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  • FIRST POST
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 6:45 PM
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    lindos90
    Unpaid Gas Bill from before tenancy.
    • #1
    • 9th Oct 17, 6:45 PM
    Unpaid Gas Bill from before tenancy. 9th Oct 17 at 6:45 PM
    My son has just moved into student digs, his contract is inclusive of utilities (although the small print says it is actually up to a limited allowance of £10 per tenant per week)

    When he moved in (just over a week ago) there was an outstanding bill from British Gas, for approximately £160 with additional admin costs due to non payment. He handed it to the Lettings agent, who said they would sort it out immediately.

    Today he arrives home to a hand delivered letter from a debt collecting agency with a demand for over £2000 outstanding! They are going to seek a warrant to enter the property and attach a prepayment 'pay as you go' to the gas meter, or if that is not possible to do, they are going to cut the gas off!

    1) The letting agreement states that utilities are 'inclusive' of the rent they pay. We also assume the tariff set on the pay as you go meter will be huge in order to help pay off the outstanding debt, as well as pay for ongoing gas use, so the students should'nt be having to put their own money in this should they?

    3) How long does it usually take for debt collecting agencies to get a warrant?

    4) As tenants, where do they stand if the debt collectors come back with a warrant?

    Obviously he contacted the lettings agent immediately and told them, they said they would 'look into it and get it sorted' (again).

    Now I can't see an outstanding debt getting to £2000 without the lettings agent knowing about it at some point, so this can't be news to them.

    The letter and bill were addressed to the lettings agent, not to the Landlord. I am not sure quite how it works, but I'm making the assumption that the lettings agent totally manages the property, so is it more likely that they have not paid the bills, rather than the landlord?

    Any advice gratefully received. Just not really sure how to help him and his flatmates.
    Last edited by lindos90; 09-10-2017 at 8:03 PM.
Page 1
    • HampshireH
    • By HampshireH 9th Oct 17, 8:07 PM
    • 127 Posts
    • 138 Thanks
    HampshireH
    • #2
    • 9th Oct 17, 8:07 PM
    • #2
    • 9th Oct 17, 8:07 PM
    I cannot answer all those questions but would go to the letting agent and watch them make that call.

    Have you seen the letter? What are the dates? Do the readings add up?

    Sounds like a very problematic L.A. based on your previous posts on the rent forum. So glad we advised your boy to take his own readings on arrival as looks like he may need them on leaving.

    I expect if the L.A. has been taking money from former tenants on the same agreement as your son then they will soon be chasing those former students to recover the debt.

    CAB may be a good place to go.
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 8:21 PM
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    lindos90
    • #3
    • 9th Oct 17, 8:21 PM
    • #3
    • 9th Oct 17, 8:21 PM
    Thanks HampshireH, Yes I posted on the rental forum, but then realised this was more of a utility issue

    Tomorrow he has lectures from 9 till 6pm tomorrow so will not be able to travel to the office to stand over them while they call the debt agency. We are visiting in 2 weeks, and if its not sorted by then, I will certainly be going to the office to put some pressure on and making a complaint.

    I will suggest he contacts CAB or perhaps student services, see if they can advise as well.

    My fear is, if the gas has not been paid, I now have doubts whether electricity and water is unpaid too.

    He sent me a photo of the letter, it just shows an 'unpaid balance' of over £2000 and saying they are getting a court warrant to force entry to attach a prepayment meter or cut them off. There are no dates or meter readings. Its from the person who visited from the debt collecting agency. (With an additional fee of £36 for their visit today because no body was in) Its not from British Gas, they have handed the debt over.
    Last edited by lindos90; 09-10-2017 at 8:40 PM.
    • Pmwo21
    • By Pmwo21 9th Oct 17, 9:11 PM
    • 5 Posts
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    Pmwo21
    • #4
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:11 PM
    • #4
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:11 PM
    Your first step I would suggest is get directly in contact with British Gas, they wonít be able to tell you any account information obviously, but showing them a copy of the Tennancy agreement; specifically the utilities section where it states bills are included, may be enough for them to seek other methods of getting their money back if it is an old debt, if itís an ongoing debt they will likely request any up to date contact details for the letting agent or landlord.

    To answer a couple of your specific questions, it can take a while for the warrant process to go through, but a letter will be sent with the court date and time so you have the ability to attend and explain the situation to the magistrate. Be sure to be in contact with British Gas and the letting agent in writing or email so if it does get to this stage you can show the magistrate youíve done everything in your power.

