View Full Version : Sub-metering: is it lawful? What are my rights?

30-11-2005, 14:09 PM
Hi. A few days ago I was asked to supply my landlord with the reading from the electricity meter in my flat (first time I've been asked - I moved in three months ago).

I did this and a couple of days later received a hand-written bill from the landlord for a whopping £272.16.

The bill read as follows:

Reading on 20/08/05 - 38570 units (date I moved in)
Reading on 26/11/05 - 40962 units

= 2392 units @ 10p per unit = £239.20
Metre = £20
VAT 5% = £12.96

Grand total for 3 months to 26/11/05 = £272.16

I have two questions.

1) Is it legal to sub-meter to tenants in this way? I was not informed of this arrrangement before I moved in and expected simply to receive a standard bill from my local electricity supplier, same as in every rental property I've lived in. I have had no proof of unit cost from the landlord or anything.

2) In your experience, is it physically possible to run up a bill this size with one person living in a one bedroom flat? Appliances-wise, there are two night storage heaters in the lounge (one of which was broken for a month), an electric shower and a towel drier type radiator in the bathroom, a one-bar radiator in the toilet, and a water heater over the sink in the kitchen (which is turned off most of the time), a washing machine and a microwave - none of which are used excessively. I don't leave lights on during the day. I never use the cooker (sad, I know). I didn't even turn the heating on for the first month I was there!

My experience has always been bills around the £50-60 mark. Never this much. Needless to say, I haven't paid the bill yet.

Many thanks in advance for your help.


30-11-2005, 14:21 PM
Regardless of legality, he must show you proof(ie his bill from the utility company) of the actual expense he has paid. So you are fully entitled t osee his bill prior to paying him anything.

*EDIT* it almost definitely is illegal, as apart from anything else it could deny you your right of changing utility suppliers.

And yes that is quite a high bill, in fact very high. Did you read the meter yourself upon moving in?

What does Metre = £20 mean???

And I virtually guarantee you that the utility will not be charging 10p per unit....apart from anything else no utility company charges a nice round figure per unit.

30-11-2005, 14:24 PM
you need to try and find out who your current supplier is. Try contacting Meterline on 0870 608 1524, they may be able to help.

30-11-2005, 14:28 PM
It appears I may be wrong about it being illegal. Here is some info from the energywatch website which may be useful.

The Maximum Resale Price is the most a landlord can charge you for mains gas or mains electricity.

Your landlord cannot charge more for gas or electricity than the amount they have paid for it, plus VAT at the appropriate rate. Your landlord can also recover the supplier’s standing charge, by dividing on a pro-rata basis amongst tenants according to their varying levels of consumption.

This only applies to energy used in the home and the current rules, which were set by the Regulator, Ofgem, came into effect on 1 January 2003.

Maximum Resale Price will apply to you if you:

rent your home and pay your landlord for the gas or electricity you use
are a leaseholder and you buy your gas or electricity from the lessor
are a student and you buy your gas or electricity from your landlord
own or rent a caravan and buy your gas or electricity from the caravan site or park owner
rent a holiday home or chalet and buy your gas or electricity from the owner
own a houseboat or marine craft and buy your gas or electricity from the moorings operator.

The Maximum Resale Price does not apply:

if you rent your accommodation and the rent you pay is inclusive, for example there is no specified charge for gas or electricity

to gas or electricity that is used at industrial or commercial premises
to the sale of liquefied petroleum gas.

How will you know how much your landlord pays?

At your request, your landlord must produce copies of any bills from the supplier showing how much gas or electricity has been used. If more than one tenant is supplied at the property the landlord should also explain how your contribution has been calculated.

Other Costs:-

Your landlord is entitled to recover charges for other costs such as the maintenance and upkeep of his own supply system, gas or electricity used in communal areas or administrative charges for reading individual sub-meters.

However, these charges are not covered by the Maximum Resale Price regulations and should be billed separately, for example within the rent or as part of other service charges

30-11-2005, 15:20 PM
The "meter £20" will be the charge of providing the metre and supply - this is normal in commercial tenancies but dont know about domestic. I do know that in the case of domestic rentals there is a maximum which can be added on to the price the landlord is charged (as above). I would take my usage (if units accurate), find out the real charge, add on what the landlord is legally entitled to add on and pay him that.

30-11-2005, 15:37 PM
As stated above, the landlord cannot add anything on, as the maximum selling price is the price paid by the landlord.

Quick question....is this mainland britain? Or northern ireland or EIRE? The rules are different there.

30-11-2005, 16:18 PM
Mainland Britain. Reading, to be precise!

Thanks for your advice, MrShed - much appreciated.

However, I'm still baffled how I'm supposed to have used that many units of electricity in the first place...

30-11-2005, 16:59 PM
Yes it does seem quite high....I'm guessing that you didnt take a reading yourself!

