EDF forced entry into property with warrant on tenant!
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by Readers Question

A year ago

EDF forced entry into property with warrant on tenant!

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EDF forced entry into property with warrant on tenant!

We had some tenants of a property, who moved out at the end of the tenancy. We revisited the property later and found that EDF had drilled out a lock and entered our property about ten days after the Tenants moved out and changed the meters. They were set up so that if any new tenants had come in they would have been paying off the old tenants bills of £3000 (yes three thousand pounds).

EDF have after some pressure changed the meters back to billing in arrears ones, enabling us to rent the property.

They say they had a warrant. I pointed out that the warrant would be addressed to the Tenant. They refuse to produce it. Of course they must have a right to enter my property – the tenants no longer were in possession. Its no good for them to have rights against the tenant under the warrant – they must have rights against us to allow entry. We have claimed damages in correspondence for trespass.

Anybody have a similar experience? With what result?

EJ

 

Comments

ray selley

A year ago

I Had a similar situation.Tenants left and when my letting agents went to read the meter which was situated in a communal cupboard it was missing and the supply capped.I contacted the gas supplier and was told they never remove meters and it must have stolen for its scrap value.After dozens of phone calls it turns out that it was removed for none payment .I was also told that the gas supplier no longer need a warrant to remove their meters when the customer is in arrears.I had to turn the next tenant away as i knew it is was going to be a long process to reinstate a gas meter.In my case it took 3 months and i lost nearly £4000 in rent

Tracy Conner

A year ago

It's my understanding a warrant is required to enter the property and to date representatives are still attending magistrates court daily to seek such warrants. The utility companies have a procedure in place to contact/ visit and warn the bill payer. They tell the court what steps have been taken to recover the debt and the magistrates can refuse the warrant if the grounds are not sufficient ( based on the evidence given and any questions the court may have). The court is assisting the utility company to recover debt without knowing the position between landlord and tenant.
I have had my share of problems with tenants running up debts and now know that if a tenant is in rent arrears then it's likely they have debts they aren't managing all round, which might trigger an inspection that takes in a meter read/ check. Or if that's a problem, get your gas safety engineer to cast an eye over it if he is due. In my experience such tenants have also skipped from one utility company to another, used more than one top up card in a meter and put the supply back into my name mid-tenancy. I have had to deal with a lot of unwanted admin and a little financial loss over this but I would be most interested to hear if any landlord has managed to get compensation for trespass or damage. From what I know I doubt it but would be delighted to find out it has happened for anyone.

Jerry Jones

A year ago

I wonder if some kind of notice fixed by the meters would have any legal strength in requiring the utility company to correspond with the landlord, if only in strengthening a subsequent claim against them. Really there should be a mechanism in place to record the ownership of a rented property for the benefit of utility companies
.

I had a real battle with EDF energy to get to accept that property had had a tenant in situ for 12 months and in that time the bill was aound £2500. Although my letting agent had informed them of the tenant moving in and I contacted them middle tenancy after I'd taken over the management and saw that the bill was still in my name. It took a further 12 months before they would accept this to be the case and had the e-mail in copies of the tenancy agreement 5-6 times. I now make sure that all communications with utility suppliers is by e-mail, copy the tenants on the e-mail and include photos of the meter reading so there can be no doubt going forward.

Jerry Jones

A year ago

My letting agents had a very similar experience with nPower on letting a property that had been empty for some months. Not helped by the previous letting agents having moved the account into my name (on key/card meters)

rob david

A year ago

Recurringly depressing situation. Tenant clocks a fortune in utilities then slinks off into the sunset, the reality being the landlord and/or property is left with a liability.
Short of demanding an unrealistic bond one alternative is to use Buylec sub-meters; you always have the utility account and the tenant buys from you either on a prepay basis or with a periodic credit ceiling which you’re able to read, control and vary from home.
If nothing else it negates any administration, great in cases of frequent tenant turnovers eg HMO's.

Reply to the comment left by "rob david" at "25/04/2016 - 13:33":

In non-HMO situations, surely the sub-meter puts the landlord in a worse position? Normally, the landlord is not liable for use on an account in a tenant's name. As long as the landlord properly records opening and closing readings they should be fine. (Mine are logged by an inventory clerk). The sub-meter turns the landlord a tariff collector for the energy company .

As regards utility companies being a law unto themselves, EDF have been pursing me for 5 years now for £5,000 usage on a meter which does not exist at the property. They insist that they have read it several times so I have asked them to show me where it is. They are unable to show me and claim I may have hidden it from them - yet new readings continue to be logged every few months. There are seven properties in the block and seven meters (which EDF has inspected) - none of which is the one they are claiming usage on. To complicate matters, the address they claim the usage is at does not refer accurately to any of the flats.

I found the ombudsman painful. They berated EDF for their handling of everything but nevertheless decided that I should allow EDF into all seven tenanted flats (including neighbouring properties) to satisfy themselves that there was no hidden meter. I agreed to try to arrange this with the respective tenants on the condition that, if nothing suspicious was found (as I knew would be the case), EDF would halt all demands and that would be the end of the matter until any further evidence turned up. EDF refused so I never allowed the inspections.