    If the warrant is granted, thereís not a lot that can be done, it would be classed as a third party dispute unfortunately and the warrant team would be instructed to fit the meter leaving it to your son to settle the dispute with the agents.
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 9:33 PM
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    lindos90
    • #5
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:33 PM
    • #5
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:33 PM
    Thanks Pmwo21.

    I am having a bit of a dilemma really, as my son is an adult now and in some ways needs to learn about life as an adult, which includes financial things. Having said that, this problem is not of his making and it feels unfair that its been dumped on him (whether by the LA or the LL) at the beginning of the year, when he should really be focusing on studying.

    I think I might call British Gas, indeed they need give me no information, but hopefully they can put something on file about the situation. The flat has, to my knowledge been let out to students for a number of years though, and they address the letter to in the name of the lettings agent, so they should know, but no harm in reminding them.
    • Pmwo21
    • By Pmwo21 9th Oct 17, 9:54 PM
    • 5 Posts
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    Pmwo21
    • #6
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:54 PM
    • #6
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:54 PM
    Itís a difficult situation to be in, as you say itís not his fault, just stuck in the middle. The more information Bg have the better, sometimes itís simple hold ups such as billing addresses or contact names being out of date.
    • Marktheshark
    • By Marktheshark 9th Oct 17, 9:58 PM
    • 5,690 Posts
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    Marktheshark
    • #7
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:58 PM
    • #7
    • 9th Oct 17, 9:58 PM
    Is the letter addressed to him and if so how did they get his name ?
    Brexit will become whatever they invent it to be.
    • 45002
    • By 45002 9th Oct 17, 10:00 PM
    • 397 Posts
    • 331 Thanks
    45002
    • #8
    • 9th Oct 17, 10:00 PM
    • #8
    • 9th Oct 17, 10:00 PM
    My son has just moved into student digs, his contract is inclusive of utilities (although the small print says it is actually up to a limited allowance of £10 per tenant per week)

    When he moved in (just over a week ago) there was an outstanding bill from British Gas, for approximately £160 with additional admin costs due to non payment. He handed it to the Lettings agent, who said they would sort it out immediately.

    Today he arrives home to a hand delivered letter from a debt collecting agency with a demand for over £2000 outstanding! They are going to seek a warrant to enter the property and attach a prepayment 'pay as you go' to the gas meter, or if that is not possible to do, they are going to cut the gas off!

    1) The letting agreement states that utilities are 'inclusive' of the rent they pay. We also assume the tariff set on the pay as you go meter will be huge in order to help pay off the outstanding debt, as well as pay for ongoing gas use, so the students should'nt be having to put their own money in this should they?

    3) How long does it usually take for debt collecting agencies to get a warrant?

    4) As tenants, where do they stand if the debt collectors come back with a warrant?

    Obviously he contacted the lettings agent immediately and told them, they said they would 'look into it and get it sorted' (again).

    Now I can't see an outstanding debt getting to £2000 without the lettings agent knowing about it at some point, so this can't be news to them.

    The letter and bill were addressed to the lettings agent, not to the Landlord. I am not sure quite how it works, but I'm making the assumption that the lettings agent totally manages the property, so is it more likely that they have not paid the bills, rather than the landlord?

    Any advice gratefully received. Just not really sure how to help him and his flatmates.
    by lindos90


    For reference

    https://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?482045-Unpaid-gas-bill-from-previous-tenancy.
    My signature been censored again by MSE, no reason given how rude...
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 10:10 PM
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    lindos90
    • #9
    • 9th Oct 17, 10:10 PM
    • #9
    • 9th Oct 17, 10:10 PM
    Is the letter addressed to him and if so how did they get his name ?
    Originally posted by Marktheshark
    No the letter from today has the name of the letting agency and the address of his flat. It was not even in an envelope, it was just pushed through the letter box as a single sheet of paper.

    The 'bill' that was at the flat when they moved in, is addressed the same and was (afaik) already opened when he arrived.
    Last edited by lindos90; 09-10-2017 at 10:28 PM.
    • Pmwo21
    • By Pmwo21 9th Oct 17, 11:08 PM
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    Pmwo21
    Mention to British Gas that it was posted with no envelope, for data protection it should always be enveloped.
    If the bills are going to the property it shows they don’t have a correct billing address
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 11:19 PM
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    lindos90
    Mention to British Gas that it was posted with no envelope, for data protection it should always be enveloped.
    If the bills are going to the property it shows they donít have a correct billing address
    Originally posted by Pmwo21
    Yes it is quite odd, its not a new student let, so bills must always have been coming to the flat and (I would hope) have been passed onto the LA to pay. Bit of an odd setup. I would have thought the bills would have been for the property but sent to the lettings agency with a reference so they know which property the bills are for.

