Sub-tenant absconded, who's liable for the bills he didn't pay?

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    Sub-tenant absconded, who's liable for the bills he didn't pay?

    I rent an unfurnished two bedroom flat. When I moved in 2 years ago, I was working in Belgium, and also rented a flat there. I needed a base in the UK for when I was home at weekends, so I could have the kids, and for occasional stays in the holidays etc.

    To avoid the UK flat being empty, I sublet it to a friend who was away most weekends. He fed the cats, and, in return for a very cheap rent, paid the utility bills and council tax.

    Some 6 months ago, I discovered I was to be made redundant, and discussed this with my housemate - he knew I'd be moving back. About 2 months ago, we fell out, and, when I returned the following weekend, he had moved out and left his keys behind. His e-mail address has been deleted, and his mobile number goes straight to voicemail - I guess he's chucked it away. The few mutual friends we had don't know where he's gone either, although they suspect Spain or Greece.

    I have now moved in permanently, having been made redundant in Belgium. Last week, I received the electricity bill, addressed to 'the occupier'. On opening it I discovered that not only was there £700 outstanding, but also that the estimated meter reading on the bill way underestimated usage. I would imagine the bill will be closer to £2k. The gas bill arrived a couple of days later, and the situation is similar. I have also checked with the local council, and it is my name registered for council tax purposes (although not by me!), and needless to say, this hasn't been paid either. I suspect the water rates will be the same. It would appear that despite the agreement being that he paid the bills, he has not paid any at all, and I am now facing 2 years worth of utilities and council tax, which I can't afford to pay.

    Does anyone happen to know where I stand on these bills? They were never in my name, and I have never been on the electoral register at this address. I have probably spent no more than 40 days here between signing the tenancy agreement and living here permanently about a month ago. I have a fairly informal letter from him agreeing to pay the utility bills dated 2 years ago, but is that likely to be legally sufficient?

    Advice from anyonne with knowledge of such things would be greatly appreciated!

    #2
    Did you have a written (and signed) tenancy agreement with your tenant?
    I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

    Comment


      #3
      Well, sort of: I wrote the terms down, and we both signed it to say we agreed, but it's not a formal, signed tenancy agreement in the sense the one I signed with my landlord is, if you see what I mean? By that I mean it's not prepared by a solicitor or anything. I know, I know, it was foolish of me and I should have known better.... it simply states that I'll pay the full rent (£650) he'll pay me £150 and pay the utility bills...

      If it's any use, there's nothing to tie me to this house over the past two years, in the sense tht all my business documents, my bank account etc went to my Belgian address, not here - one of the reasons I didn't find out until too late, I had no interest in the mail which came here! I say that not because I plan to do a runner, but to demonstrate that I didn't actually live here full time!

      Comment


        #4
        I fear that you do not have enough evidence to lay the blame at his door, the utility companies will believe you were there and will chase you accordingly.

        You could give it a couple of months for him to establish a footprint elsewhere then set a tracing agency onto him then sue him.

        The piece of paper you both signed may be viewed as an AST so could possibly be used as evidence in court.

        Did your landlord know about this arrangement?
        I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

        Comment


          #5
          double post
          I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

          Comment


            #6
            I believe that as you held the tenancy (that kinda ties you to the place - with 6" chains!) then your 'friend' was in effect a lodger.

            The 'agreement' you had is a useful piece of paper - as jta says, trace your 'friend' and pursue him for a fair %age of the utility bills - presumably 71%. If a tracing agency can't find him (use a no-find-no-fee) then you can serve papers at his last known address - presumably the rental address. If he is in Spain or Greece, that makes things more difficult, but it is still possible to enforce judgements across the EU.

            Unfortunately, I suspect you will have to settle all these bills with the suppliers to prevent CCJs being registered against your name.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Snorkerz View Post
              I believe that as you held the tenancy (that kinda ties you to the place - with 6" chains!) then your 'friend' was in effect a lodger.
              That's got to be debatable, he was in Belgium. He seems very lucky that the freeloader moved out when he did.

              Sorry OP, you have been taken for a ride, hopefully you will learn from the experience.
              I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

              Comment


                #8
                jta - are we debating the distinction between lodger/tenant, or idiotproof's links to the property in question?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thanks for the advice everybody, it rather looks like I'm facing several thousand quid in utility bills and council tax.... hopefully they'll all accept me paying the arrears in chunks, as I don't have £4k immediately handy! I'll have to call them all in the week and find out the damage.... and to think I thought I'd found the ideal arrangement for while I was working overseas, it never crossed my mind that he hadn't paid any of the bills, and I wonder whether the falling out was to get away on relatively friendly terms before I found out. You live and learn. I will post back here after I've spoken to the companies concerned to let people know how they view it! Thanks again....

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Fingers Xed!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      You've declared the rental income you DID get from him to HMRC? If not suggest you sort that out also. NB as a non-resident Landlord (non-resident in UK) you should have sorted out arrangements with HMRC first ...
                      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


                        #12
                        If utility bills are addressed to 'the Occupier' suggests a fishing trip ie no name on account or previous bills received no reply.
                        Contact utility, explain property is rented and as a recent occupant you are receiving these demands. Request names of account holders for last 2 yrs. They may decline citing DPA. If your name given as the last account holder you are prob stuffed since you did not app terminate the AST or utility account.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Snorkerz View Post
                          jta - are we debating the distinction between lodger/tenant, or idiotproof's links to the property in question?
                          I can't see how the guy could be a lodger seeing that OP was a non resident landlord.

                          Mariner's suggestion carries some merit if OP can persuade the utilities that he was indeed a tenant, he might just get away with it.
                          I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by jta View Post
                            I can't see how the guy could be a lodger seeing that OP was a non resident landlord.
                            Having looked at section 17 of Schedule 1 (which I must admit confuses me, so I could be wrong) I do agree that OP was a non-resident landlord with regard to an AST . However, I don't think he was a tenant, because he didn't have exclusive use of any of the property - OP lived there at weekends.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Snorkerz View Post
                              Having looked at section 17 of Schedule 1 (which I must admit confuses me, so I could be wrong) I do agree that OP was a non-resident landlord with regard to an AST . However, I don't think he was a tenant, because he didn't have exclusive use of any of the property - OP lived there at weekends.
                              Didn't spot that bit, it puts a whole different light on it.
                              I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

                              Comment

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