When a tenant dies his Utility Bills die with him?

by Readers Question

11:44 AM, 10th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

When a tenant dies his Utility Bills die with him?

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When a tenant dies his Utility Bills die with him?

Death is an unfortunate fact of life and occasionally a tenant passes away. Common sense dictates the Utility Company should just write off the bill, but no it puts the bill into the name of the Landlord. There then follows correspondence with threats of reporting to Credit Reference agencies. I have two current, with two separate Energy Suppliers, where they have put the bill of deceased tenants into the name of the Landlord (myself).

So what is the answer? There is an issue of Wasting Time and of Harassment. Keep all the letters and send a Letter Before Action claiming General Damages for up to £10,000.

You will need to be equipped with a copy of Lisa Ferguson v British Gas which you can look up on the Internet:

Reference Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division), Judge: Sedley, Jacob, and Lloyd LJJ, Date of judgment: 10 Feb 2009

Summary: Harassment – Protection From Harassment Act 1997 – Companies – Corporate liability – Threats to customer – Course of conduct – Knowledge – Striking out.

You need to be equipped with a copy of The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which you can download from the Internet.

Write to the Chief Executive pointing out that Directors are now responsible for the actions of their employees. Also the Company is Vicariously Responsible for the actions of its Debt Collectors.

It is important that you ask for a Subject Access Report (SAR) which may be referred to as a Data Subject Access Report (DSAR). It is the same thing. Ask for SAR from both the Utility Company and Debt Collector. There is no charge. Keep a note of the time you spend on a Spreadsheet. You can claim £19 a hour under the High Court Rate for Litigants in Person (LIPs).

The Utility may seek to fob you off with a Deadlock Letter. That means they will not pursue you further, but will not remove the debt from their books, and will report the Landlord to Credit Reference Agencies so as to prevent the Landlord from obtaining further mortgages.

If and when the Energy Supplier removes the Debt then immediately switch the supplier to a different energy Supplier because if you do not the Debt will be put in the next tenant’s name and if they have a key meter (electricity) or quantum meter (Gas) the key will be loaded to recover the deceased tenant’s debt.

Fergus Wilson



Comments

moneymanager

9:24 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

Instead of faffing around why don't they write to the executor or PR who, in order to discharge their duty to ascertain and settle liabilities, should do the reverse?

Gunga Din

9:58 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

Interesting. We've all had cases of tenants who leave with utility debt. We just tell the supplier the date and meter reading, accepting responsibility from that date/reading.
Why should it be any different with a death?

Mark Hunter

10:20 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

We had an elderly gentleman die in one of our rental properties and informed British Gas. We included the death certificate and I telephoned them several times to confirm the details. In the end they sent a series of threatening letters to the property addressed to ' Mr Fletcher (deceased)'. They were threatening to take him to Court and ruin his credit rating, meaning he would have trouble gaining credit in the future! I called them again to say he was still dead and I would not be speaking to them again on this matter. I wished them luck and hoped they did well when they took this through to Court.

Ian Cognito

11:00 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

What does the law state regarding liability? I would have thought that:

1) any debt incurred by the tenant up to date of death is the estate's liability.

2) any debt incurred after the date of death will depend upon:
a) the nature of the Tenancy Agreement ie. whether its within a fixed term, after a break, or periodic (maybe estate liable for 1 month only)
b) whether there is a beneficiary willing to continue the tenancy
c) when the keys are handed back

Direct contact with a next-of-kin and/or executor will certainly help. Getting the Damages Deposit paid out can be a grind.

Larry Sweeney

11:37 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

There is also another issue. The utility company are billing a third party using readings etc pertinent to the tenant. They are in breach of GDPR and could face massive fines.(see ico v British airways. I wager they will retreat quick enough when the British gas case is stated and the threat of an ICO fine.

Dylan Morris

11:57 AM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Cognito at 11/07/2019 - 11:00
I agree Ian surely the debt needs to be perused via the estate. How can a landlord be liable for the utility account of somebody else ? Using this logic could for example, a landlord be liable for the deceased’s unpaid car loan payments ? Obviously not. Seems the same to me here.

Paul Shears

13:22 PM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

Slightly different situation encountered by myself.
A utility provider came after me for around £700 but, although I accepted liability for some sort of financial payment, I maintained that the charge had to be "reasonable". For various reasons it was utterly impossible to accurately quantify an accurate charge. So the bill was based om procedural (No judgement) guesswork.
After many months of my refusing to pay a charge which was, at a common sense level, far too high, I ran out of patience. I informed the utility provider that it was obvious that they were incapable of sending me a bill which we could agree was reasonable. As such further communication at this level on the matter was pointless. I therefore advised them that the next communication that I required from them was a summons to appear before a judge.
The utility provider wrote the entire bill off...........

Peter G

13:37 PM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

From the excellent article and helpful comments and examples it seems the utility companies just want their money and they don't care who pays it. Are any of them owned by non-British companies? If French, for example, are they following a different process in the UK to the process they follow in France? If so, then perhaps they could be asked to explain why.

Darren Peters

13:51 PM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

If the utility issue a 'deadlock letter', how does one respond?

It looks to me like the utility companies are de-facto demanding money with menaces. I guess something like 90% pay up without complaining, another 5% after some threats and aggravation and 5% fight to success but it's a successful business model for the 95% of money they would otherwise lose or have to spend more finding the Executor than the bill is worth.

Jay James

20:16 PM, 11th July 2019
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Hunter at 11/07/2019 - 10:20
"...still dead", I am still chuckling and would love to know how this one worked out.

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