    I take your point about the envelope, but its probably a red herring to complain about that too, it didn't contain my sons details anyway.

    I have a bit of a list of things to do tomorrow, and hope that it gets sorted without the debt agency coming back. I do appreciate everyones help x x
    • ExtraMask
    • By ExtraMask 9th Oct 17, 11:48 PM
    • 58 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    ExtraMask
    It's really supposed to be down to the letting agent to contact BG and ensure they have the correct billing address. If they're sending the information to the supply address then the letting agent aren't aware of any bills and BG therefore haven't received payment, hence the debt build up of £2000.

    If I was in this situation I'd probably contact BG and let them know that the account details they hold for the letting agent are being sent to the supply address and offer to give a correspondence address for the letting agents office. You can offer to send them the tenancy agreement but be careful to let them know that an account should not be opened in your son's name as the TA shows utilities are paid for by the letting agent. By doing this you're not breaking any data protection as you're not asking BG for any account specific information and just offering information that will help all parties involved resolve the issue.

    The warrant side of things, you can show the tenancy agreement to the debt collections agent to show that your son recently moved in but this won't change anything as the utility account would still be in the name of the letting agent, so they'd still proceed with the warrant to enter on that basis until the letting agent make some kind of payment arrangement. In some instances they do put it on hold for a month to resolve a dispute. BG can request this from the debt collections agent.

    It's usually safer to have the utility accounts in your own name if you're renting from a letting agent as you're relying on them to keep up to date with things and unfortunately, a lot of them only care about receiving your money and if they're not receiving energy bills then it's not their problem. Any reputable letting agent would want their customer to be happy so would make time to contact BG and sort this matter out but it doesn't seem like they've done this. Therefore, I'd complain to them that it still hasn't been sorted and that they have a duty to look after their paying tenants. CAB website has some useful info on complaining to and about your lettings agent. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/during-your-tenancy/complaining-about-your-letting-agent/

    I'd also recommend not opening any letters that are addressed to the letting agent as it's illegal under Postal Services Act 2000. The best thing to do is take them to the letting agents office and tell them that they need to contact BG to update the correspondence address as your son is being harassed by BG and a debt collector for money that he doesn't owe.

    Regarding the letter that was hand delivered, the data protection issue isn't really relevant. The letter hasn't come from BG, it's from a debt collections agent so BG won't have any say in how the DCA deliver mail. They also aren't using your son's data on the letter so it's going to be pointless raising that issue as it still won't solve the overall issue that your son is facing.
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 9th Oct 17, 11:56 PM
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    lindos90
    It's really supposed to be down to the letting agent to contact BG and ensure they have the correct billing address. If they're sending the information to the supply address then the letting agent aren't aware of any bills and BG therefore haven't received payment, hence the debt build up of £2000.

    If I was in this situation I'd probably contact BG and let them know that the account details they hold for the letting agent are being sent to the supply address and offer to give a correspondence address for the letting agents office. You can offer to send them the tenancy agreement but be careful to let them know that an account should not be opened in your son's name as the TA shows utilities are paid for by the letting agent. By doing this you're not breaking any data protection as you're not asking BG for any account specific information and just offering information that will help all parties involved resolve the issue.

    The warrant side of things, you can show the tenancy agreement to the debt collections agent to show that your son recently moved in but this won't change anything as the utility account would still be in the name of the letting agent, so they'd still proceed with the warrant to enter on that basis until the letting agent make some kind of payment arrangement. In some instances they do put it on hold for a month to resolve a dispute. BG can request this from the debt collections agent.

    It's usually safer to have the utility accounts in your own name if you're renting from a letting agent as you're relying on them to keep up to date with things and unfortunately, a lot of them only care about receiving your money and if they're not receiving energy bills then it's not their problem. Any reputable letting agent would want their customer to be happy so would make time to contact BG and sort this matter out but it doesn't seem like they've done this. Therefore, I'd complain to them that it still hasn't been sorted and that they have a duty to look after their paying tenants. CAB website has some useful info on complaining to and about your lettings agent. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/during-your-tenancy/complaining-about-your-letting-agent/

    I'd also recommend not opening any letters that are addressed to the letting agent as it's illegal under Postal Services Act 2000. The best thing to do is take them to the letting agents office and tell them that they need to contact BG to update the correspondence address as your son is being harassed by BG and a debt collector for money that he doesn't owe.

