Sudden electricity bill from lettings company

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    Sudden electricity bill from lettings company

    URGENT HELP NEEDED
    I have been renting a one bedroom flat since September last year. When we moved in, I registered myself with the energy and gas suppliers on the first day of my tenancy. The outside electricity meter was however hidden and locked but I was still able to see the meter reading and serial number through a crack in the wooden door. I rang several energy providers like E-ON etc but they were unable to find the block of flats on the national database, let alone my flat. They said the building shows up as disconnected meaning that they could be obtaining the electricity illegally. I contacted my landlord many times, both on the phone/email and in person when he came to do an inspection. He always gave me answers along the lines off "oh dont worry about it", he would never give me a straight answer no matter how much I asked. There was also no clear statement about electricity in the contract. In the summary of the contract it did say "Rent £700 a month excluding bills" but I assumed that was water, gas etc.

    Well, fast forward to this week and I have received the following email and invoice (see attachments):

    "Please find attached invoice for electricity for above flat.
    An urgent payment is requiring now.
    Please email us a proof of payment."
    Untitled.jpg
    This has completely shocked me because I've had no information regarding electricity whatsoever over the past 9 months. I've read the contract many times and I think the following paragraph may be applicable.
    "Pay all existing and future rates taxes (including council taxes, community charges, or similar taxes or levies) assessments and other outgoings applicable to the Premises or to the Tenant and in the case of any such rates taxes assessments or other outgoings as aforesaid being payable by the Landlord or being charged or assessed in respect of the Premises and other property to pay to the Landlord on demand a fair proportion thereof (as determined by the Landlord)"

    Does that statement mean that I am legally obliged to pay the above sum and if so is there a specific time period required? My other concern is how can they charge me a large round sum like that also includes the future? How is that fair treatment on me when for example over the year my total could be £300 so why should I pay more?

    I feel like they are trying to scam me in what ever way possible because the other tenants of this building are students but I'm not. I have replied to them with the following message but have had no reply (its been 2 days).

    "I'm sorry but I do not agree to paying this bill. Nowhere in the contract does it state that we shall pay for electricity like that. I have asked (landlord name) numerous times about our electricity situation and he's always said "oh don't worry about it". I have had no information about who the electricity provider is etc. When I moved in, I contacted several energy providers like E-ON in order to register the meter reading but nobody could find out our building on the national database and they said the building shows up as disconnected. Also, what kind of amount is £400? This is such an estimated amount and you have not shown me the exact amount and information regarding how much electricity I've used which leads me to believe that you are trying to scam me. I will be contacting Citizens Advice Bureau and other relevant companies because I see this as a complete violation of my rights as a tenant. "

    Was I right in writing that? What further action should I take? Tomorrow I'm going to ring more energy providers and hopefully I am able to establish some kind of history regarding my flat's electricity usage since September.

    Thanks in advance.

    #2
    This sounds very dodgy. I think tenants have a right to select their own utility companies. You may well be dealing with a criminal, which make advice difficult because criminals, by definition, don't obey the law, and that may extend to illegal actions against you. The best advice is to get out at the earliest opportunity. Try and be in a position where you choose your move out date, so don't antagonise the landlord until you have safely extracted yourself.

    Note though, that writing to your landlord accusing them of scamming is never a good idea, even if true.

    If the meter is live, the electricity company needs access to it, to read it, so secure locks would not normally be used, either it will just have triangular utility key locks, or will use standardised locks that provide token security.

    Even if exempt from being able to choose the supplier, only a limited mark up is allowed, for which one would need to know the exact consumption.

    Do you receive council tax bills? Not receiving them would be a bad sign. Does your address exist on the Royal Mail post code database?

    Comment


      #3
      I asked him so many times within the first 6 months and he never gave me a straight answer. I said many times that I have the meter reading taken on the day of me moving in etc. and that I want to get that sorted. I am planning on getting out in August. The landlord and this tenancy has been nothing but trouble to me. For example there were many damages in the flat when I moved in. It took me a month to get him to organise repairs (dirty marked walls needed repainting, cracked floor & wall tiles needed replacing amongst other things) and when we did get them repaired, it was done badly and by foreign workers that spoke no English whatsoever and were very rude to us. It just seems like he is trying to rip us off and make profit in any way he can. He knows that we will not be extending our contract and that we will be moving out in August. This week I am planning to confirm this officially in a letter.