Good luck, let us know how it turns out, quite interested in this one. Needless to say the most important advice from the above is do NOT give any money until you have seen his bill.

susan 2
30-11-2005, 17:56 PM
Philo - this definately seems a ripoff. We at the moment charge each of our individual flats £46 per calendar month to cover gas, electric and water rates. We do not make any profit but neither do we lose out. That includes gas central heating. One thing I noticed you mentioned was night storage heaters. Does he have a separate white meter for these (or are those not being used now does anyone know?) You used to have to have them or the electric price was excessive using only the day meter price. You certainly have the right to ask for details of the bills before paying. You could also I think ask him to have the meter checked by his supplier.

30-11-2005, 20:20 PM
Hi Susan. No, there's only the one meter with the one dial. I remember in an old flat the meter had two dials - one for the standard rate and one for Economy 7. I presume this is what you're referring to...

£46 - that's round-about what I would expect to be paying.

30-11-2005, 20:28 PM
Quick addendum to my last note. I've just had another look at my meter and the reading is now 41412. Four days ago when I gave the landlord the original reading it was 40962, so that's 450 units in four days.

At the landlord's rate -10p a unit (which I'm still going to query) - that's £45! In four days!!

Am just about to hand deliver a note to the landlord's house asking for the meter to be checked asap.

So... if it's malfunctioning, is that their fault? I will post again when I hear back from them...

30-11-2005, 21:29 PM
To do a rough check on your meter, switch off everything in your premises and check that the meter reading does not change. If it is an old type mechanical meter this is easy as there a vertically mounted wheel in it which must remain stationary. If this is the case then switch on an electric heather rated at 1 kilowatt for one hour. The meter reading must increase by precicely 1 unit provided a thermostat does not cut in to control the unit.

The name of the electricity supplier to your property is available from Mpan on 0845 6030618. On finding out who this is you can always ring them up and offer to take over the bill payment directly thus cutting your landlord out of the loop!


30-11-2005, 21:32 PM
many many years ago I was looking for a flatshare in London. One place I looked at was above two shops which the landlord owned. The tenants had their own electricity meter for the flat, the bills for which were divided amongst the tenants. However, they had discovered that the supply in one of the rooms went through the meter of the shop below, so most electrical devices in the flat were run off extension cables from this one room! There were about 15 cables running down the hallway, and I hate to think of the demand out of a few sockets.

So to the OP, do experiment with your supply. At various times of the day, switch off all the supplies in your flat, and then look at the dial of the meter. If its going round, you're paying for someone else's electricity!

30-11-2005, 21:43 PM
Average monthly consumption in a UK Household per month is 392 kilowatts.

01-12-2005, 21:51 PM
curmudgeon is right to say that you should turn absolutely everything off, and see if the meters going round. If you have a loft ( sorry, haven't read all the story) see if someone's left a heater up there to stop the water tank, if any, freezing. I do know of someone who did this to themselves....!

If nobody's hooked into your supply, then you need to ascertain if the meters faulty - I believe it does happen

01-12-2005, 22:14 PM
It certainly does happen. Unfortunately they virtually try to talk you out of it and try to convince you they hardly ever go wrong. It will cost you money if they test it and it's not faulty, but worth getting it done if there's nothing else using your supply. I got a HA £1500 refunded due to a faulty meter.

02-12-2005, 01:34 AM
It is on the site I quoted above how you check your meter ( http://www.energywatch.org.uk/ ) but yes they will charge you for the priviledge.

20-02-2006, 16:40 PM
Good afternoon. Here's a (long overdue) update regarding this situation - and another request for advice (sorry)...

Following the excellent advice I got on this forum, I got hold of a copy of Ofgem's Guidance for Resellers on The Resale of Gas and Electricity. This confirmed that the reseller (my landlord) should provide a bill from their supplier showing the amount of electricity to the property as a whole, and that they should be in a position to explain how my share was calculated.

I requested, in writing, this from my landlord, and got a fair bit of bluster and indignation back in return ("Well, I've never had to share my bills with a tenant before" etc.)

To cut a long story short, they have *not* provided me with this info, so I have decided to take the matter to the Small Claims court, as I believe I have a case. I gave the landlord a copy of the Ofgem report, by the way.

My landlord has been informed and the deadline for them to suggest a settlement has just passed... so they will be getting a summons (is it unusual that I should be more scared of this than they appear to be??)

That's the update. Here's the question.

Given that myself and my landlord will shortly be engaged in legal combat, does that give me any sort of rights in regard to cutting short my tenancy agreement with them? To recap I am six months into a 12 month agreement, with no break clause.

I'm thinking perhaps that their actions represent some sort of gross misconduct, and that would give me some sort of grounds for a legal termination.

It's clutching at straws, I know, but obviously this situation will lead to relations between us being frostier than ever, and as they live in the property next door I am very worried....

20-02-2006, 19:35 PM
I wonder if you are somehow paying for their electricity as well as your own. Did you ever get the meter checked or try to check it yourself? Why don't you just change suppliers and pay your bill direct to your new company? Just a thought.

