Former tenant – unsettled Utilities bill

by Readers Question

9:31 AM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Former tenant – unsettled Utilities bill

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Former tenant – unsettled Utilities bill

I had a tenant leave me with little notice, even though the agreement between us clearly stated that either party had to notify the other in writing at least a full month before terminating the agreement. They left within two weeks saying that they couldn’t contact me via my mobile phone even although they had my house phone number and my address. Former tenant - unsettled Utilities bill

We denied them their deposit back due to the fact that they had broken 3 doors (one was missing altogether) , the oven door was broken and a kitchen drawer was broken as well. They left a lounge suite, bed and some other things in the back courtyard despite telling me that they were hiring a van to remove it but then said that they had called the council for a free uplift. On calling the council myself, after this was not picked up, I realised that they had not arranged that either.

They left no forwarding address and maintained that all bills were fully paid and up to date. I later learned that they still owed over £100 to the Electrical Utilities provider. I managed to get in touch via telephone with my tenants to raise this and they said of course they had every intention of settling this but never have.

I now have the utilities provider chasing me for the outstanding amount, where do I stand here?

I have provided the electricity company with phone numbers for them to try and contact the former tenants.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Bob


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Mark Alexander

9:43 AM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi Bob

How much did it cost you to repair the damage and can you prove that?

I ask this question as you should always consider the prospect of your tenant raising a complaint with your deposit protection provider.

If the damage and the costs of putting it right can be proven absolutely then, and only then, should you proceed to retain the deposit. If there is a surplus then you may wish to consider paying the utility company demand on behalf of your tenants too.

From what you have said though I suspect that the damage deposit will be insufficient to cover everything. On that basis I would put up a fight with the utility company if I were you. Presumably you had the bills transferred back into your name when the tenants had left and you supplied the utility company with meter readings, in writing at that time. If you did, then on the face of it, I can see no reason why the utility company can hold you accountable for paying somebody else's bills as their contract is highly unlikely to allow for this.

If you are left out of pocket in respect of the damages then I suggest you have a read of this article >>> http://www.property118.com/good-debt-recovery-agent/44679/
.

Robert Cameron

13:14 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Thanks Mark,

yes the deposit had to be used to buy 3 new doors, a new oven and refresh the lighting and re-paper and paint the whole place as they were not the most house proud of tenants. We also invested some of our own cash in new Bathroom fittings, shower unit and flooring and of course the decorating.

We also made sure that the utility company were aware that the property was empty for a couple of months until we found new tenant and decorated etc.

I guess my main point is that as the Landlord am i accountable for the debt of my tenants should they disappear without fully settling their bills. Is that somehow a pitfall of letting , you can't force them to give you a forwarding address.

rgds

Bob

Gary Nock

13:15 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

The utility companies will try it on. If the bills are not in your name you cannot be held responsible for them. Watch out they do not try and install pre pay meters which they then load the tariff to claw the money back. If you get chased and the debt collectors start sending letters I have a beauty of a standard letter threatening hell and damnation under various acts if they persist. Do not pay.

Gary Nock

13:17 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Forgot to add that I can email you a copy of the "go away" letter if needed.

Mark Alexander

13:29 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Why not post a copy of the letter here Gary?

Robert Cameron

13:29 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Gary, thanks for this

yes if you could send me a copy of the "go away" letter that would be great. They have sent two or three letters via a solicitor now and are wording it in such a way as to say that my wife was a former tenant of the property which she was not. They are also calling.

many thanks

Bob

Yvette Newbury

14:13 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Bob - assuming the utility bills were correctly registered in the names of your tenants then you are not liable to pay them. Do your tenancy agreements state that the tenant is liable to pay the utilities? A number of times I have been asked to send on the tenancy agreement which confirms this and have often found this settles the matter. However once the water company stated that this was not sufficient, and that the water could only be in the name of the tenant if the council tax was also in the name of the tenant (?) Luckily I had confirmation that the council tax was in the name of the tenant and this satisfied the water company, but as this was a year or more since the tenant had left it wasn't the easiest matter to resolve.