    Regarding the letter that was hand delivered, the data protection issue isn't really relevant. The letter hasn't come from BG, it's from a debt collections agent so BG won't have any say in how the DCA deliver mail. They also aren't using your son's data on the letter so it's going to be pointless raising that issue as it still won't solve the overall issue that your son is facing.
    Originally posted by ExtraMask
    Thanks for your reply, really helpful. Take your point about not opening any future letters that arrive. I am now worried, when bills start to arrive for their current tenancy, that they will have no idea how much they owe though (ie how much over £30 a week all the utilities add up to) I imagine they will just be sent a generic 'you owe this much extra' with no breakdown of costs (and perhaps the LA using that as a way of clawing back extra money).

    Guess thats a worry for another day though!
    • ExtraMask
    • By ExtraMask 10th Oct 17, 2:40 AM
    • 58 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    ExtraMask
    Thanks for your reply, really helpful. Take your point about not opening any future letters that arrive. I am now worried, when bills start to arrive for their current tenancy, that they will have no idea how much they owe though (ie how much over £30 a week all the utilities add up to) I imagine they will just be sent a generic 'you owe this much extra' with no breakdown of costs (and perhaps the LA using that as a way of clawing back extra money).

    Guess thats a worry for another day though!
    Originally posted by lindos90
    I forgot to mention one important part, take regular meter reads. That way you’re going to know how much energy is used each month.

    From the letting agent’s lack of attention to bills I’d imagine the prices are standard variable, so you could work out each month how much has been used between reads with the BG standard prices for the area your son lives in.

    https://www.britishgas.co.uk/content/dam/british-gas/documents/excel/Online-Table-Standard-New.xls

    There’s also guides online for calculating the gas as it depends on metric or imperial meter as well as calorific value (a general estimate for cal val is 40.0 as it varies throughout the country). If you get stuck though there’s always this forum

    Edit: quick note.. if the letting agent aren’t taking regular reads they’re not going to know how much is being used sonwill have difficulty charging any extra without proof, so it’s important your son takes them to stay one step ahead.
    Last edited by ExtraMask; 10-10-2017 at 2:42 AM. Reason: Extra info
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 10th Oct 17, 6:17 AM
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    lindos90
    I forgot to mention one important part, take regular meter reads. That way you’re going to know how much energy is used each month.

    From the letting agent’s lack of attention to bills I’d imagine the prices are standard variable, so you could work out each month how much has been used between reads with the BG standard prices for the area your son lives in.

    https://www.britishgas.co.uk/content/dam/british-gas/documents/excel/Online-Table-Standard-New.xls

    There’s also guides online for calculating the gas as it depends on metric or imperial meter as well as calorific value (a general estimate for cal val is 40.0 as it varies throughout the country). If you get stuck though there’s always this forum

    Edit: quick note.. if the letting agent aren’t taking regular reads they’re not going to know how much is being used son will have difficulty charging any extra without proof, so it’s important your son takes them to stay one step ahead.
    Originally posted by ExtraMask
    All very good points Extra mask, yes I assume it will be standard variable too. (I'm assuming the landlord isn't particularly savvy, or motivated to find cheap utility deals if any excess over the 'inclusive allowance' is paid by the tenant). Although the bill and demand did not mention if the charge was just for gas use, only that it was an outstanding amount. Its possible they have the dual fuel. (Which we are in the process of moving from thanks to Martin L telling me about the best current deals!)

    I will make sure he keeps taking readings, so they have some idea how it is building up. Maybe this will turn out to be an important life lesson for them in some respects.

    It is a tiny flat over a shop, I am wondering if the shop owner under them could be the landlord, or if they are tenants, their landlord could be the same one as my sons. We have already popped in to say hello when he moved in, maybe they might shed some light on things.

    Thanks again for such a helpful reply
    Last edited by lindos90; 10-10-2017 at 6:20 AM.
    • footyguy
    • By footyguy 10th Oct 17, 8:57 AM
    • 3,690 Posts
    • 1,469 Thanks
    footyguy
    My son has just moved into student digs, his contract is inclusive of utilities (although the small print says it is actually up to a limited allowance of £10 per tenant per week)

    When he moved in (just over a week ago) there was an outstanding bill from British Gas, for approximately £160 with additional admin costs due to non payment. He handed it to the Lettings agent, who said they would sort it out immediately.

