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mind the gap
05-04-2010, 16:07 PM
I'm posting this on behalf of a friend who rents a flat in a block of about 100 in London. When his tenancy (a 12 month AST) began last August, he informed the utility company that he was living there and asked for the electricity bills to be put in his name. He asked the LL for access to the locked cupboard with the meter in, which is in the basement of the block (it may well contain the meters for all the flats - he doesn't know, since he cannot access it), but the LL says he has never been given the code for the door lock. There is a caretaker for the flats but he says he has never been given the code either. He asked the utility company; they claim not to know it either. Bills have been arriving, but they have all been estimates (based presumably on the usage in the flat the year before?)

So, since last Aug he has been going round in circles in a futile attempt to get the lock code so he can take readings or at least let the utility company take readings.

The (estimated) bills he has been sent for this 2 bedroom flat from last August to now have amounted been £650, but the central heating has never worked properly if at all - he and his mate have tried to the convector heaters provided, as little as possible. The hot water works. There is no gas.

His questions are:
(i) what are his rights/responsibilities as far as access to the meter are concerned?
(ii) is he right in thinking the LL/freeholder (which?) must either find the code, or pay to get the lock changed so the T can access the meter for his flat?
(iii) what can he do (if anything) about the bills if he thinks the estimates are inaccurate? Presumably the utility co. should have a record of the reading they based the previous tenant's final bill on, which could be used as the starting point for my friend's usage ?
(iv) does £650 sound about right for a 2-bed flat with broken central heating boiler for 8 months?

Your thoughts/advice on any/all these questions would be welcome.

ram
05-04-2010, 18:01 PM
His questions are:
(i) what are his rights/responsibilities as far as access to the meter are concerned?
He needs access to the meters...... period.

(ii) is he right in thinking the LL/freeholder (which?) must either find the code, or pay to get the lock changed so the T can access the meter for his flat?
What would the Landlord do if he lived in his own property, he would insist the meters can be read. Therefore the landlord should ensure a key is made available, or the managing company changes the lock and issues 100 keys, via instruction from the owner of the flat ( Landlord ) or if the Caretaker is there to answer the door to the 100 flats, then the caretaker has a set of keys.

OR Cut the lock off, get a £ 5 lock, give one key to the caretaker, and keep one key himself. then bill the Landlord.
If he wants to do this anonymously, cut lock off, then post an envelope through the caretakers door with the key, with explanation:
JOB DONE .. no more hassle : Friend has a key, caretaker has a key, everyone is happy :)

(iii) what can he do (if anything) about the bills if he thinks the estimates are inaccurate? Presumably the utility co. should have a record of the reading they based the previous tenant's final bill on, which could be used as the starting point for my friend's usage ?
The meters need to be read........ period... and the bill adjusted for the probably over estimates. It would be automaticaly adjusted anyway, once a reading is taken.

(iv) does £650 sound about right for a 2-bed flat with broken central heating boiler for 8 months?
No. We have gas cooker and gas heating. Summer our gas is £30 per 3 months. and winter with heating only on to take the chill off, then switched off as soon as warm is £ 158 / 3 months. ( Heating on via 15 / 20 minute blasts, otherwise we would be bankrupted by the cost of gas nowadays )

mind the gap
05-04-2010, 18:10 PM
Thanks, ram, I appreciate your suggestions. The problem is that the door has one of those hi-tech locks where you have to punch a code in - it is not just a question of 'cutting it off' and fitting a new one. If he damages it trying to gain access, no doubt he will be landed with a bill for hundreds.

I suppose what it boils down to is who is responsible for the code for the meter-room door. If it has been lost for all eternity, presumably the management company/freeholder of the whole block must provide another one?

What amazes me is that our friend has knocked on several doors in the block of flats asking about the meters/bills and it seems nobody else has ever clapped eyes on their meter, either - but they don't seem to care!

ram
05-04-2010, 18:21 PM
I suppose what it boils down to is who is responsible for the code for the meter-room door. If it has been lost for all eternity presumably the management company/freeholder of the whole block must provide another one?

YES -- and in the next 4 weeks.

Who owns the locked cupboard ? but in this instance, it does not matter, it's up to the person who owns the flat to get the matter rectified.

Probably the gas board owns it, but they say no, but meter readers will not be conversant with the original / modifications of the building, they are just sent out to read the meters, and because there are so many gas companies now, and owners and tenants changing gas supppliers as often as we change broardband / dial up internet, the original owners of the "box" may have become lost in the system..

Had the same problem here, but with electric -- long story.

mind the gap
05-04-2010, 18:24 PM
This is actually electricity, (there is no gas), not that it makes much difference in this case.

So he must say to the LL : you must get onto the freeholder, please, to get the lock/code sorted?

And if LL fails/refuses to do so?

I don't know who owns the cupboard - it might even be an entire basement. I would've thought the freeholders of the whole block?

