Advise with an unpaid electric bill for nearly 4 years in England

in Debt-free wannabe
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Hi All At MSE

I hope this is the right pat of the forum to put this in but im at abit of a loss

I have managed to get myself in somewhat of a Sticky Situation Regarding the Electric Utility Bill In the flat i have lived in for close to 4 years now.

In short i have not paid for any of it and have not received a single bill in my name...

When i first moved in there were multiple letters all from the same supplier (not in my name) which i opened, all from the same supplier, each quoting different figures for the debt owed as i had just moved in.

Very shortly after moving in i received a call from somebody representing my letting agent which was to transfer over all of the utility bills into my name, which to my belief was successfully completed, 3-4 years ago, but i have continued to receive letters for the previous tenant whos name the debt is under.

During these years i have perhaps had 2 meter readings the last being around 2 years ago perhaps. The situation came to somewhat of a head perhaps 9 months ago when i was visited by some electricians to change my meter over to a prepay but they could not at the time as i am on economy 7 and they did not have the right equipment (i really wish they did and i feel i could stop worrying about this) This event about 9 months ago involved an electrician, a lock smith, a security guard and later 2 police officers....

The police officers were called because a neighbor of mine had ejected the security guard for not showing proper upon entering the shared access to our building (hilarious at the time but not so much now) with working night shift i was awoke to all this stood naked at my front door as id been asleep due to odd shifts.

Upon realizing what was going on i did not object to the electricians going in and changing the meter, i have never objected to any of the workings of the supplier.

There was also a change in the debt collection Agency around December of last year quoting a bill of 4K now this will include what was already on the bill before i moved in myself, i believe there have also been 2 other tenants at least in here before the person named on the bill.

In short, What am i meant to do with this? I like my little flat but i dont want to be landed with a bill for such a large amount. Part of me wants to just run away to a another place and try to dodge the whole matter, it feels the cheapest way.... but i like my little flat its very hand for me and where it is...

I am also aware of back billing in that utilities companies should not be able to charge back for over a year if they have been negligent in theyre collection of a debt which to my mind they have been and i have never had a Bill in my name. I have given visiting officers my details, never obstructed anyone coming to read the meter and even reached out the the previous energy supplier when i first thought i was incorrect in the electric being included in my rent.

I am at a loss i really am, tbh i am uncertain how they would even decern how much i have spent in the last 12 months as a single guy i use very little, i have space heaters and a water tank i dont use for the very reason of keeping my usage down.

Any and all advise welcomed as this is seriously twisting my melon man

Thanks to all who respond who know a little more than me.

Kind regards.


Replies

  • edited 13 March 2022 at 12:44AM
    elsienelsien Forumite
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    edited 13 March 2022 at 12:44AM
    Just to clarify, in the four years you’ve lived there, you’ve made no attempt after the first one to have the account changed to your name, despite being fully aware that you should have been paying it yourself? 

    Backbilling limitations may not apply if you’ve not made a proper effort to have the bills changed to your name. 

    Did you take a meter reading when you moved in and m do you have proof of that? 
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • MWTMWT Forumite
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    SoupSquad said:
    Very shortly after moving in i received a call from somebody representing my letting agent which was to transfer over all of the utility bills into my name, which to my belief was successfully completed, 3-4 years ago, but i have continued to receive letters for the previous tenant whos name the debt is under.

    Have you received any communication from any of your utilities in your name?
    What made you believe the transfer was 'successful' ?

