Tenants Stealing Electricity – What do we do next?

by Readers Question

13:34 PM, 19th June 2017
About A year ago

Tenants Stealing Electricity – What do we do next?

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Tenants Stealing Electricity – What do we do next?

I’m after some advice on a current (no pun) situation where it appears the tenants have dangerously rewired the Consumer Unit and tapped off the electricity before the meter, forfeiting all RCD safety.

The situation came to light when they complained that a gas engineer must have damaged something when he serviced the boiler “because it stopped working immediately after he left”.

On examination from a different gas engineer it was diagnosed to be a mains electrical problem and not the boiler. I immediately contacted an electrician to attend to this and hence we found the rewiring.

The tenants are claiming to be innocent of course, but I don’t believe them. They have lived there for about 4 years and I’m pretty sure that the tenants previously had not done this. In an attempt to ‘play innocent’ one of the tenants even video called me on Whatsapp to ‘show me’ what the electrician had found. I asked him to show me an electricity bill, which he waved about until I asked for it to be still, and it read £37. This was a quarterly bill.

Although they have always paid their rent on time, the flat has been terribly uncared for in their tenancy to the point where easily 60% of the walls of the property have been severely affected by mould due to condensation. The excuse is that it is too cold to open the windows…… No problems with previous tenants I might add.

The tenancy was originally only for two brothers but some time after it became apparent that there were also two young children and ‘possibly’ a girlfriend also living there.

We ended up taking a commercial point of view on it by accepting that there was no way we could rent that property out to anyone else in its condition and as they always paid their rent on time we let the dilapidation issue be. Thankfully one of the brothers (with the children and girlfriend) has some time ago said they wanted to leave as they were applying for a council flat and we’re just waiting for council approval and to get on the waiting list.

We all agreed to issue them a section 21 to aid in this process, but as you know the council only sees that as intention and not action so we were waiting patiently, until now.

In light of the danger to our property, the block of 30flats, his children and news of the recent fire at the tower block in London we wonder how we might pursue this. We have alerted the utility company who said they have been on radar due to low bills so that is one thing. But what about the dangerous rewiring? Hard to prove until we can get bill history from the suppliers, but what if/when we do?

Do we call the police? Do we issue a section 8? Do we call social services? Do we call the housing department at the council? They are already getting some housing allowance, we think. I just feel their irresponsibility has reached a point of requiring action and feel they should be pulled-up for their actions.

Thank you in advance

Adam



Comments

Neil Patterson

13:51 PM, 19th June 2017
About A year ago

Hi Adam,

this could be a criminal matter for theft and also for the Safety of all the tenants of the block.

Now you are suspicious of the situation I would report it to the electricity company and then the police and take their advice on how to proceed next. They may not want you to tip the tenants off and you do need to cover yourself.

Hopefully they will leave before this comes to a head, but you may I suspect need help so please see our tenant eviction page >> https://www.property118.com/evicting-tenants/

Professional assistance now is more than likely to save you time and money in the future.

Gary Dully

1:52 AM, 20th June 2017
About A year ago

If you have issued a section 21 and met all the pre requirements for doing so, then go down that route.

Personally I tend to go down the section 8 route with tenants as I don't like to see them walk away without some damage to their reputation if they are at fault.

I would section 8 them on the following grounds.
12 and 13.
(Google it).
Tapping an energy meter should be covered in a decent tenancy agreement and falls under terms such as in my agreements which state.....

Theft Act 1968: Section 13 (for abstraction of electricity or gas), Theft Act 1968: Section 17 (false accounting – mainly applies to businesses), Theft Act 1978: Section 1 (dishonestly obtain services by deception) and Section 2 (evasion of liability by deception), Criminal Damage Act 1971: Section 1 (causing criminal damage), Criminal Law Act 1977: Section 1 (conspiracy), Accessories and Abettors Act 1861: Section 8 (aiding and abetting), Fraud Act 2006: Section 11 (obtaining services dishonestly);

The tenant must not or allow any others person(s) to tamper with any utility service providers metering or equipment supplied by the landlord or utility company for the purpose of illegal extraction of electricity, water or gas. If, because of breaching this term, the Landlord is fined or charged by supplier or the courts the Tenant agrees to pay the Landlord the amount of those fines, charges and any reasonable legal costs they have incurred as a consequence.

Ask to see last years winter bills and see how long it's been going on for.
If they won't supply it, contact the energy provider and ask for their written comments or advice.

I had a tenant surrender his tenancy last week in Liverpool and his meter had char marks and a big blue neutral wire in the meter cupboard was left behind.

These monsters are the cause of fires and have no regard for you or your business, I would get them out and move on.

