Utility Bill unpaid by previous T- can supplier disconnect?

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  • Utility Bill unpaid by previous T- can supplier disconnect?

    Tenants moved out on 1.5.08. Property has been vacant for months (building work). Large amount of post arriving all this time for former tenants, including several from utility firm - all of which were returned to sender.

    Another letter addressed to these former tenants arrived this week, and this time I opened it to find utility firm claims to be owed almost £300 for gas and electricity. They are threatening to disconnect supplies.

    Could they do this? This would be difficult for electricity since main switch is inside the premises - but gas is in meter cupboard on outside wall.

  • #2
    It's an offence to tamper with mail - simply return all mail to sender marked 'gone away'.

    Did you notify the utilities when the tenants left and provide them with the last metre readings before taking over the account after their departure?

    Comment


    • #3
      A more helpful answer would be that if you have notified the utilities suppliers back in May 2008 that the tenant had left, there shouldnt be any problems as you would have been paying the bills from then onwards.

      Just for clarification, no offence has been committed by you openning the letter, 'Ive opened a letter stories' always bring out these 'Commited an offence' comments for some reason!

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks Planner.

        Yes the utility company was notified of the meter readings when the tenants left. Something seems to have gone wrong at their end and they don't seem to realise the tenants are no longer in the flat, because they keep writing to them there.

        My question is, can (will) the gas and electricity be disconnected because of a debt for which LL is not responsible? Could they (the utility company), or would they, insist on prepayment meters from now on?

        Comment


        • #5
          You need to speak to Utility co - get hold of a supervisor - and explain the position, T will get billed to end reading and you will be responsible from there on.
          The T debt is not your problem - as long as acc is in their name !

          The Rodent
          A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
          W.Churchill

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Planner View Post
            Just for clarification, no offence has been committed by you openning the letter, 'Ive opened a letter stories' always bring out these 'Commited an offence' comments for some reason!
            Hi,

            It is a criminal offence under s1 of the Regulation of Investigatory powers Act 2000 to intercept someone else's mail without legal authority. Section 2 defines what interception means; I am no expert in this issue, but I understand it is generally accepted that this includes opening someone else's mail and reading the contents, even if it has been wrongly delivered. The maximum penalty is two year's imprisonment.

            Preston

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Preston View Post
              Hi,

              It is a criminal offence under s1 of the Regulation of Investigatory powers Act 2000 to intercept someone else's mail without legal authority. Section 2 defines what interception means; I am no expert in this issue, but I understand it is generally accepted that this includes opening someone else's mail and reading the contents, even if it has been wrongly delivered. The maximum penalty is two year's imprisonment.

              Preston

              Actually I would disagree;

              "It shall be an offence for a person intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission"

              Once the post has been delivered i.e. 'transmitted' no law has been broken. Further - I suspect this Act doesnt even relate to joe public.

              The Postal Services Act 200 provides further detail;

              (1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he—
              (a) intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or
              (b) intentionally opens a mail-bag.
              (2) Subsections (2) to (5) of section 83 apply to subsection (1) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.
              (3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.
              (4) Subsections (2) and (3) of section 83 (so far as they relate to the opening of postal packets) apply to subsection (3) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.
              (5) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (3) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Planner View Post
                Actually I would disagree;

                "It shall be an offence for a person intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission"

                Once the post has been delivered i.e. 'transmitted' no law has been broken. Further - I suspect this Act doesnt even relate to joe public.

                The Postal Services Act 200 provides further detail;

                (1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he—
                (a) intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or
                (b) intentionally opens a mail-bag.
                (2) Subsections (2) to (5) of section 83 apply to subsection (1) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.
                (3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.
                (4) Subsections (2) and (3) of section 83 (so far as they relate to the opening of postal packets) apply to subsection (3) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.
                (5) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (3) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
                Well, I'm a bit confused by your argument.

                Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act makes it clear that it applies to individuals.

                On the issue of transmission, my understanding is that this ends when the information reaches the intended recipient.

                Your extract from the Postal Services Act simply introduces another set of offences to the discussion doesn't it?

                With regard to 85(3), I know from previous experience that the Royal Mail advise a recipient of any wrongly delivered mail or mail addressed to a previous occupant to put the said mail back into the mail system to allow the process of delivery to continue. So, if a landlord receives mail addressed to a former tenant, has it been wrongly delivered for the purposes of the Postal Services Act? I know none of the case law on this issue, but if it would be so regarded, then landlords who open mail to former tenants would be commiting an offence under this Act as well as under Investigatory Powers Act.

                Will be interesting to see if anyone with knowledge of the case law is able to enlighten us further on both Acts.

                Preston

                Comment


                • #9
                  I don't know any case law but this thread may be of interest:

                  http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums...ight=Crikey%21
                  'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mind the gap View Post
                    I don't know any case law but this thread may be of interest:

                    http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums...ight=Crikey%21
                    That's interesting. It seems to confirm that the key piece of legislation is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the position as described in post #6 is accurate.

