Landlords, did you know you could be liable for unpaid utility bills or reconnection fees?

Landlords should be aware that they could be liable for any unpaid utility bills, and even reconnection fees if they don’t correctly manage the end of tenancy process with regards to utilities. We’ve put together a ‘best practice’ guide regarding tenants’ utility services to help you have a successful tenancy, without facing any unexpected fees. 

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING UTILITY BILLS?

Firstly, this depends on what your tenancy agreement says. Although tenants are usually responsible for paying utility bills, if they do not pay, the landlord may find themselves liable for the bills. This will usually happen if the tenancy agreement doesn’t clearly assign responsibility to the tenants. 
 
To avoid this, landlords should include a clause in the tenancy agreement that clearly states who is responsible for paying which utility bills during the tenancy. If there are communal services, such as heating or hot water, you may need to apportion the tenants’ element upfront to ensure it doesn’t get forgotten about.
 
Some landlords choose to include utilities in the rent, if this is the case, the landlord may be responsible for paying all the utility bills that are included in the rent.

WHEN DO THE TENANTS BECOME RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BILLS?

If tenants are paying for utilities, they are responsible for them from the start date of the tenancy. To ensure accurate invoicing, a meter reading should be taken on the day that the tenants move into their new home. In the excitement and stresses of moving day, tenants may forget to take a meter reading. Therefore, we recommend that it be included as part of the check-in process and recorded on the inventory. Remember to cover off who informs the utility provider in your tenancy agreement.

IF THERE IS A VOID PERIOD BETWEEN TENANCIES, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UTILITY BILLS?

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. When calling the utility providers at the end of the tenancy, you should have all bills transferred into your name.
 
The landlord is responsible for all utility bills between tenancies, meaning all bills should be in the landlord’s name during this time.

CAN THE TENANT CHANGE UTILITY SUPPLIER?

Yes, as they are responsible for the payment of utility bills, they are entitled to shop around for a better price. However, if they switch to a pre-paid meter they may need to seek the landlords’ written permission and they should return the property with the original meter type 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 also be the subject of deduction from the tenancy deposit, providing the tenancy agreement allows for it.
 
These are some of the best practices for utility 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 from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB).
 
We hope that you found this helpful and if you require any more information from us, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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