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


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Comments

Romain Garcin

9:47 AM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Bob Leydon" at "30/11/2013 - 16:07":

Bob, during a fixed term tenancy the tenant cannot serve notice to quit at all. Only if the agreement contains a break clause can he serve notice pursuant to that clause.

In any case, I agree that the tenant would remain liable until the time her tenancy ends.

Joe Bloggs

19:15 PM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

you cant charge for what is not being consumed. that would be unfair. the leaver should perhaps pay fixed costs i.e. standing charges but nought else.

Yvette Newbury

19:29 PM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

What do your tenancy agreements say on this point? What would happen if, say, you do not fill the room until February for some reason - do your other tenants have to pay the bills divisible by 5? But what if someone else moves meanwhile, is it then divisible by 4 or 3? I think you need a new approach to this, either including the bills in the rent or a fixed amount you charge each tenant for bills if you prefer (up to a limit beyond which they need to pay if you are concerned) or some other way that covers. I wouldn't be very happy if I found I had to pay more towards bills just because there was a vacant room, that's not the fault of your remaining tenants.

Paul Maguire

20:31 PM, 1st December 2013
About 7 years ago

I wouldn't charge for utilities if she had vacated the property. I have had HMO tenants expect a rebate from gas and electricity when they've been away on holiday but I explain that their possessions left in their room benefit from being kept warm and dry.
A couple of East European lads once declared [while viewing] that they wouldn't be needing gas and electricity as they worked in a hotel and would eat and shower at work. They were most adamant that they wouldn't be paying any utility bills. I recommended they invested in a tent......and never saw them again.

Industry Observer

13:29 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

No time to read whole thread at moment but simple answer is the existing tenant is liable in whole or in part until the earliest of the following events:-

1. The fixed term tenancy comes to its end date
2. Any valid notice they have given has expired
3. The Landlord accepts early surrender

@Bob Leydon

I am afraid you are 100% incorrect in your comment that the tenant is not bound by the same notice rules in the periodic state as the Landlord. The tenant inherits a legal right to give a month's notice in the periodic state, but there used to be doubt as to whether the LL could force them to give it.

This was cleared up by two significant cases:-

Laine and Laine v Cadwallader and Cadwallader 2000 (I think) stated that the Landlord could demand the notice from the tenant - or they pay the penalty if they do not (to the end of what would have been due notice).

Then significantly in 2006 I think the debate about when a period of the tenancy ran from and the notice must be dated to end on was settled. Church Commissioners v Meya stated it was the anniversary of the Rent Due Date.

So the 1st is significant but the notice if that is the RDD needs to be served on the agent BEFORE the 31st of a month

Industry Observer

13:31 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

@ Joe Bloggs

You are incorrect too, though I admire your decency.

Joint & Several Liability means all for one and one for all, so the tenant continues paying their share.

Industry Observer

13:34 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

@ Bob and Romain

The tenant can give notice simply because they cannot be locked in - literally!!

And unless the Landlord states they do not accept it then they are deemed to have accepted surrender.

If the Landlord states they do not accept surrender then the tenant remains liable for all costs as stated in the agreement - including the rent to end of fixed term or new tenant starting paying whichever occurs earliest

Joe Bloggs

15:23 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Industry Observer " at "04/12/2013 - 13:31":

thanks for that.
i understand joint and several (hence why i said fixed costs would be liable), but in the absence of express terms to the contrary i doubt that it applies to variable costs determined by consumption of those in actual occupation. its not just a question of being decent but equitable.

Industry Observer

16:47 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Joe

No its all to do with the right to dump on others.

If the tenant leaves without notice etc why should the others have to pay the extra? Yes they are consuming it, and that's a good point, but if the contract for the utility names the scarpered tenant I'm afraid he's as liable as the others.

Is she actually legally liable for the bills in terms of a utility contract? The fact it is an individual agreement for each tenant does add weight to your equitable argument though and if LL is paying the bill clearly in fairness the other 5 should pay for what they consume, especially as she has paid Dec rent and offered to pay her share of bills to date she left.

On reflection let her off but.................

One other point - email doesn't count for notice from tenant or Landlord. Has to be written (1976 Act) and hand signed (not electronically)

Romain Garcin

18:47 PM, 4th December 2013
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Industry Observer " at "04/12/2013 - 13:34":

Not sure I follow you here...

A "notice to quit" has no legal existence during a fixed term tenancy.
As such a tenant cannot give notice. He can just offer to surrender the tenancy, and the landlord has to accept it.
You seem to say that the landlord is deemed to accept the surrender by default, which would go contrary to this principle... I would be very interested in case laws to show that this has ever been the view of a court.

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