Liability of Outstanding Utility Bills

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  • Liability of Outstanding Utility Bills

    Where do we stand as Landlords on this?

    A tenant has recently moved on and has asked for her bond to be returned.

    The tenant has spoken with the utility companys, gas and lecy, and claims she has an agreement with them to pay back the arrears. She roughly owes £200 to each of the companies.

    Can the companies claim the money from me as the landlord or is the tenant right in saying they have her new address and will only persue her for the outstanding money, and not me as the owner of the property?

    Obviously I am not willing to give her bond back if they can ultimately chase me for their money?

  • #2
    If the bills were in her name, as appears to be the case, then the issue is between her and the utility companies and shouldn't involve you at all.

    Worth ringing the companies yourself and checking this point direct; you're unlikely to get much out of them vis-a-vis your previous tenant as they'll just scream 'data protection act' at you. Definitely worth trying to suss whether they have genuinely got her new address, I'd say.

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    • #3
      From all my experience, Ericthelobster is absolutely correct. However, we all know that you can telephone a utility and after the half hour's hold music you eventually speak to their representative who will confirm Ericthelobster's advice. Then you receive a demand for money under the threat of disconnection. On investigation the utility (after the usual half an hour of hold music) will then deny all knowledge of your previous telephone call and in any case assure you that their own representative was incorrect! It is therefore worth making a note of the name of the operative you spoke to at the utility and the date + time of your call. They are always whingeing on that their calls may be monitored for training purposes - of course for some reason your call will not have been monitored, but with this information you will be ahead of the game!

      P.P.
      (Am I having an ultra cynical moment?)
      Any information given in this post is based on my personal experience as a landlord, what I have learned from this and other boards and elsewhere. It is not to be relied on. Definitive advice is only available from a Solicitor or other appropriately qualified person.

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      • #4
        Am I having an ultra cynical moment?
        No. You forgot to mention that, when you ask for their name, they will just tell you something like "Dave". When you ask for the full name they tell you they aren't allowed to tell you. So, thanks Dave, that's really helpful. When I call back to complain, they'll tell me there are 1027 Daves working at their Southampton call centre, could I be more specific.

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        • #5
          Untilities

          Would confirm all what P.Pilcher and RichieP say, and I'm not all that cynical today!
          Would suggest you write to the companies concerned asking for confirmation and giving all details you have including closing meter readings, tenants forwarding details and dates of entering and leaving. Don't forget water - I've found they are the worst for trying to put the onus on the landlord.
          Look out for correspondence to property address - they often do this even if you request replies to your own address.

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          • #6
            Forewarned is forearmed!

            P.P.
            Any information given in this post is based on my personal experience as a landlord, what I have learned from this and other boards and elsewhere. It is not to be relied on. Definitive advice is only available from a Solicitor or other appropriately qualified person.

            Comment


            • #7
              Personally, my AST makes it clear that it is a condition of returning the deposit that the tenants provide evidence that all the utilities and council tax have been paid uptodate (although I suspect this may actually be an Unfair Term?!). I've never had a tenant complain about it, but likewise I've never had a tenant want to move out with unpaid utility bills, as in this case.

              (The other advantage of making this a pre-condition of returning the deposit is that it defuses the tenant's request to receive the deposit cheque back on move-out day, and buys the LL enough time to ascertain that the tenant hasn't trashed something and managed to conceal it well enough to pass the inspection...)

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              • #8
                Ericthelobster can you post up the exact wording of this clause please?
                as i am about to let me house out to a family 2mrow im getting all the documents sorted out just now

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sure, the relevant sentences run as follows:

                  "We are entitled to keep the deposit until you have produced satisfactory proof that you have paid for the utility bills (electricity, gas, water and phone) and council tax for the property. If you fail to do so, we may pay any charges you owe from your deposit."

                  My AST comes from the RLA; I don't suppose they'll object to me posting a small extract from it especially if I give it a plug here! http://www.rla.org.uk/rla.exe?input=...rp/doc_AST.htm (actually I inserted the council tax reference myself).

                  As I said earlier, I think this may fall of the UTCC legislation, but hey...

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