There is a lot of work that goes into being a landlord so it is understandable that with all the other tasks around starting a new tenancy, you may forget about utility bills Landlords should be aware that this could leave them liable for £1000s of unpaid bills and could even mean they have to pay reconnection fees.
Here at the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), we want you to have a happy, successful tenancy – so we’ve put together this guide for best practices concerning utility bills.
Our advice is – what does your tenancy agreement say? Although tenants are usually responsible for paying utility bills, if they do not pay, the landlord may find themselves liable for the bills if the tenancy agreement doesn’t clearly assign responsibility to the tenant(s).
The tenants are responsible from the start date of the tenancy. To ensure accurate billing a meter reading should be taken on the day that the tenants move in. With the excitement and stress of moving day, tenants may forget to take a meter reading – therefore we recommend that it be included as part fo the check in process and recorded on the inventory.
The tenant is responsible for the cost of the utility bills for the duration of the tenancy. If they move with money outstanding on the account, utility providers sometimes try to seek payment from the landlord. Providing the utility company with the tenant’s forwarding address and final meter reading can steer them in the right direction.
If the property has no tenant, then the landlord becomes responsible for all utility bills. You can lower the cost of the bills by ensuring the heating is not used often – although we don’t advise turning it off completely in winter or you may end up with frozen pipes. If your property is unfurnished you can also contact your local authority and apply for a reduced council tax bill for up to six months while the property is empty. We recommend that when you call up the utility providers at the end of the tenancy, you have all bills transferred into your name.
Yes, as they are responsible for the payment of utility bills they are allowed to shop around for a better price. If they switch to a prepaid meter without your written permission, they should return the property with the original type of meter when they leave. If the landlord has to pay the utility company to reinstate the original type of meter, the cost of doing so may be deducted from the tenant’s deposit, providing the tenancy agreement allows for it.
These are some of the best practices for utilty bills; however there may be situations where these don’t apply. If you are concerned about utility bills you can seek advice from your utility provider, local authority or form the Citizen’s Advcie Bureau (CAB).