Until when is a tenant responsible for their share of the bills?

by Readers Question

11:30 AM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Until when is a tenant responsible for their share of the bills?

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Until when is a tenant responsible for their share of the bills?

I wonder if anyone could give me their thoughts on what should be a blindingly obvious question.

I have 6 students in my HMO each on a individual tenancy, and one has just emailed to give me her notice. I’m amazed that for once a student tenant has gone through the right channels, and being a soft soul, wish her well as she moves into her boyfriend’s house.

Anyway, she realises that she must give notice on the next rent day (1st December) and will happily pay rent for that final month, but stated in her email that she’ll pay her share of the bills up to mid November when she physically moved out. Until when is a tenant responsible for their share of the bills?

I see where she’s coming from, but isn’t there an argument that she’s also liable until the last day of her notice period (31 Dec) even if she chooses not to live at the property?

Clearly, the other 5 would prefer to have their bills divisible by 6

I will assume that I dont get another tenant to replace her until the new year

Many thanks for your thoughts

G Brown



Comments

Robert Mellors

11:41 AM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

I let HMO properties to DSS tenants, and low income workers, and to avoid this problem I simply charge everyone the same weekly "service charge" which includes the utility bills, and a few other services, as this avoid any arguments about who is responsible for what, who used more heating than the next person, etc. It also avoids the problem of trying to divide up a bill by multiple residents whose residency start and end dates all vary, or how to split the bill during a notice period by one or more of the residents. I know this does not help you with your current situation, but it could be a way of avoiding the problem in the future.

Fiona Macaskill

12:15 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "30/11/2013 - 11:41":

I rent to over 200 students. So as to make paying the bills easier for the students I pay all of the bills for them. This includes gas, electricity, TV licence, broadband, water. So as to keep an accurate record of their usage I ask them to read the meters every month and send them a copy of the bill electronically. I charge £14 per week per student but at the end of the year I calculate how much it has actually cost them and refund any underspend. This means that they are more careful with their actual usage of their utilities and therefore more eco than if they did not have the incentive to save money. some tenants get back over £150 at the end of the year. I charge £1 per month per student for providing this service. it works well and would recommend it to any student landlord who wants to provide a high level of service and also be eco. Regarding your student who is leaving: her liability for bills remains until the end of the tenancy in my opinion.

Bob Leydon

13:54 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Oooer this is a messy one. You comment "she must give notice on the next rent day (1st December)". I presume this means the original fixed term tenancy has ended and that it is now a statutory periodic tenancy? Your reference to the next rent day relates to any period of notice a landlord is required to give a tenant to evict. This period need not be reciprocated by the tenant. Technically tenants can leave with just one month's notice or in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement. If each tenant arrived at different points in time there is unlikely to be a 'joint tenancy' as there is no 'unity of time', thus it is a 'tenancy in common'. If they have separate tenancies then the remaining tenants may not be contractually obliged to pay either more or less bills unless this is provided for in the tenancy agreement. Further as landlord you have a statutory duty to mitigate any tenant loss by evincing you have marketed the property for replacement tenants. The departing tenant could argue in the absence of consumption of energy that there is no liability. Landlord might argue the lounge light burns and TV runs whether there are 4 or 5 tenants and that there are standing charges not related to consumption. I would adopt a pragmatic approach and rub my hands together if the tenant has paid the rent and most of the bills and provided fair notice of departure. I would not require more but who am I?

Jeremy Smith

14:03 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi there,
You have 6 students, so quite a good income I would guess from one property.
The bills for 6 weeks, at a guess might be, say, £120....
her 1/6 of that is £20, if the others had to pay 1/5 instead of 1/6, their share each goes from £20 to £24.
If you let her off her share of the last 6 weeks, and also let the others pay 1/6 instead of 1/5, how much would it actually cost you?
...Don't you think you could possibly cover this small amount out of the total rent you get every month from these students?
...It would also be so much easier..
.....how much do you value your time at to sort out such a small amount of money?

It'll also be tax deductable, so 20% less than it actully looks !!

Gilly

14:07 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "30/11/2013 - 11:41":

You don't say how the bills are paid - monthly, quarterly - or do you charge a set amount? You may agree a compromise to the end of November, so that there is only one month with less tenants.

