Landlord retrospectively charging for heating bills - including for previous TAs

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    Landlord retrospectively charging for heating bills - including for previous TAs

    We have a fairly complex situation that we could do with some advice on. Stick with me - I'll try and make it make sense!

    Oct 08: Tenant A and Tenant B move into the flat, via a letting agent on an initial 6 month AST. They are told (verbally - no written evidence) that heating is included within the rent. Heating barely works for 3 months of this tenancy, LA/LL eventually send someone round but they do very little and it's Spring by now anyway so the building turns off the heating.

    March 09: Tenant A and Tenant B sign NEW 6 month AST as LL has sacked LA and intends to manage the property himself. Still no mention of heating bills. LL is charged for the heating by Managing Agents as it's a communal system.

    Sept 09: Tenant B moves out (and receives FULL deposit back), Tenant C moves in. Tenant A and C sign a NEW 9 months AST. Heating does not work yet again. Reported early in November, at which time the LL mentions how extortionate the service charges are at the building but does not mention heating charges. The heating eventually gets fixed at the end of January 10.

    March 09: Tenant A and Tenant C give six weeks notice to leave at the end of the AST. We have concerns that he will try and cause problems so ensure everything is fully paid and confirmed and spend 12 hours cleaning the flat before vacating. We formally request the return of our deposit on May 31st.

    22 June 10: Tenants A and C receive a letter stating that he has returned £500 of the deposit but is keeping £900+ for heating bills dating back to Oct 08. In the letter he states 'having looked over your file I realise I have not invoiced you for this'.

    Can he do this? The bills relate to all three TAs, not just this most recent one. Tenant B is not being asked for any money at all, despite being resident for 11 months of this period when Tenant C lived elsewhere. We are not sure where we stand - we had NO idea these bills were due, or we would have paid them. We have always paid all bills on time, we simply didn't know we owed this as we were told it was included.

    Our deposit is protected with MyDeposits and we will raise a dispute with them as necessary.

    The question mark in our minds hinges on the fact that we were told it was included in the rent, and also that he has let 2 previous tenancies end as well as returned a full deposit with no mention of these charges. He has only now 'remembered' the charges after we have moved out.

    #2
    Can you clarify who's deposit was kept in the scheme?

    Was a new deposit protected with MyDeposits when tenant B moved out in 2009?

    Comment


      #3
      The deposit was re-protected under the scheme when Tenant C moved in, two months after the TA began as LL's father died and he was out of the country for a period of time.

      In the event, Tenant C reimbursed Tenant B for the cost of the deposit but it was protected under a new certificate.

      Comment


        #4
        I suspect your landlord can use your deposit for the utilities only from Sept 09.
        Before that, it was a different tenancy and the current deposit can only be used against the current tenancy.

        The landlord could, conceivably, sue you &/or tenant B for fuel before that date.

        Comment


          #5
          Even though we were told it was included in the rent and he NEVER mentioned it throughout nearly 2 years worth of tenancy agreements?

          It just seems wrong that on vacating the flat he can throw 2 years worth of retrospective bills at us.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by simon99 View Post
            Even though we were told it was included in the rent and he NEVER mentioned it throughout nearly 2 years worth of tenancy agreements?

            It just seems wrong that on vacating the flat he can throw 2 years worth of retrospective bills at us.
            Others with proper legal knowledge will comment, but as you have nothing in writing regarding the 'free' fuel then proving it in court may be difficult.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by simon99 View Post
              Even though we were told it was included in the rent and he NEVER mentioned it throughout nearly 2 years worth of tenancy agreements?

              It just seems wrong that on vacating the flat he can throw 2 years worth of retrospective bills at us.
              I agree with you, on the facts presented it is unfair but if it is written that you have to pay heating bills in your TA then you have to pay, and if it is written depending on how it is written then I believe one of you may be responsible for anyone and everyone else's part of the bills.

              That said, if verbally you were told that heating bills were included and you were all told this and stand up and say so or give statements supporting that position then your case at a court or in any dispute will be strengthened. A verbal agreement is still an agreement and the fact that there has been no charge of heating to any T would lend support to your claim.

              For example in your case you would point out that over the years at each quarter the LL has paid the heating bills, supporting the view that the bills were included. You would also point out that no T has ever been billed for heating costs. If the LL pursues this and I were in your position, I would dispute this matter. And I suspect the LL will have a tough case to prove his demands.

              If it goes to a dispute or a court and the case is found against you then you start to look closely at all the costs claimed to ensure the LL is not making money out of you and seek to apportion the actual costs amongst the T's both past and present.

              pm
              Before acting on forum advice, you may wish to consult an expert, someone who has all the relevant facts, and who accepts liability for their advice.

              Comment


                #8
                It would strengthen your case if you could also get in contact with Tennant B. He would be able to state, in court, that he wasnt ever charged with heating bills, and was given his full deposit back

                Comment


                  #9
                  I have already spoken to tenant B who immediately said “but that was included in the rent!” What really bothers me is that I believe the LL is now using the TA wording to extract this money from us dishonestly. I do not believe he would happily pay £900+ of heating charges over 19 months if his original intention was always that we should pay for them on top of the rent. Our relationship with him deteriorated in the last few months of the tenancy and we strongly suspect that when he realised he couldn’t keep our deposit for any cleaning/damages, he found another way to make us pay.

                  We have copies of letters from him to the managing agents last winter demanding a refund for the months when the heating wasn’t working during A & B’s tenancy. Interesting that he never discussed the issue of the money with us – you think that might have jogged his memory that he hadn’t invoiced us. He also had our “file” with him when he came to a meeting with all 3 tenants at the property in November to discuss the return of B’s deposit and the signing of A & C’s TA, and these costs were never mentioned.

                  This is the relevant clause in our TA (tenants A&C):

                  “To pay for all utility bills and in particular for the charges for gas, heating, hot water, electricity and power which shall be consumed or supplied on or to the Property during the tenancy and the amount of all charges made for the use of the telephone or broadband (if any) on the Property during the tenancy or a proper proportion of the amount of the rental or other recurring charges to be assessed according to the duration of the tenancy”

                  The next bit talks about gardens and chimneys (not applicable to this property) so we assumed this was just a general TA, not one specifically tailored to this property (should it have been?). Our TA is so long and complicated that I am sure if he intended for us to pay him separately for heating, there would be a specific clause in there about it. Perhaps this was stupid of us, but when the original LA insisted that there would be no additional charges due to the LL other than the rent, and the LL never asked us for anything other than rent, we assumed this was correct. To cap it all, LL is experienced and has a law degree, so we are really up against it here, and presumably he knows he can win this one in court – unless he is just trying it on. He says he is waiving 6 months worth of charges as the heating wasn't working properly for several months two years running, and I'm worried that if we challenge him he will retract this "goodwill offer", thus increasing the bill by a further £300 or so! I don’t in any way expect “free” heating and hot water, but I certainly don’t want to pay a dishonest LL for it twice.

                  Comment

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