Debt Collection

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    Debt Collection

    Can anybody help please. I own a flat that is fully managed by a letting agency I’ve dealt with for 12 years. I received a letter from a debt collection agency asking me to ring them. I phoned them today and have found out there is an outstanding bill (which has been sold to the debt collection agency) for £519.22 from British Gas. I automatically assumed that this wasn’t anything to do with me as the flat is rented. I asked the letting agency for any void periods and from 15th November 16- 14th December 16 the flat was empty, which is when this bill is for.
    So, firstly I have never received a bill from British Gas. The bill is for gas and electric. I believe that the bill was put into my name, although the bill was sent to the flat (I’m assuming) which I’ve never lived in, and secondly even if the gas/electric was on for the month it was empty it would never amount to £519.22. The flat was empty. The usage would’ve been a few pounds.
    I phoned the letting agency today and they are going to give me the meter readings, as they may have made a mistake with the readings, but also I’ve been dealing with them for years and can’t understand why (as they have my up to date address) the bill wasn’t sent to me. I have no account numbers or anything.
    Any advice on what to do from here is really appreciated.

    #2
    A huge chunk of the bill is admin fees for the debt collection agency.
    You are responsible for the bill for the void period, and my guess is that the letting agent didn't properly update British Gas, giving the meter readings, but not updating your name and address.

    There is advice everywhere about how to avoid paying.
    My experience is that none of it works and you are going to end up paying the bill.
    I'd talk to the letting agency to see what they did and see if it can be avoided in future.

    If you are so hands off that you don't know that your tenant has moved out, this is likely to happen.
    You have to manage your agent.
    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


      #3
      Pay it today "under protest" to avoid further fees, then slowly sort the mess out.
      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


        #4
        Thanks for the replies. The letting agent has said they absolutely did not put the bill in my name. It seems as if the previous tenant has put the bill in my name (from the tenancy agreement) including their arrears, which is why the bill is high for an empty flat for one month. Surely this is fraud?

        Comment


          #5
          Ask B Gas for copy of who signed signed the supply Contract & date.
          Supply B Gas with copy of T dated AST and meter readings.
          You are liable for any unsubstaniated void periods. Ts were aware of your lack of experience.

          Comment


            #6
            The agent (or you, depending on the service the agent provides) should have put the account in your name from the start of the void period.
            Meter readings should be supplied.
            Otherwise, if the tenant does it and gives low readings, you get clobbered by a high bill and have no counter evidence.

            If the tenant has transferred their arrears, you might have a case.
            Otherwise, you are going to have to try and persuade the debt collection agency of the situation, which is next to impossible in practice.
            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
              Utility companies, since a change in the regulations, can only go back one year to recover unpaid bills. Therefore this debt is not recoverable. Send in a written complaint to the utility company asking them to deal with this and to withdraw the debt from debt recovery. The debt recovery co must back off while you do this under the debt recovery guidelines.

              https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publication...yond-12-months

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Jon66 View Post
                Utility companies, since a change in the regulations, can only go back one year to recover unpaid bills. Therefore this debt is not recoverable. Send in a written complaint to the utility company asking them to deal with this and to withdraw the debt from debt recovery. The debt recovery co must back off while you do this under the debt recovery guidelines.
                I believe that is where no bill was issued for the period (or estimated bill), not where a bill was issued but unpaid.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thank you again. I have managed to get the meter readings from the agent. Gas usage for the void is 11 units. Electric is 20 units, which is nothing.I have never received a bill. Yes, the agent could put the bill in my name, but they would’ve sent it to my home address. From what I gather so far the bills were sent to the flat, so I have no knowledge of the bill. If it’s true that ultlity companies can’t claim after a year, then surely they should not have sold the debt?

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Sweepiecat View Post
                    I have managed to get the meter readings from the agent. Gas usage for the void is 11 units. Electric is 20 units, which is nothing.I have never received a bill. Yes, the agent could put the bill in my name, but they would’ve sent it to my home address. From what I gather so far the bills were sent to the flat, so I have no knowledge of the bill. If it’s true that ultlity companies can’t claim after a year, then surely they should not have sold the debt?
                    You or your agent should have told the utility company, that's not an option, that's something you are obliged to do (and didn't).
                    Utility contracts arise automatically and there's nothing you have to do to bring them into being other than use the utility.

                    By not doing that, you have some liability and the issue is simply how much.
                    A great deal of the debt is going to be admin fees so the original debt is likely to be a fraction of the actual cost.
                    Arguing about the amount that the bill should be is pointless - it's your word against British Gas's records and you didn't give them meter readings which would have raised the issue at the time.
                    The debt has no been sold and British Gas will have zero interest in resolving the issue as it's not their problem any more.

                    If the bills were sent to the flat receiving mail sent there is your responsibility.
                    Other important documents addressed to you might be sent there.

                    The 12 month issue is a red herring because the utility company almost certainly issued an invoice - the law only stops invoices being raised more than 12 month's retrospecively.

                    Just pay it.
                    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
                      Oh dear. I came on here for advice..... not a lecture. So you are telling me I should pay a bill for £522 for firstly a bill I didn’t receive and secondly for usage that isn’t mine. With all the will in the world a few units bill doesn’t get to £522. Even if charges have been loaded. The agent has the readings and did give them to British Gas. That’s my point. How would I know what the usage now is? They check someone in and check someone out. That’s why I pay a fully managed fee.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        With respect you did receive advice, even if it's not what you were hoping to hear, plus it's free.
                        £522 does seem very excessive though. I was in a similar situation previously with an outstanding bill for £72 which was sold and in the end I had to pay £121 with the debt companies bill added. Do you have a breakdown of the fees or what you owed originally in terms of utility bill?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Well we don't know when the bill was issued do we? I think you should contact BG, they may have a LL team and see if they will withdraw the debt from the debt collector. You do need to inform utility companies of your void periods so they can bill appropriately but presumably your agent confirms he had done that. I think under the debt collection guidelines there may be something that covers proportionality so might be worth looking at that. The other thing is that you are not liable for this if the utility was put in your name without your permission or knowledge. I would follow B Gs complaints procedure then on to the ombudsman if not satisfied with the response. Incidentally they are supposed to suspend collection attempts when you are disputing liability. Debt collectors do have rules they must follow. If they issue proceedings you will need to have some evidence available of who was in the property during the relevant time, and argue liability in front of the judge. With evidence you'll be fine.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Sweepiecat View Post
                            Oh dear. I came on here for advice..... not a lecture. So you are telling me I should pay a bill for £522 for firstly a bill I didn’t receive and secondly for usage that isn’t mine. With all the will in the world a few units bill doesn’t get to £522. Even if charges have been loaded. The agent has the readings and did give them to British Gas. That’s my point. How would I know what the usage now is? They check someone in and check someone out. That’s why I pay a fully managed fee.
                            That was advice - sorry if it was unwelcome.

                            Last time it happened to me, it cost me £242.00 for a period when no power was used at all.
                            The tenant was rehoused after a flood.

                            The previous occassion was a cock up, but taught me that fighting the bill is futile.

                            My belief is that the letting agency who took the readings didn't tell anyone what they were - easily done.
                            What happened about the council tax in the same period?
                            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


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Sweepiecat View Post
                              That’s why I pay a fully managed fee.
                              Then it would appear that the agent has failed in their responsibilities, and therefore you should pursue them for any losses you incur.

                              First ask them what information they gave to BG when regarding readings and responsibility for bills.
                              If they can show that they gave tenants details to BG, then it would appear to be a BG fault, or the tenant put it back in your name (so ask BG also what they have for changes of customer).

                              Comment

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