I assume this tenant is leaving before the end of her contract, otherwise she has no obligation to the others. If she has her own agreement does it mention the shared costs?

I am pleased that there are other landlords out there who simply let individuals leave when they want to, that's the spirit - but I am a bit surprised that your students have separate tenancy agreements. Because of ridiculous regulations, I have joint tenancy agreements, which mean I can keep my Victorian doors, adversely I am forever issuing deeds of Assignments and having long-term agreements otherwise the DofA are not valid - roll on the change of law....sorry, just an aside.

Talk about a soft touch. I always work out all the bills, which arrive quarterly, for my one and only HMO ( I will get rid of it one of these days, as the hassles do outweigh the pleasures). If someone leaves, I take a reading on the day they go and calculate their share (I like maths.........honestly), which they normally choose to have deducted from their deposit. Then when the quarterly bill arrives I divide it up for the remaining tenants, less that person's amount. If someone new comes in then I take another reading and work it all out - only to the nearest £ though 🙂

The tenant who has left isn't using the cooker and shower and the lights are neither here nor there - so it's only the cost of the heating and between 5 they are hardly going to notice for a six week period - £10 each max I would think. They wouldn't expect to pay if they had left and no one has ever grumbled - but as you can probably tell, I am quite "hands-on". I agree this probably wouldn't be viable if you had hundreds of HMOs.

I doubt Letting Agents would allow it at all, of course.

Yvette Newbury

14:54 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

In my view, the tenant would remain responsible until the end of the notice period regardless of when she actually vacates. If she is liable to pay rent then she must be liable to pay any bill that follows by virtue of that rental.

G Brown

15:39 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Thank you all for your comments.

Fiona, I really like your idea and it is something I will certainly look to implement next academic year. Thank you
Bob, the tenancy is due to end in the summer, so she is 4 months into the contract. They have individual contracts which states tenants must pay for all bills during the period of the tenancy. It also states that if a tenant leaves early, they must pay LL's reasonable costs for reletting as well as rent until a new tenant moves in. I don't think I'd charge costs, but it's the latter clause of the sentence that interests me. This opens up a whole new can of worms as to whether she is liable for bills too, to the letter to the contract. Yes, I too am swung by her honesty so am tempted to reward this by being pragmatic.
Jeremy, the bills are fixed at 330 a month, so 55 each. If one tenant moves out, it would increase the others' contributions by 11. Yes, a small amount in the big grand scheme of things. Sometimes perspective is needed!
Gilly, my fellow soft landlord 😉 the bills come in monthly but are fixed. There have been previous posts about the disparity between what one council's HMO standards are compared to another, and even between one environmental officers and another from the same council!! My HMO team insist on full fire doors, emergency lighting has been installed in the basement, whereas a neighbour with a property in another council area with a similar property has been allowed to keep all the period( or less safe) features. This too is my one and only HMO, so too am hands on, and I feel part of a landlord's duties can be to become a surrogate mother, especially to new students.
Thanks Yvette, to the letter of the contract, I agree with you.

On that note, it seems everyone is right. I guess it just depends on how nice she is to me in her correspondence!
Any other thoughts welcome

Bob Leydon

16:07 PM, 30th November 2013
About 7 years ago

Within the fixed term of a fixed term tenancy the tenant can give notice to leave at any time but the landlord is entitled to demand full payment until the end of the tenancy or until a substitute pays. If the cost of the bills has been calibrated or annualised based on average consumption between x tenants, then the absent tenant is obliged to pay regardless provided this is clear in the tenancy agreement.

0:18 AM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "G Brown" at "30/11/2013 - 15:39":

Hi....students already have a tough time of it. For the sake of such a small amount why not just cover the costs from your profits. As another reader said...you get tax relief. I sometimes dispair at how people somwtimes try and ring every single penny our of thier clients. I have my own business....and sometimes you need to know when to give something back.

0:18 AM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

Hi....students already have a tough time of it. For the sake of such a small amount why not just cover the costs from your profits. As another reader said...you get tax relief. I sometimes dispair at how people somwtimes try and ring every single penny our of thier clients. I have my own business....and sometimes you need to know when to give something back.

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