  • edited 13 March 2022 at 7:19PM
    RosaBerniciaRosaBernicia Forumite
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    edited 13 March 2022 at 7:19PM
    I'm not sure what you mean by opening letters not in your name.  You are not supposed to open letters addressed to anyone else without reasonable excuse (otherwise it's legally interfering with the mail), and a debt in someone else's name is not your business. Have you been sending back the previous tenant's mail marked Return To Sender so the supplier should note they no longer live there?   Or do you really mean you have been opening bills and debt collection letters addressed to someone else for the last four years? 
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  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    Opening letters to see what they are is fine as long as you don’t use it for nefarious purposes.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • RosaBerniciaRosaBernicia Forumite
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    elsien said:
    Opening letters to see what they are is fine as long as you don’t use it for nefarious purposes.
    Royal Mail's opinion seems to be that you simply shouldn't open it.  If the action has been to allow the utility bill to continue in somebody else's name, that could be considered as a negative purpose, and if it becomes known to the supplier or debt collectors it might cause further problems - that's why I suggested clarification. 
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  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    And back in the real world, no-one is going to notice, care or prosecute you just for opening a utility bill that’s come to your address. 
    Particularly if it leads to an account being put in your name instead of being incorrectly left with a tenant who is long gone. 
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • MWTMWT Forumite
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    The mail is a bit of a diversion, opening it is fine as long as the intent is not to act in a negative manner based on the contents.
    We should probably park that point for now.
    So, in the spirit of 'no judgement' for the OP there are a couple of things that need to be done to limit the scope of the debt.
    First of those is to make sure you know the meter reading at the point you moved in, if you do not already have that written down it is possible that the letting agent or the landlord may have that recorded and it will separate your liability from the previous tenant.
    The problem you have though is that you are liable for the energy used since you moved in and leaving it so long without dealing with the problem has not helped in that regard.
    I would not assume that you can depend on the back-billing rules as from what you have said so far, you have not taken the basic step of making sure the supplier had your contact and payment details to set up an account.
    However they may be willing to write-off some of the outstanding balance once you engage with them to get this sorted.
    Don't do that yet though, can you answer the questions I asked earlier please... Why did you think the accounts had been transferred to you after your phone call with the agent? ... was there any communication to you in your name at the address from the supplier?
    The reason for asking this is if the supplier did receive your details but failed to act on them then your chances of using the back-billing rules are much greater...
  • xsinaftersinxxsinaftersinx Forumite
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    There are a couple of things you really need to consider here:
    - You made no attempt (apart from the call with your letting agent) to change the bills into your name
    - You didn't return the mail to sender, thus notifying the utilities provider that the named person isn't there any more
    - The meter readers are generally not employed by the utilities company and don't have access to their systems or even the company that they are reading for, all they do is take a number from the meter and input it. 
    - Your tenancy agreement probably states that you have to keep up payments on the utilities and register them in your name, changing to a prepayment meter will also need to be advised to your agency as this could have an impact on the re-letability of the address (I wouldn't want to rent from somewhere on a prepayment meter as the costs are higher. 
    - The utility company will collect the debt via the prepayment meter if you don't pay it so you'll be paying stupidly higher rates on top of the already stupidly high rates

    You are liable for the debt, they may reduce it slightly but not by much at all.  Your best bet is to talk to them, talk to citizens advice or just to arrange a plan to pay it back. 

    Either way, you won't get out of paying it unfortunately as, I very much doubt, the backbilling rules will apply to this case  
  • EssexHebrideanEssexHebridean Forumite
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    Thank you @MWT for hauling this back to the vital bit of the OP's question - and for the reminder about DFW being non-judgemental. 

    I agree that you're unlikely to find back-billing rules are going to help you here although as MWT says if you have any confirmation that the supplier definitely DID get your details and has just failed to act on them there is a better chance. In reality though, if you've not made any substantive efforts at all to get the matter sorted out in the last 4 years, I suspect the view will be that a single simple error at the suppliers end doesn't change the fact that you've - in their eyes - continued to use power without making efforts to pay for it. 

    Who is the supplier?  That may give us a clue as to how they're likely to proceed. 
    Tracking down that meter reading from when you moved in would be ideal. if not, find the very earliest one you have.
    Try not to worry too much about the debt that pre-dates you living there - the letting agent or landlord will be able to confirm the date you moved in and you should not be liable for anything before that date - the only difficulty without readings will be proving how much of that use WAS before you moved in.  

    In the meantime, if you can answer the questions that have been asked, and also take a reading of the meter today and note the figures somewhere safe. You can get apps for your phone that allow you to record electricity use - that would also allow you to put in any retrospective ones you can find too which might start to help give an idea of use. Make a diary note or set a phone reminder to read the meter again on 31st March WITHOUT FAIL too - that one is vital because of the steep increase in prices that will occur on April 1st.  

    Final question from me - although it's more something to think about - have you been putting any money aside against paying future bills? If not then it's important to make sure that you definitely start doing that starting right now. There IS going to be a debt to pay - there's no point in pretending otherwise, so begin right now setting yourself up to be in the best position possible to deal with it. 
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  • MWTMWT Forumite
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    SoupSquad said:
    Part of me wants to just run away to a another place and try to dodge the whole matter, it feels the cheapest way.... but i like my little flat its very hand for me and where it is...

    Just to help set expectations, that isn't going to work and will certainly not be the cheapest either as it is going to be in your landlord's best interests to make sure the supplier knows who has been the tenant for the last 4 years otherwise the supplier will be sending the bill to the Landlord..
    Once we know who the supplier is, we can give a much better steer on how flexible they are likely to be in sorting out a payment plan to spread the cost over a period of time..

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