21-02-2006, 08:55 AM
No unfortunately it doesnt give you the right to terminate the tenancy. However, if they do anything because of "frosty relations" which could be seen as harrassment or anything similar, they can be screwed legally. So I wouldn't worry too much.

Out of interest, you say it's going to SCC. Did you actually pay him that bill you originally talked about?

And did you find out any of the other info (eg electric company, checking meter etc).

21-02-2006, 12:31 PM
Mr Shed - I did pay the bill, yes :( ... Largely because they put pressure on me to do so, but also, if I hadn't, I thought that I wouldnt be able to make a retrospective claim via the SCC.

Plus I thought they could feasibly cut the electricity supply off, and that would have been disaster.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that I also got another bill from them (for this quarter - first one was for Aug/Sept/Oct, new one for Nov/Dec/Jan) and it was for a similar amount (slightly less as I have been sitting shivering for three months), but calculated using the same '10p per unit' formula.

I found out that the LL's electricity supplier was British Gas, and I did do a 'DIY' check of the meter by turning off the mains and checking that the dials/disc didn't go round (and also that the lights in the landlord's property didn't go out!)

Muse - I can't change suppliers as that would mean the landlord changing suppliers (as I'm submetered from their supply).

21-02-2006, 20:55 PM
You say you did a DIY check by turning off at the mains - did you mean 'mains'? - because of course the meter won't go round if you have turned the mains supply off!

Also you say you turned the mains off and checked the LLs lights didn't go out - well who knows what other appliance might be drawing a supply on a different electricity circuit to the lighting circuit? Does he have a perma-tan????? For instance, a power circuit could be hooked up to draw from your supply

You need to turn all your appliances off - don't forget things like boiler (even if its a gas fired boiler) built in fridge, video and telly and other things on standby, rad, chargers, tv booster, comoputers and printers, etc etc. Keep the main supply switch on and see if that little wheel is still turning.

You are either using sn electric heater 24:7 of a type I haven't seen before, or you are the most carbon-debt ridden person on the planet - sorry forgot the US - in Britain, or someone is drawing off your supply somewhere, or the meter is faulty.

You do get faulty meters

Don't give up! Sounds really awful but this is fascinating. Please let us know what happens.

Steve C
22-02-2006, 09:37 AM


These are two leaflets that you can read on-line. You do not have to pay extra for your fuel supplies if you are in a domestic situation.

25-02-2006, 11:28 AM
I think you have what is called a 'check meter' installed in your flat. This measures electricity, and the LL can add the units and charge you accordingly. Units cost around 7p/kilowatt hour. Some check meters can be set to different tarriffs. £45.00 in 4 days! Something is wrong. I have a key meter, and the same kind of appliances first mentioned, and i don't even spen £20.00 per week with the two storage heaters on perm at high!
You will need to tell your landlord that you are not happy with the integrity of the meter, and that the bills will be in dispute till it is sorted out.
I have come accross a few issues like this with customers, and most of the time it is the meter....

Is it worth the cost of an electrician to come out for an hours money and check it for you, as he should know what he is looking for!


26-02-2006, 07:57 AM
I experienced a similiar experience to you but handled it in a completely different matter!. An ex-landlord of mine sub-metered the electricity in all of his property( apart from shared houses) but here's the clincher he installed card meters.... and yes you've guessed it you could only buy the cards from his offices!! These meters were set at an extremely high rate, I can't remember exactly how high, but I was always having to put in at least 2 cards a day!! Even when I was out at work all day!! Any way I combatted this in my own manner, I isolated the supply, wired round the internal (landlords meter)contacted the electrical supplier and arranged to pay the supplier my self! I know it's not really feasible for yourself, but thought a little success by someone else may lift your spirits!! It left my landlord absolutely spewing, but unfortunately for him it did not state in the rent that I had to purchase it from him! He tried to claim that the reasoning behind this was so that he could make sure that his staff saw all his tenants on a regular basis, like that can be believed!! Have you tried contacting any electric suppliers to find out what the charge to install a supply directly would be, and whether this would be legally an option( I'm not sure but thought it may be a possibility!!) ANyway.. best of luck.. but by the sounds of it.. you probably don't need it!!

Kayley xxx:)

27-02-2006, 22:33 PM

Have you tried looking in your fuse box to see if there's anything there that looks a bit odd? As a friend of mine rented a house where the landlord was using their electricity (previous owner lived in the house, converted the garage into a tyre workshop business, current owner bought job lot, used the workshop, rented out the house). They discovered something was amiss because there was a huge mains isolater switch in the fuse box that didn't seem to be doing anything. The landlord did have another meter in the workshop so just hadn't realised & gave them a lump sum & reduced the rent.

Also, if there are two meters (yours & your landlord's), shouldn't the landlord be getting two bills? Didn't think you could get two meters put on the one bill. Unless it's something the landlord's put in of course...