                    Just out of interest, I think I'll try to get hold of any relevant case law, unless someone else here beats me to it (hopefully!).

                    Preston

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      mmm, so you don't open the mail (accidentally of course), don't know what is happening and get cut off. I know what I would do in this situation - knowledge is power, as they say and has got me out of the hot water before I fell into it before now....
                      Still, up to everyone to make their own decisions.
                      Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by islandgirl View Post
                        mmm, so you don't open the mail (accidentally of course), don't know what is happening and get cut off. I know what I would do in this situation - knowledge is power, as they say and has got me out of the hot water before I fell into it before now....
                        Still, up to everyone to make their own decisions.
                        No one ever said that breaking the law doesn't pay somtimes.

                        I guess it comes down to whether you think it is the right thing to do and whether you are prepared to risk a criminal record.

                        And of course, whether the alternative is just too much hard work, namely to contact the utilities as soon as the tenant leaves so that they know to transfer the supply to your name or to that of the new tenant.

                        Preston

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Preston View Post
                          Well, I'm a bit confused by your argument.

                          Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act makes it clear that it applies to individuals.

                          On the issue of transmission, my understanding is that this ends when the information reaches the intended recipient.

                          Your extract from the Postal Services Act simply introduces another set of offences to the discussion doesn't it?

                          With regard to 85(3), I know from previous experience that the Royal Mail advise a recipient of any wrongly delivered mail or mail addressed to a previous occupant to put the said mail back into the mail system to allow the process of delivery to continue. So, if a landlord receives mail addressed to a former tenant, has it been wrongly delivered for the purposes of the Postal Services Act? I know none of the case law on this issue, but if it would be so regarded, then landlords who open mail to former tenants would be commiting an offence under this Act as well as under Investigatory Powers Act.

                          Will be interesting to see if anyone with knowledge of the case law is able to enlighten us further on both Acts.

                          Preston
                          I think its pretty aparent that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 only applies to public bodies/government/police/inteligence services etc and not joe public. Im affraid I cant find anything in section 1 that would apply to joe public or any individual not attached to one of the above bodies/organisations.

                          Therefore the relevant piece of legislation is the Postal Services act, and in particular the section listed. While im sure you will agree, its very nice of the post office to give advice, its not really what we are dicussing here. In terms of the postal service act 84 (3 );

                          (3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.

                          I am sure you will agree, the key points are intending to act to a persons detriment and without reasonable excuse. I thinks its quite clear that the first hasnt been fulfilled in this case and a reasonable person would suggest the second has.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Planner View Post
                            I think its pretty aparent that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 only applies to public bodies/government/police/inteligence services etc and not joe public. Im affraid I cant find anything in section 1 that would apply to joe public or any individual not attached to one of the above bodies/organisations.
                            Exactly where is this made apparent?

                            Section 1 (1) reads:

                            1. Unlawful interception.— (1) It shall be an offence for a person intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission by means of—
                            (a)a public postal service; or
                            (b)a public telecommunication system

                            (My highlighting).

                            Originally posted by Planner View Post
                            Therefore the relevant piece of legislation is the Postal Services act, and in particular the section listed. While im sure you will agree, its very nice of the post office to give advice, its not really what we are dicussing here. In terms of the postal service act 84 (3 );

                            (3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.

                            I am sure you will agree, the key points are intending to act to a persons detriment and without reasonable excuse. I thinks its quite clear that the first hasnt been fulfilled in this case and a reasonable person would suggest the second has.
                            You are right that advice on a website is not an authoritative statement of the law. I have pointed out twice that I am not familiar with the case law in this area. I mentioned the advice because it may be an indication that the posting of a letter through a letter box may not always be the end of the delivery process.

                            The other conditions are or course important. Again, it will be interesting to hear more about the relevant case law.

                            And I'm sorry, its not obvious to me at all that it would be reasonable to open a letter several months after a tenant has left the property on the basis that it revealed important information about a debt which they owed, especially when there are very simple methods available to deal with the issue at hand, namely contacting the utility companies and explaining that the tenant is no longer resident.

                            Interesting, though, that the CAB agree with my interpretation (the reference that MTG reminded us of).

                            Preston

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree it is a matter of choice. However it is not all about utilities. It is pretty easy to contact them at the end of a tenancy as you say. It is about all the other things people get up to....incurring debts at the address, setting up companies, being involved in all sorts of fraudulent stuff - it has all happened to me! How do you know until the baliffs / debt collectors turn up? Is it fair to the new tenant to subject them to this. Of course they have no right to touch the new tenants stuff but I have been in the situation of trying to persuade someone that I was not the person with the debt. Understandably I suppose (given that that is what most debtors will do) he would not believe me and a walking possession order was put on MY goods...yes I sorted it out pretty sharpish and received an apology from the boss but it was a pain...Once again, it is up to you to decide.
                              Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

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