                #8
                Yes, except that without the prepayment meter a landlord that wanted to avoid paying himself would have to persuade 4 room only tenants to have a shared account in their names, which seems unlikely, especially as they may be constantly changing. Different perhaps for a joint tenancy and therefore the Associations response is crackers as you say

                Comment

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