Prepayment gas meter faults – tenant’s or agency/landlord’s responsibility?

by Readers Question

3 years ago

Prepayment gas meter faults – tenant’s or agency/landlord’s responsibility?

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Prepayment gas meter faults – tenant’s or agency/landlord’s responsibility?

I moved to the current flat as I tenant in May this year and I have been dealing with (not so helpful) agency only since then. Upon my arrival, I did not receive any instructions nor gas safety certificate as I was presented with the keys by an inventory person that knew nothing about the flat and was not from the agency.gas meter

Earlier this week I had no hot water/heating and, before I contacted the agency I checked and tried everything to enable the card (I only topped it up that day again). However, despite it showing that there was money, it also showed the sign ‘off’ next to the amount and the gas was not working. I then called the agency and explained the situation.

The agency sent the maintenance team to my flat on the day and explained to me that there was no money on the card and the maintenance team will invoice me with £75 shortly (without actually checking with me whether I tried to top up or not and without receiving a full feedback and a confirmation that it is in a working condition now). When I came back to my flat, the gas was still not working. I explained to the agency by email that the gas is still not working and that I do have money on my card, I even went back to the shop to top the card up again (and I have a proof that the payments were successful) and I took photos to show the proof that there are funds but the gas is still not working.
The agency sent the maintenance to my flat again next day and the maintenance team again said that the ‘there was no money on the card’ and ‘the heating is now working’ with no further explanation and disregarding my actions and queries.
I was then sent an invoice on the same day by the maintenance and told that if I didn’t pay in 7 days, the bill would rise to £150.

I personally do not see why I should pay for the bill when I did everything in my power to try and handle the meter before I called the agency. Given that this is a gas issue and I was not aware of the extent of the issue, I did not want to ‘fiddle’ with the meter myself so my logical action was to consult my property agent.

I am due to meet with the agency tomorrow, as per my request, to clarify this situation and I would appreciate an advice: Should I be liable for this expense? With no appliance instructions nor safety certificate proof provided upon my move,and also by simply contacting my property agency when the gas is not working, is it me to have to bare the cost? Also, does maintenance team really have the right to make the decision who should be billed (agency/landlord or the tenant) as this was not mentioned anywhere in the tenancy agreement?

I would be very grateful to obtain any advice I can before I take this further with my agency.

Kind regards,
Jelena



Comments

Lewis Hardwick

3 years ago

Gas meters should remain property of the energy supplier (EDF, npower, British Gas etc). Any issues with the meter seemingly not providing gas should be raised with them. I would expect a competent agency to know this and provide assistance accordingly.

The gas safety certificate is an issue. I assume that the property is managed by the agent, so I would get in touch as it should be provided when you move in. If they make excuses, tell them you will have to report it to the HSE and also let your landlord know. I believe the landlord is liable and they will not be pleased if their agent (who will be charging them a small fortune) is leaving them exposed to legal action.

Steve Griffiths

3 years ago

As mentioned the meter is the property of the gas supplier not the landlord, so any problems need to be reported to them.

In my experience though, apart from complete display failure from a flat battery pack, all other issues are due to not putting the credit on the meter correctly.

It is possible to put your card in the meter and for it to accept the credit but not turn the meter 'On', I have seen this many times and been called out to rectify 'Heating' faults only to find it is a gas supply issue and end up out of pocket or making a nominal charge.

It is very important that you follow the instructions on the front of the meter exactly as in press button A, insert card, press and hold button B until meter shows credit and turns to On etc otherwise you end up in the situation you are in.

In my opinion the first engineer should have been able to explain this to you and demonstrate how to do it, even though it is not the agencies responsibility, but this would have negated the second call out, so paying for the one call out and putting that down to a life experience would seem reasonable to me.

Tony Lilleystone

3 years ago

You should certainly contact the gas supply company in case there is a problem with the meter.
I see that you moved in May but the problem with the hot water and heating has only just arisen. So have you been using the gas supply before now, or is this the first time you have tried to use it? (e.g if there is an electric immersion heater to supply hot water in the summer months.)
If so you might check that you have followed the correct procedure for switching the gas on after you have topped up your pre-payment card. (I know it took me some time to work this out when I had to use a pre-payment meter as it involved inserting the card in a slot in the meter and pressing a button for some time and of course checking that the gas tap was switched to the on position – all done kneeling on hard concrete in the dark and rain and while trying to holding a torch to read the instructions!!)
If the meter is not switching gas into the property I don't see how the maintenance people can say that the heating system is working! In any case the agents should have shown you how to switch on the supply and operate the system.

jell Mat

3 years ago

Many thanks for your advice gentlemen.

I must admit that I have not received instructions upon my move and I never had a prepayment system before. That said, I thought that after trying to activate the gas meter and my card and failing a number of times, it was logical to call the agency given that I did not know where the problem was at the time.

Furthermore and to answer the question above, I did use the gas meter over the summer months as I was mainly using it for the hot water purposes. I loaded the same card a number of times before and I never had any issues. I also followed the instructions rigorously before and now when I had problems and tried many times. After all, it feels that it was just a card/meter one-off failure to activate itself.

I do admit that it might not have been the agency I should have called but I cannot help but think that they could have mentioned that to me before they sent the maintenance team to my home twice. I cannot shake off the feeling that it is a little excessive for me to pay for the call out as a 'life experience' when I feel this is why the agency is paid for as well - to advise and assist the tenant when the property is not in working condition rather then just blindly sending a costly-service providers without any thinking through.

Thank you again for your help, it is most appreciated. I am due to meet with the agency team tomorrow to further discuss they procedures and I am grateful that I received your advices before the meeting.

Best regards,
Jelena

Claire Smith

3 years ago

Prepayment meters often have a daily standing charge, so it is possible that in topping up the card you have only been contributing to a debt caused by this and not paying towards the actual usage, Did you notify the utilities provider when you moved in? Prepayment meters are often put in because a previous tenant is in debt so you need to make sure that the provider isn't going to try to claim this from you.


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