Poppy35
05-04-2010, 20:38 PM
I would of thought given the number of flats that there is a management company - is there any details given in any notices in the common areas?

Alternatively ask the caretaker for their details - someone must pay him and am sure they whoever pays him will know the code

westminster
05-04-2010, 20:58 PM
His questions are:
(i) what are his rights/responsibilities as far as access to the meter are concerned?
Probably zero.


(ii) is he right in thinking the LL/freeholder (which?) must either find the code, or pay to get the lock changed so the T can access the meter for his flat?
Cannot see any contractual obligation for LL/freeholder.


(iii) what can he do (if anything) about the bills if he thinks the estimates are inaccurate? Presumably the utility co. should have a record of the reading they based the previous tenant's final bill on, which could be used as the starting point for my friend's usage ?
In his position I'd tell electric company I'd pay a portion pending bill for actual usage, and try to put the onus on them to get the actual end-of-tenancy reading. (Though don't suppose there's a start of tenancy meter reading, so maybe pointless...) But, basically, negotiate in the absence of actual readings...


(iv) does £650 sound about right for a 2-bed flat with broken central heating boiler for 8 months?
I pay £86 per month for electricity AND gas (central heating/hot water) for a 2-bed flat in London (which isn't particularly energy efficient), so £81 per month for 8 months just for electric sounds expensive.

Pelican eats pigeon
05-04-2010, 21:49 PM
I'm posting this on behalf of a friend who rents a flat in a block of about 100 in London. When his tenancy (a 12 month AST) began last August, he informed the utility company that he was living there and asked for the electricity bills to be put in his name. He asked the LL for access to the locked cupboard with the meter in, which is in the basement of the block (it may well contain the meters for all the flats - he doesn't know, since he cannot access it), but the LL says he has never been given the code for the door lock. There is a caretaker for the flats but he says he has never been given the code either. He asked the utility company; they claim not to know it either. Bills have been arriving, but they have all been estimates (based presumably on the usage in the flat the year before?)

So, since last Aug he has been going round in circles in a futile attempt to get the lock code so he can take readings or at least let the utility company take readings.

The (estimated) bills he has been sent for this 2 bedroom flat from last August to now have amounted been £650, but the central heating has never worked properly if at all - he and his mate have tried to the convector heaters provided, as little as possible. The hot water works. There is no gas.

His questions are:
(i) what are his rights/responsibilities as far as access to the meter are concerned?
(ii) is he right in thinking the LL/freeholder (which?) must either find the code, or pay to get the lock changed so the T can access the meter for his flat?
(iii) what can he do (if anything) about the bills if he thinks the estimates are inaccurate? Presumably the utility co. should have a record of the reading they based the previous tenant's final bill on, which could be used as the starting point for my friend's usage ?
(iv) does £650 sound about right for a 2-bed flat with broken central heating boiler for 8 months?

Your thoughts/advice on any/all these questions would be welcome.


I can only really answer iii) and iv)...

Since no-one seems to have had access to the meter I guess with a moderate degree of confidence that the reading when the previous tenant moved out and your friend moved in is either made up arbitrarily by the previous tenant or based on an estimate.

If this is the case, your friend will have a fairly worthless reading when he does manage to get in, but it will probably still be lower than the estimate in any case.

I would say he should be looking at around £40-45/month in the way of electric usage given the situation in the flat, but it's hard to tell - how is the water heated?

mind the gap
05-04-2010, 22:02 PM
I would say he should be looking at around £40-45/month in the way of electric usage given the situation in the flat, but it's hard to tell - how is the water heated?

By electricity (immersion heater).

mind the gap
05-04-2010, 22:10 PM
Thanks to everyone for their help. It's a mess. What he should have done is refuse to have the bill put in his name until an accurate first reading could be made, but he didn't. (Hindsight is a great thing!).

It's one of those frustrating situations where nobody is willing to take responsibility for anything because it doesn't affect them personally.

westminster - surely if he is contracturally bound to put the utility bills into his own name (as he has done), then he has a right to have access to the meter to gain an accurate reading? I could understand his being denied access if the LL paid the bills, but he doesn't.

westminster
06-04-2010, 01:05 AM
westminster - surely if he is contracturally bound to put the utility bills into his own name (as he has done), then he has a right to have access to the meter to gain an accurate reading? I could understand his being denied access if the LL paid the bills, but he doesn't.
I don't see that the meter access is implicit in the provision for T putting bills in his name. The contractual obligation is for T to be liable for the electricity etc, full stop; no associated LL's obligation to ensure this happens. Seems more likely that, having agreed to pay the utility bill, it's the tenant's job to negotiate their fuel4money contract with the utility company - whether that is by means of the meter reading or a negotiated deal based on average usage, or other.

I just can't see a judge making the landlord liable. There's no breach of contract. I might try arguing with the utilities company instead; they're the ones who want the money - let them prove the T owes it.

mind the gap
06-04-2010, 09:13 AM
Thanks, westminster. I shall pass on the advice!