      The meters for all 8 flats are locked behind two wooden doors which are secured with a thick padlock. I don't know how I didn't find this information before but I googled my post code and energy supplier and apparently it is supplied by Western Power so I will ring them tomorrow to ask about my electricity usage over the last 10 months and try and sort out a financial plan with them. I pay all my bills personally; council tax, water, gas and internet etc. My post code exists on the RM database.

      Can you please quickly read through that paragraph from the contract and give me an opinion whether it means that they can charge me for electricity like that and demand money urgently? Thank you for the help so far.

      Comment


        #4
        If you pay council tax, the property isn't completely under the radar.

        At face value, the clause allows them to charge you, although you'll be treated as a consumer, so won't get an almost automatic £40 penalty and interest after 30 days.

        However, my understanding is that one normally has the right to choose one's one supplier, and when that it not possible, there is a statutory limit to the markup. In fact, it seems that the maximum mark up is zero percent! https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publication...d-october-2005 If the landlord resells to you, this should be explicit in the tenancy agreement: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publication...d-october-2005

        It is difficult to know whether £400 is reasonable, as it depends on your lifestyle, the insulation quality of the building and whether there is gas heating, as well as the size of the property. However it is far from impossible for 9 months, and you should have budgeted, and saved, for some electricity bills.

        Western Power are probably the company that owns the physical cables, but not the company that reads your meter and not the company that would bill you; An artificial market was created in the electric supply industry, in which the people that bill you don't operate the hardware.

        Is this actually an HMO?

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you for the links to the publications, they explain a lot and I will definitely mention what you've said about reselling. I guess £400 may be reasonable but at the same time I deserve to get a proper bill that shows my average usage etc and the grand total. The place isn't a HMO, it's a small of black of 8 1&2 bedroom flats occupied mostly by students.

          Comment


            #6
            Who's the invoice from?
            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

            Comment


              #7
              The invoice is from the lettings agency that the landlord works for.

              Comment


                #8
                The landlord works for their agent?
                That's a new one on me.

                I would suggest two things.
                I would make a payment against the invoice that you think is reasonable.
                The EPC for the property should have estimated energy costs, which might help.

                You're not disputing the whole amount - you have obviously used some electricity from somewhere - so you don't want to leave the whole amount unpaid.

                Then ask the agent to substantiate their charge and express a concern about the legality of the meters (although I suspect that's a data problem).
                When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                Comment


                  #9
                  I think it's a lettings company, it's called {Mod - name removed} and it's based in London (I'm based in Leicester) but I can't find anything about them on the internet. I did not receive an EPC for the property. Like I said previously in the thread, this whole tenancy has all been really dodgy and amateur for me, the landlord has always been unhelpful but I fell for it because I was desperate for a flat and I was also quite naive because it is my first tenancy in my life.

                  I've just rang Western Power which are the main energy supplier for my postcode and they've also said that they can't find the property on the national database and that it comes up as disconnected. They strongly advised me against paying the landlord any money until I can get a detailed bill showing my usage etc.

                  What I plan on doing now is sending the landlord a formal email that will say something along the lines of "I do not wish to send you any money until a) you quote the section of the contact that shows that I'm obliged to pay you for this service and b) you send me a detailed bill that shows my usage during this tenancy. I will also mention the articles that leaseholder64 mentioned in their post.

                  Do you think that's a good idea? I want to approach this dispute professionally.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    https://www.uswitch.com/gas-electric...d-gas/#movedin
                    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                    Comment


                      #11
                      So I've sent them the following email on Monday and still had no reply from them. It seems very strange.
                      "To whom it may concern,
                      I have recently received an invoice from you regarding an electricity bill. I have several questions about it because I have had no information since the start of my tenancy last September.

                      Firstly, this bill came to me as a total surprise because I could not find anything about it in our tenancy agreement. Can you please show me the section of the contract that addresses this topic?

                      Secondly, on what basis is this £400 calculated on? With all other utilities such as water and gas, customers are able to see their exact usage and how much it costs them. I would like to request a similar bill from you regarding my electricity usage.

                      Thirdly, I would like to set up a payment plan if possible. I am currently in the process of applying for a house and with my partner being a student, £400 in one payment would be really hard for me, especially seeing that I've had no warning.

                      I have talked to several energy suppliers including Western Power which deal with Leicester and they have all told me that the building comes up as disconnected on their national databases. They have advised to me to ask you these questions before I make any payments. I would like this issue to be resolved in a professional manner so if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.

                      Kind Regards,
                      .......

                      Comment

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