They now have LCS on my back who are claiming that they have evidence that I have been living in the property - which is utter nonsense.

So long as the tenancy agreement states that the tenant is responsible for utility bills the landlord should not be liable whatever the tenants debts are. I have had this in several cases but at worst once a copy of the tenancy agreement and start and end of tenancy meter readings are emailed the utility company accepts you are not responsible and the departing tenant is.

Noting meter readings on the inventory and taking photos of the meter at start and end of tenancy are definately best practise but so far I've always had the readings stated in an email or over the phone accepted. If its a key meter its best to take all the readings not just the usage one.

I also put a clause in my tenancy agreement banning key meters being fitted without written permission (not that that stops many) and stating that the tenant will be charged the cost of refitting a credit meter at the end of the tenancy if a key meter is fitted - of course this does assume the deposit is not already eaten up but does cover you for the £60 odd some companies charge if not.

I have found that SSE will replace the meter for free if you either already have another account with them (such as a landlords supply for common areas) or are moving the account to them (the last time I needed to do this was about 6 months ago so no guarantees).

Utility companies now seem to make a practice of asking who the landlord is when the tenant rings up to say they are leaving and put the account in your name making you liable for the standing charge while the property is empty, they don't seem to worry about your address though and just send all bills to the property. To avoid nasty suprises I always email utility companies with tenants names and readings for a change of tenancy plus my correspondance address if there will be any void.

If you have a new tenant moving in immediately it is possible to ring the utilty company and request a code to immediately program a new key obtainable from a local source (you will need to ask them where locally can do this as its not common), this can mean a lot of running around. However so long as the new tenant informs the utility supplier of the current meter readings they can use the old key and will be sent a new key within a few days and refunded any debt charges that have been applied in the short term.

Dr Monty
I had a similar situation with British Gas which went on for over 10 years after I bought a house converted into flats and put in new supplies.
In the end after escallating it to a complaint and explaining many times the supplies had been replaced and the meter serial number they had on the bills was not present in the property I got through to someone with some technical knowlegde and they worked out that the MPAN (meter serial number) for a meter which had been removed when the supplies were relocated had not been cancelled and they had been estimating readings for this "ghost" meter. All they had to do was delete this meter number from the system.!

Reply to the comment left by "Darlington Landlord" at "26/04/2016 - 22:08":

DL

Yes - sounds similar. I converted these myself in 2007 and have explained this in minute detail to EDF and the ombudsman. I took it to formal complaint and then to the ombudsman. The complicating factor is that the new readings are not estimated - they are actual - so they are convinced that the meter exists somewhere because it is being read. Hence they won't delete it.

The original single supply was replaced with a six port manifold (and we kept another single supply from the property next door - seven in total). EDF have a record of installing the six new meters but not of removing one. I think someone most likely took the old meter and installed it at another property and that is where it is being read. But of course, they say that they have no way of asking their meter readers to cross check meter numbers with addresses so cannot say where it is.

I'd simply ignore it and let it go to court but they are regularly putting letters through one of my tenants' door, threatening to break in to the house to disconnect his supply (despite his meter being located in an unlocked cabinet in the porch).

I found the ombudsman's logic quite staggering.

Reply to the comment left by "Dr Monty Drawbridge " at "27/04/2016 - 16:54":

Dr Monty

If you let EDF into all the flats and they are wrong surely you should be due some compensation!.

Interestingly - my development was in 2007 too. I had major problems with the various utility subcontracters responsible for the utilities installation- unlike a very similar development I did in 2000 which went smoothly, but later everything was opened up to supposedly more efficient competetion. I wonder if we were both the victims of this!.

The company responsible for installing the electric meters had at least 6 appointments before they were all installed - sometimes they were no shows and sometimes they had the wrong meters! They reused some old MPAN numbers which caused admin problems which to be honest I can't remember in detail but eventually they had to be changed to new MPANs. This makes me wonder if its the meter or the MPAN number that has been reused in your case. I was dealing with a Newcastle based company integrated utility services ltd/CE electric UK funding company. It may be worth going back to whoever was allocating your new meters and asking about the mystery meter's MPAN which should be on the bills.

My ghost electric meter was in a previous inhabitants name but addressed to one of the flats with threats of entering and installing a credit meter despite the tenant having their own meter and account with a perfect payment history. I persevered to resolve it to stop it being a problem for my good tenant.

Unfortunately we are the ones put out when the system goes wrong and your simplest solution could be just to let them check all the flats despite the injustice.

My other utility "balls up" for this property included;

The gas meter installers allocated the meter numbers wrongly to the flat numbers despite my plumber clearly labling the meter boxes - which took numerous calls over 12 months to sort out.

The water board billed one of my tenants for another property (which used a lot of water) whose meter number was a subset of his - (2 digits shorter!) and only admitted they had got it wrong when I insisted they send a meter reader to read it with me.

And they say we are hands off investors! LOL

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