Landlord is withholding gas supply

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    Landlord is withholding gas supply

    Hi again all, another quickie hopefully!

    A tenant moves into a property with an LPG tank for the gas supply. The landlord arranges topping up the gas, and bills the tenant accordingly. The AST states that the tank must be left full upon leaving. On moving in, the landlord tops up the tank, and invoices the tenant for this top up. The tenant refuses to pay this bill, on the basis that they have to leave the tank full, so they should not have to pay for it being full. The landlord is now refusing to get gas supplied until this invoice is paid. Other points of note: tenant has paid every other LPG bill, just not the initial one, and the tenant is also in rent arrears.

    Questions:

    - What is the legality, generally, of withholding the gas supply in this way due to arrears(whether disputed or not) of the gas?
    - Presumably, the gas cannot be withheld due to the rent arrears alone?
    - Am I right in my personal thinking that they should pay the bill, as the term making them top the tank up prior to vacating is unenforceable? And the gas they will be paying for is, after all, gas they will be using?
    Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

    #2
    The landlord is wrong to charge the tenant for topping up the tank at the start of the tenancy.

    If the tenant has to leave the tank full at the end of the tenancy then the landlord will be charging the tenant for gas that the tenant has not used.

    The way forward would be for the landlord to apologise and revoke the initial top up bill. The landlord would be on dodgy ground to claim this against rent arrears! Hopefully putting things right will alleviate the bad will caused by this landlord error.

    Point out the rent arrears and seek the proposals of the tenant to bring the rent up to date. As the previous records for invoice payment have been good the rent may be being withheld as a protest.

    Suggest you will top up the tank again when the rent arrears are cleared but until then it may be best for the tenant to make arrangements directly with the supplier for sufficient supplies to meet his needs.

    What is the volume and value of the contents of a full tank and how frequently does the tank need refilling? Is the tenancy coming to an end soon?
    Vic - wicked landlord
    Any advice or suggestions given in my posts are intended for guidance only and not a substitute for completing full searches on this forum, having regard to the advice of others, or seeking appropriate professional opinion.
    Without Plain English Codes of Practice and easy to complete Prescribed Forms the current law is too complex and is thus neither fair to good tenants nor good landlords.

    Comment


      #3
      I wouldn't ask this tenant for the disputed amount: if the tenant is required to leave a full tank at the end of the tenancy, then they should be given a full tank to begin with. Conversely, if he was supplied with a half full tank or whatever the gauge measured, at the start, then that's how it should be returned at the end, surely?
      BTW, being a really thoughtful LL, I provided a recent tenant with a full tank at the start but I'll never do this again - they've used up about £400 worth of oil and not replaced it on vacating. Providing a full tank is akin to saying "here's £650 but I trust you to pay me back". This amount could be taken out of the deposit, but in this case the damage and dilapidations exceed the deposit without even adding on the oil cost. Yes, I know all LLs hand over huge amounts of money anyway by giving strangers possession of their properties, but full oil tanks .... well, that's just adding to any probs if there is a problem tenant.
      Last edited by catcuddler; 08-02-2007, 18:12 PM. Reason: grammar

      Comment


        #4
        Our property has an LPG tank. The tenant bought off us the amount which was in the tank when he went in. When he vacated this week we bought back of him what was remaining. Simple.
        Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

        Comment


          #5
          Some points:

          - First off, I am NOT the landlord - I would never consider it appropriate as a landlord to act in this fashion.

          - The rent arrears are not being withheld due to the gas - they have just fallen behind.

          - The landlord is in my opinion trying to pull a fast one clearly. One way or another they have to give. I just suspect it will be substantially easier for the tenant(legally and realistically) to prevent the enforcement of the term forcing them to top up the tank at the end, rather than refusing to pay for gas they are in fact using. Am I correct in this?

          - That is my first question. Second, does this count as the same as if a landlord had a gas supply cut off from a property? Or, as he is in effect either a supplier or a middleman, does he have a right to do so?
          Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

          Comment


            #6
            Why doesn't the tenant just order, and pay for the gas delivery?

            (Apologies if that doesn't apply in England for some reason, but that's all tenants do here [oz]. The landlord doesn't come into it.)
            Now signature free.

            Comment


              #7
              My tenants buy their own gas during the tenancy from whoever they like and pay their own bills. In your tenants position I would just order some gas! Also withholding gas (or power) is harrassment of the highest order is it not? The LL could be getting himself into hot water (or would be if there was any gas to heat it...)
              Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

              Comment


                #8
                - That is what the tenant is doing - he was not initially aware that he could get the gas direct.

                - IG, I agree. But the question is more is the landlord actually withholding gas? He is simply refusing to continue a previous arrangement in arranging to top up the gas, not preventing the tenant from getting gas. Therefore I am unsure if it would constitute harrassment.

                It should be noted at this point that I have found out that this arrangement is not mentioned in the AST in any way, nor in any other written document the tenant has.
                Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Good point Mr Shed. Certainly if he were withholding gas due to arrears this would be an offence (as would cutting off the power or mains gas). However as you rightly point out tenant can go elsewhere so LL is not preventing a gas delivery. Tenant may find by shopping around that he can buy gas more cheaply than the LL does - we recently bought about 4p/litre cheaper than our tenant did by negotiating the price down! If I understand the situation correctly the LL should pay to fill the tank and the tenant should leave it full according to this arrangement - therefore the tenant is right not to pay to top the tank up to full on entry?
                  Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Unfortunately nobody has yet said that the landlord is acting unlawfully by withhholding in effect the gas supply to the premises which will be used for cooking and possibly central heating too.

                    This is in breach of possibly S.11 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 but definitely the Protection from Eviction act 1977. If the AST states the landlord will supply the gas (even though he bills the tenant separately) then he can't fail to honour the contract, even if there are rent arrears. I can understand the landlord's frustration but this I'm afraid is where the system breaks down.
                    The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Paul, does it make a difference that the AST does not state this?
                      Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The errror for demanding the initial top up cost plus the evidence that the landlord has arranged redeliveries and invoiced the cost to the tenant, and the tenant has paid such costs, in my view documents that contract exists even though such contract details are not in the AST.

                        Wonder if Paul will concur.
                        Vic - wicked landlord
                        Any advice or suggestions given in my posts are intended for guidance only and not a substitute for completing full searches on this forum, having regard to the advice of others, or seeking appropriate professional opinion.
                        Without Plain English Codes of Practice and easy to complete Prescribed Forms the current law is too complex and is thus neither fair to good tenants nor good landlords.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by MrShed View Post
                          Paul, does it make a difference that the AST does not state this?
                          There seems to be enough evidence to show the landlord supplies the calor gas and recovers the costs from the tenant so the landlord is clearly in charge of the supply. It won't make any difference that it's not in the AST. An AST is not an all singing and all dancing watertight definition of terms as you know.
                          The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

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