Robert Cameron

14:44 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Thanks Yvette,

yes the bills are in the name of the tenant and there are also stipulations in the agreement regarding council tax,water and utilities.

thanks for this.

Bob

Gary Nock

19:01 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Mark/ Bob. - as requested a cut and paste of my letter. Please use it in the spirit it is given. Send it either recorded delivery or obtain a certificate of posting. I have never had any further problems once they get this.

Regards,

Gary

Dear Sirs,

We refer to your contact regarding the above account. We are informing you that we do not recognise the debt and therefore it is DISPUTED.

(property) was occupied by xxxxxxxx from (date)to (date) We have no connection with Mr xxxxxxx and no knowledge as to his whereabouts/ we have a forwarding address of xxxxxxx ( delete / add whatever applies)

We would point out that under the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidance (updated October 2011) it states that it is unfair to send demands for payment to an individual when it is uncertain that they are the debtor in question.

We would also remind you that the OFT states under their Guidance that it is ‘unfair’ to pursue third parties for payment when they are not liable and that it is deceptive and unfair in not ceasing collection activity whilst investigating a reasonably queried or disputed debt.

Furthermore, if you ignore and/or disregard claims that debts have been settled or are ‘disputed’ and continue to make unjustified demands for payment then this can amount to physical or psychological harassment, as detailed in the OFT Guidance.

We are also familiar with Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act.

As we dispute this debt you refer to then we trust you will make no further contact with us or our tenants unless you can satisfy us that this debt exists and that we or they are liable.

Any further contact in pursuance of this debt will constitute an offence under Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970. The matter will be referred to both our Trading Standards office in the Borough of xxxxxx, and also your local trading standards in your area. A letter of referral will also be sent to the Office of Fair Trading for their information and consideration of the removal of any licences you may hold for the collection of debt. We shall also notify the local police so that they can consider offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The Office of The Information Commissioner will also be notified in relation to offences against the Data Protection Act for continuing to hold data that you now know is incorrect. We will also lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service and your trade association, if appropriate, the Credit Services Association

If we receive any communication from another debt collection agency then it will be evident that you have sold this debt on with the knowledge that it is disputed. Should this occur then we will report you to the government bodies and trade association detailed above.

A record of this notification has been placed on file. Should any further contact by yourselves take place in relation to this debt by telephone, visit, letter, (other than an acknowledgement of this letter) or any other means then these will be recorded and will form part of the evidence against you for the respective bodies to consider.

Any legal action by you will be vigorously defended and will result in costs against you in the County Court for any actions against us or future tenants.

We would therefore demand that you do not send any further bills in the name of xxxxxxx to this address or ours. This is to prevent the unlawful harassment of ourselves or future tenants. Any further communications that we have to send in this matter to you will be charged in the sum of £25 per letter in addition to the referrals to the respective bodies.

We now await written confirmation that this matter is now closed, you are not to contact us by telephone, instead by letter only.

We look forward to your reply by return.

Yours faithfully,

SCN Properties

Jeremy Smith

19:13 PM, 20th December 2013
About 7 years ago

If the utility bills were changed to the tenants' name(s), usually by the tenants' request via a phone call to them, when they moved in, then the contract each utility company has for providing their service is with the tenant directly, and not with you.

Gary is right, watch out for them trying to install pre-pay meters, apparently once they are in it's almost impossible to get them removed.
It might be worth you settling the electric bill just to avoid that problem, of course they can't do it with the gas or water, thank goodness !!

My friend owned a house where the tenants let the supplier in to fit the pre-payment meter, unknown to the landlord - it was a nightmare to get it removed, they wanted to retain a VERY Large deposit from him, this went on for a couple of years, until he could prove a good track record of regular payments.
It was a property with no gas, and the tenants left the electric (wet-radiator-system) heating on 24 hrs a day !
A semi, 3 outside walls and it was a solid wall house, no cavity.

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