Apparently the last time anyone in those flats can remember having a reading taken (as opposed to estimated) is 4 years ago! It is hard to believe, I know.

ram
07-04-2010, 11:24 AM
I just can't see a judge making the landlord liable. There's no breach of contract. I might try arguing with the utilities company instead; they're the ones who want the money - let them prove the T owes it.

There may be no contract to supply a letter box or mail box, and post is just thrown on the ground infront of the flats, and blow away, but that is no excuse to say, "it's not in your contract to have a letterbox, so live with it"

However, The tenant does not own the "locked box".
It is the tenants right to be charged only for electricity that he uses, and is usual for the landlord to record meter readings before and after tenacy.
It is the tenants right not to be undercharged either.

The landlord has supplied accommodation that cannot verify the amount of electricity used.

The Landlord has access to the managing company and the freeholder, the tenant does not.
If the electric company say they do not have the code to open it, then we assume the box does not belong to the electric company ( big assumption - the original owners of the "box" may have become lost in the system..)

therefore, as the electric company don't own the "locked box", and it is a permanent fixure on the fabric of the building, then the Managing agent, or if none, the freeholder, should rectify the matter at their cost.

I had a similar problem when they discontinued those blue strip prepay cards you fed into the electric meter, and lecy board refused to renew the meter to bill payment ( standard meter ) until the wiring was replaced further along the distribution panel, and the landlord refused to acknowledge he was responsible for wiring after the meters, so I was in a situation where my electric could no longer be supplied, as the pre pay type I had was being discontinued and was unable to get any more pre pay cards. I gave the landlord and electric company an ultimation..... fix it, and here are the two addreses, so talk to each other, and fix it now, or be subject to the might of my wrath when i have no electricity, and there is a generator in the car park running 24 hours a day, to supply me with electricity ( I sent photos of the Generator )

It worked.

and - yes, I do have a County court summons "fill inable" PDF files, which I fill in with the complaint, send to those that don't do what is right, then say, if you don't fix it, this typed summons will be posted in 7 days time to the courts for due process. ( that always works, but only when I have no options left )

LongsufferingLeaseholder
21-03-2013, 00:44 AM
I have long experience of this issue with a particularly unreasonable management company who now tries to demand I must provide them with evidence of servicing my boiler every 12 months (there is no such obligation in an owner occupied leasehold flat) but will not let me have access to my meters.

Whilst finding new ammunition to fight this I came across this Statutory Instrument governing the matter -

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998

See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1998/2451/part/C/made

From the said Regulations:-


11. In this Part—

“meter box” means a receptacle or compartment designed and constructed to contain a meter with its associated fittings;
“meter compound” means an area or room designed and constructed to contain one or more meters with their associated fittings;
“secondary meter” means a meter, other than a primary meter, for ascertaining the quantity of gas provided by a person for use by another person

Meter housings


13.—(1) Where a meter is housed in a meter box or meter compound attached to or built into the external face of the outside wall of any premises, the meter box or meter compound shall be so constructed and installed that any gas escaping within the box or compound cannot enter the premises or any cavity in the wall but must disperse to the external air.

(2) No person shall knowingly store readily combustible materials in any meter box or meter compound.

(3) No person shall install a meter in a meter box provided with a lock, unless the consumer has been provided with a suitably labelled key to that lock.

(4) No person shall install a meter within a meter compound which is capable of being secured unless the consumer has been provided with a suitably labelled key for that compound.

The 1998 Regulations were preceded by the 1994 Regulations which had exactly the same paragraphs 11 and 13. So if the meter was installed in 1994 you have them bang to rights as having an illegal meter installation unless of course the landlord claims this was the builder's responsibility.

For meters installed before 1994 this regulation did not apply when the meter was installed but if the conditions required by the regulation can be easily covered by the simple supply of a key to the meter room to each flat owner they are going to look very bad if this ever causes a safety incident etc. Also I have it on reliable authority from GasSafe that if you cannot access your master gas suppy isolation valve (normally at the meter) and notify the Health and Safety Executive they will then condemn the supply and say it cannot be used until the matter is resolved. I would only advise that this is done in a month like May or June when you should not spend many weeks living in a freezing icebox whilst the dispute over gaining 24/7 access to your meter is resolved.

More reading on this can be found in the Gas Unsafe Situations Procedure - Edition 6 to be found at www.gassaferegister.co.uk/pdf/GIUSP%20Edition%206%20-%20publication%20web%20version%20V1%201.pdf

GasSafe also run a very useful free advice line on this issue on 0808 408 5577 that is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Regrettably I am not aware of any similar regulations that can be brought to bear to force access to an electricity meter only in a similar locked landlord store cupboard. I am stil trying to resolve this using these Regulations (that I have only just become aware of after many years of being denied access to my own meter) and will let you know how I get on in due course.