    Today he arrives home to a hand delivered letter from a debt collecting agency with a demand for over £2000 outstanding! They are going to seek a warrant to enter the property and attach a prepayment 'pay as you go' to the gas meter, or if that is not possible to do, they are going to cut the gas off!

    1) The letting agreement states that utilities are 'inclusive' of the rent they pay. We also assume the tariff set on the pay as you go meter will be huge in order to help pay off the outstanding debt, as well as pay for ongoing gas use, so the students should'nt be having to put their own money in this should they?

    3) How long does it usually take for debt collecting agencies to get a warrant?

    4) As tenants, where do they stand if the debt collectors come back with a warrant?

    Obviously he contacted the lettings agent immediately and told them, they said they would 'look into it and get it sorted' (again).

    Now I can't see an outstanding debt getting to £2000 without the lettings agent knowing about it at some point, so this can't be news to them.

    The letter and bill were addressed to the lettings agent, not to the Landlord. I am not sure quite how it works, but I'm making the assumption that the lettings agent totally manages the property, so is it more likely that they have not paid the bills, rather than the landlord?

    Any advice gratefully received. Just not really sure how to help him and his flatmates.
    Originally posted by lindos90
    I would suggest you ask your son to seek the help of his housing officer at his education establishment
    • footyguy
    • By footyguy 10th Oct 17, 9:03 AM
    • 3,690 Posts
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    footyguy
    No the letter from today has the name of the letting agency and the address of his flat. It was not even in an envelope, it was just pushed through the letter box as a single sheet of paper.

    The 'bill' that was at the flat when they moved in, is addressed the same and was (afaik) already opened when he arrived.
    Originally posted by lindos90
    I suggest you ask your son to ensure the letter and bill is forwarded to the intended recipient without delay
    • footyguy
    • By footyguy 10th Oct 17, 9:07 AM
    • 3,690 Posts
    • 1,469 Thanks
    footyguy
    All very good points Extra mask, yes I assume it will be standard variable too. (I'm assuming the landlord isn't particularly savvy, or motivated to find cheap utility deals if any excess over the 'inclusive allowance' is paid by the tenant). Although the bill and demand did not mention if the charge was just for gas use, only that it was an outstanding amount. Its possible they have the dual fuel. (Which we are in the process of moving from thanks to Martin L telling me about the best current deals!)

    I will make sure he keeps taking readings, so they have some idea how it is building up. Maybe this will turn out to be an important life lesson for them in some respects.

    It is a tiny flat over a shop, I am wondering if the shop owner under them could be the landlord, or if they are tenants, their landlord could be the same one as my sons. We have already popped in to say hello when he moved in, maybe they might shed some light on things.

    Thanks again for such a helpful reply
    Originally posted by lindos90
    I would suggest you ask your son for all the information he was given by the LA about the let, if you want to know who his landlord is.
    • lindos90
    • By lindos90 10th Oct 17, 10:03 AM
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    lindos90
    Footguy, to answer you points, he forwarded the bills to the letting agent as soon as he saw them.

    The landlords details are not on any paperwork, the lettings agent is their only point of contact and they don't seem to be responding. They just say 'we will look into it' but dont appear to be doing so.

    There isn't a 'housing officer' at the Uni as far as we can see, who deal with issues with private rented student accommodation, they only seem to deal with their own campus accommodation.
    Last edited by lindos90; 10-10-2017 at 10:14 AM.
    • ExtraMask
    • By ExtraMask 10th Oct 17, 10:31 AM
    • 58 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    ExtraMask
    Footguy, to answer you points, he forwarded the bills to the letting agent as soon as he saw them.

    The landlords details are not on any paperwork, the lettings agent is their only point of contact and they don't seem to be responding. They just say 'we will look into it' but dont appear to be doing so.

    There isn't a 'housing officer' at the Uni as far as we can see, who deal with issues with private rented student accommodation, they only seem to deal with their own campus accommodation.
    Originally posted by lindos90
    To be honest, you're best off sticking with contacting BG and offering the correspondence address and tenancy information (advising utility bills are included) and contacting the letting agent to make a complaint about them not handling it. The CAB link i posted previously can help in how to complaint to the letting agent and about the letting agent if they're not cooperating.

    The property owner won't have any involvement in this matter as they pay the letting agent to manage it for them. Usually if they're getting the rent regularly they're not concerned. Another thing is due to DPA, they're not allowed to give out the property owner's information to tenants.
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