13:25 PM, 14th August 2018, About 3 years ago 40
One of my long term tenants left a property on 26th January 2018, but advised his electricity supplier that he left on 1st January and provided a fraudulent reading. The first I knew of this was in March when EON charged me £126 for the ‘unoccupied’ period from January 1st to 25th.
When I queried this (short version) I was advised that only a ‘check-out’ document signed by the tenant would be acceptable as evidence that the 26th date was correct. We had no such document as the tenant left a few hours earlier than expected and clearly did so as he know he had lied to EON. We have no other similar differences of dates with other utility suppliers or the council ref council tax who would be on this straightaway if it were true.
We provided 4 witness statements from people who knew the date the tenant left. One from a person who helped him to move, one from the new tenant who had visited the property on occasions before the 26th. Also, it would have been impossible to use £126 of electricity in 25 days even if occupied which it would not have been. We offered to get the statements provided as Statutory Declarations or Sworn Affidavits but EON were adamant that only the ‘check-out’ document would be acceptable to them.
I appealed internally but all EON managers declined to change their position.
I then appealed to the Ombudsman. Bottom line (short story) – they supported EON and said that they were within their rights to decline any other evidence and I had to pay the money. They said that this was in effect a third party dispute between me and the former tenant, which of course in law it is not.
What is very disturbing is that none of the EON people or the Ombudsman were familiar with the terms AST, Statutory Declarations and Sworn Affidavits! How can they therefore make informed and unbiased decisions?
The other galling thing is that the former tenant changed to EON as supplier, I have never had dealings with them, yet they charge me money (I do know that they have a right to do so for void periods) as they say I am responsible for payment, yet when I argue the facts about usage etc they state that they cannot discuss anything as their customer is the tenant and covered by data protection!
Am I cracking up? Am I right in thinking that the world has gone mad? Are the lunatics actually running the asylum?
The serious aspect is that the Ombudsman Service by their ruling are stating that any tenant can lie about moving dates and they will accept this evidence in ‘good faith’ and that the landlord has to pay for any shortfall!
Personally I do believe that this principle has to be challenged but as the Ombudsman person said, their decision is final and cannot be appealed!
Is their anywhere to go with this? It does seem to be an issue that has great implications for all landlords. And with this ruling, I do believe that the Ombudsman Service is indeed not ‘fit for purpose’.
I have had contact from an Energy Ombudsman Spokesman who responded to this readers question as below:
“Disputed liability between landlords and tenants is an issue that crops up frequently here at the Energy Ombudsman.
“Our view is that the landlord or owner of the property is responsible for any gas and electricity charges, unless they can demonstrate that a tenant was responsible for the disputed period.
“In the absence of appropriate information to demonstrate that responsibility lies elsewhere, it is reasonable for the energy supplier to seek payment from the landlord.
“Landlords are running a business and, as such, have a greater responsibility than tenants to ensure they obtain and retain relevant documentation and evidence, especially as these problems can arise several months after a tenant has moved out.
“Without access to the precise details of Colin’s case, it isn’t possible to comment further. In answer to Colin’s question about escalation, our website https://www.ombudsman-services.org/ contains information on our service standards and complaints procedure for anyone who is unhappy with our service.”
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