Ravi gupta

12:52 PM, 20th June 2017
About A year ago

Hi Adam,
You must inform the police and leave it to them. They will find the supplier and meet up with them. You have to do no more.Let the police do the rest and you are covered.
Please note, If the property catches fire you are not insured.
Ravi

Gunga Din

16:58 PM, 20th June 2017
About A year ago

I once found that a tenant had replaced the key gas meter with a presumably stolen credit meter. The buffoon had even left the wrench on the floor, the big brass nuts were loose, and had wrench marks on them.

I had the meter made safe by a gas engineer and told him verbally with no witness that I would tell every authority I could think of if he was still there in a week.

He moved out and cleaned the flat up pretty well.

Gunga Din

John Frith

11:06 AM, 23rd June 2017
About A year ago

Also bear in mind that in order to provide a secure electrical supply to your next tenant, the electricity company will have to completely replace the meter that has been tampered with, and probably want paying (they wanted £350 from me) before they do it.

Adam Withford

12:40 PM, 23rd June 2017
About A year ago

Thanks John, easily redeemable from the deposit I suspect but given the amount of damage they have already done to the flat we will still be paying out.

r01

13:20 PM, 24th June 2017
About A year ago

Can't add much to previous posts - it's now up to you how you proceed, but I have overcome most of the damp, damage and nuisance problems and moving forward this may be of interest to you. I set my rent at the max rent the area bears, then offer a separate agreement to give a month by month rent refund of 10% if they agree to monthly inspections and to put right all issues raised by the following month's inspection. I give them a copy of the the tickbox style checklist I use in advance of signing the agreement so they can see & accept the areas checked & I also supply a de-humidifier for each property & make it clear in the agreement that if it's not used & I see any damp or the windows are running with water, they will not receive the 10% refund. I accept it's extra work & I get a lower rent but the long term savings have worked very much in my favour as I now have dryer and less damaged properties. The quick tickbox monthly inspections reduce the risk of hot-wiring or moving other people in etc. It also lets me see any landlord issues like leaks etc., before they become an issue. It works for me with only a few nearby properties but would possibly be too burdensome if you have loads or they are widely spread, although maybe your agents could step up to the mark and actually earn their fee?

r01

14:18 PM, 24th June 2017
About A year ago

Can't add much to previous posts - it's now up to you how you proceed, but I have overcome most of the damp, damage and nuisance problems and moving forward this may be of interest to you. I set my rent at the max rent the area bears, then offer a separate agreement to give a month by month rent refund of 10% if they agree to monthly inspections and to put right all issues raised by the following month's inspection. I give them a copy of the the tickbox style checklist I use in advance of signing the agreement so they can see & accept the areas checked & I also supply a de-humidifier for each property & make it clear in the agreement that if it's not used & I see any damp or the windows are running with water, they will not receive the 10% refund. I accept it's extra work & I get a lower rent but the long term savings have worked very much in my favour as I now have dryer and less damaged properties. The quick tickbox monthly inspections reduce the risk of hot-wiring or moving other people in etc. It also lets me see any landlord issues like leaks etc., before they become an issue. It works for me with only a few nearby properties but would possibly be too burdensome if you have loads or they are widely spread, although maybe your agents could step up to the mark and actually earn their fee? Do you inspections at all? How have you missed the meter being hot wired over 4 years? I think maybe you need to get a few things in order before your next let........

Adam Withford

16:35 PM, 24th June 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by "r01 " at "24/06/2017 - 14:18":

Hi r01,

My troubles have been not to have enough time, I'm not a fulltime landlord as yet, and when the rent appears as it should without fail and there are generally no issues you think you are on a winner.

But why would anyone open a CU case to look for tampered wiring anyway? It's not noticeable from the exterior. It's not till you've been bitten that you generally become more aware.

Your method sounds good, but as a tenant I wouldn't take on a property with that deal just because of the regular intrusion.

We are waiting for confirmation from the utility suppier that they have their case in order before making the next move.

Thanks

r01

21:55 PM, 24th June 2017
About A year ago

I understand your point about intrusion and I have had prospective tenants say exactly that, to which I simply reply it's an offer, not a condition & if you are happy paying 10% more than you need to that's fine. Every single person has thought it over for about a milli-second & backtracked. In my neck of the woods that 10% is a minimum of £1,200 per annum and not to be sneezed at. After all, it is simply paying them to do what they are obliged to do in their contract.
The "intrusion" is minimal, taking just a few mins as it is simply a walk through, ticking boxes unless an obvious issue needs attention.
It works fantastically for me & the type of tenant I prefer to take. Of course all landlords must do what sits with their ethos.

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