Splitting energy bills for tenants working from home?

Splitting energy bills for tenants working from home?

8:58 AM, 18th August 2021, About a month ago 6

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I’m posting this on behalf of an elderly landlord, who’s a friend. He owns a few 3-4 bed houses and rents it out by rooms to young professionals. All these years he has been splitting the monthly energy bills equally amongst the housemates, and everyone used to be fine with that.

However, lately because of increased homeworking, there have been situations where some tenants are working from home, and others are not, so splitting the bills equally leads to questions and issues. In some cases, housemates have been mature enough to agree to a different split, but in other cases, they have not and expected him to provide an acceptable solution. In some cases, office-based tenants didn’t even communicate their concerns about the bills and moved out instead to avoid having an embarrassing conversation.

He has a smart meter, but since he’s not living there, it’s hard to figure out who’s using how much.

He is keen to learn from other HMO landlords if there’s a new norm when someone’s working from home full time? E.g. Do they pay a certain % more?

If there is, then next time he gets a tenant who will be working from home, he will specify that higher share in the contract to prevent any confusion/conflict.

He will be grateful for your advice.

Rita



Comments

by Paul Maguire

12:07 PM, 18th August 2021, About a month ago

I have a 5 bedroom flat in Leith and have had no issues about the splitting of bills between tenants working from home and those not. I'd doubt that any tenants would move because of that. More likely if the internet speed is too slow for them to work efficiently but not over bills that cost each of them under a pound a day.

by Y Lana

13:25 PM, 18th August 2021, About a month ago

One option is to install check/sub meters for each room, the sum of which would add up to the usage on the main meter; he would then be able to apportion the usage equitably. Obviously, he would need to decide if the cost of doing this is worth his while.

by Jo Westlake

1:09 AM, 19th August 2021, About a month ago

I include utilities in the rent and strange as it seems working from home didn't make much difference to the bills.
For tax year ended 2020 my 6 bed HMO used £2986 in gas, electric and water. For tax year ended April 2021 (when 5 of the tenants were WFH) the bills were £2872. So more than £100 less.

My 5 person HMO used £62 more that year. So just over £1 a week extra.

This year the bills will be higher but that's because gas and electric have both gone up a lot, not because the tenants are using more.

by Ian Narbeth

10:38 AM, 19th August 2021, About a month ago

Rita
What do the tenancy agreements say about payment of utility bills? If the bill is in the landlord's name then he will have to justify charging the tenants and the method of apportionment.
I don't see that having a Smart Meter is relevant unless somehow he intends to match each tenant's hours in the day in the house against usage - a Herculean task!
Unless the tenancy allows the landlord to charge a "fair and reasonable proportion" to each tenant and that the "landlord's decision, in the absence of manifest error, is final" then, if the tenancy agreements allow for splitting the bills equally, the landlord should do that and let the tenants squabble amongst themselves.
Even if the tenancy does give discretion to the landlord to make an unequal split, he will have to provide "reasons" for the unequal split (that's the reasonable part of "fair and reasonable" - it must be amenable to reason). In any event the tenant who is charged £10 less will keep quiet and the tenant who is charged £10 more may put him to hours of argument, asking him to justify the methodology and disputing the facts. The tenant may refuse to pay, leading to a claim against the deposit at the end of the tenancy, and more hours of defending his decision with no certainty of success and for which the landlord will not be paid.

by Ian Narbeth

10:43 AM, 19th August 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Y Lana at 18/08/2021 - 13:25
Even if you install sub-meters what about use of electricity on the common parts, eg the tenant who works from the kitchen or who boils the kettle ten times a day? The landlord will also need to share information with all tenants - to justify the different percentages -which will be an administrative headache.

by Martin Riddle

15:05 PM, 19th August 2021, About a month ago

I just state in the AST that bills will be split equally between residents and a copy of the overall bill would be available on request. Otherwise you will get " I went away for the weekend, so can you knock something off " Keep it simple and if they don't like it they should move on.
If its in the AST and they do not pay, AST T&Cs apply and the end result could be eviction etc.


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