PDA

View Full Version : Early leaving tenant - who pays utilities?



drfrot
15-12-2011, 17:12 PM
I have a tenant who has vacated the property three weeks in advance of the official end of their 6 month AST and moved elsewhere. They've paid 6 months full rent and everything's been perfectly amicable.

Whose responsibility are the bills between now and the end of the tenancy? I've a feeling they've given meter readings to the utilities companies and told them they've vacated the property (in which case they'll likely get a final bill to their leaving date). Does that mean I take the bills on for the next few weeks, until I get another tenant in?

I wouldn't mind - it's not like they'll be big bills - but I do want to leave the heating coming on every now and again to prevent damp and give a favourable impression when others are viewing it.

Any advice?

Thanks

drfrot
15-12-2011, 17:17 PM
I should add that keys have been returned.

shining light
15-12-2011, 21:44 PM
I'm new to this and still learning the ropes so i'm not speaking from experience, but since there is no contract with the utility companies and assuming the tenant has paid up to date, I would say that you, as the owner of the property, are liable for the utilities until a new tenant takes over. An early termination of the tenancy has nothing to do with the utilities.

If i am wrong, i'm sure somebody will add to this.

mind the gap
15-12-2011, 22:17 PM
Given that the tenant has effectively surrendered the tenancy, the LL is surely liable for the utility bills, especially as it is the LL who wants to have the heating on.

drfrot
16-12-2011, 09:27 AM
Thanks. I hear what you're saying, it's just that all the official documentation I have regards the tenancy states that it runs up to 6th January. It's not mine to re-rent until that point, as far as I know.

If I have any problems with the utilities companies (and today, entering the property, I have just discovered a non-funcioning boiler and phone calls have established that the tenant swapped suppliers without telling me) then I can't provide anyone with any record of the actual date of leaving... other than a text message saying "I'm moving out tomorrow, thanks"

Grrrr. Tenants!

mind the gap
16-12-2011, 09:49 AM
Thanks. I hear what you're saying, it's just that all the official documentation I have regards the tenancy states that it runs up to 6th January. It's not mine to re-rent until that point, as far as I know.

If I have any problems with the utilities companies (and today, entering the property, I have just discovered a non-funcioning boiler and phone calls have established that the tenant swapped suppliers without telling me) then I can't provide anyone with any record of the actual date of leaving... other than a text message saying "I'm moving out tomorrow, thanks"

Grrrr. Tenants!

No, I think that if the T has clearly vacated, leaving none of their belongings and having returned the keys after a text message to say they are leaving, that amounts to surrendering the tennacy and you are free to regain possession (i.e. go in).

Even though they have paid rent up to 6th Jan, rent paid in advance is not refundable except with LL's agreement, so that's a bit of a red herring. It suited them to end the tenancy early, and they have. They would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove that you were not entitled to go back in there after they had moved out, returned keys, etc, - and why would they want to, at this stage, if you take responsibility for the utilities?

Ericthelobster
16-12-2011, 10:20 AM
today, entering the property, I have just discovered a non-funcioning boiler and phone calls have established that the tenant swapped suppliers without telling me) then I can't provide anyone with any record of the actual date of leaving... other than a text message saying "I'm moving out tomorrow, thanks"So that's fine - the tenant's given you the date they moved out, so phone the utility companies and give them the date along with the meter readings. Shouldn't be a problem at all, unless there's a major discrepancy between your readings and the tenant's.

Although it's a pain when tenants do change utility cos, the OFT guidelines do say they shouldn't be prohibited from doing so if they wish. I agree it would be nice if they mentioned which company it was though...!

drfrot
16-12-2011, 10:31 AM
Although it's a pain when tenants do change utility cos, the OFT guidelines do say they shouldn't be prohibited from doing so if they wish. I agree it would be nice if they mentioned which company it was though...!

Aye, you're not wrong. But as a tenant myself, I can see both sides. Of course, if I was moving on, I'd have let the landlord know al the details, given final readings etc etc (he did none of these - and why oh why do you swap supplier four weeks before you move out?!)

My next problem is the boiler. Pilot light's out. It won't reset. Chances are I'm going to have to get someone out to look at it. I suppose I'll be footing the bill for that too?!

(I apologise for general grumpiness. After having an excellent long term tenant for a few years, I've had a string of useless short term ones. Never ceases to amaze me how they behave!)

Petetong
16-12-2011, 11:39 AM
Alot will depend of what communications you have had with the tenant. I dont believe from the brief information you have given that the tenancy has been surrendered and I would act, as the landlord, in way which you still beleive the tenant still has a tenancy. I assume you took a 'post contact address' for the prescribed information, so would write to them using this address and also the property address, giving 24hours notice that you are entering the property to conduct viewings and conduct minor repairs.

In respect of the utilities, I beleive that as the tenancy has not been surrendered that the tenant is liable. With cold weather coming, the tenant may thank you for turning the heating on and ensuring the pipes dont freeze.

drfrot
16-12-2011, 11:59 AM
Yes - this is more representative of what I'd imagined would be the case. However, it's fair to say the tenant has LEFT. I've had a few text messages (to paraphrase):
- I'm leaving, how do I return the keys?
- It's empty, so long and thanks for all the fish. I've left the keys with the agent you asked me to.
- I'm leaving the country to return home for Xmas. When I return it will be to address XYZ.

I've taken on responsibility for gas/water/electricity (who weren't bothered about the end date of the AST, only when the T had moved out). Interestingly the same does not apply to Council Tax. I won't become liable for that until after the end of the agreed 6 month AST.

Petetong
16-12-2011, 12:30 PM
A tenant does not have to live in a property for a tenancy to exist/continue.

drfrot
16-12-2011, 12:57 PM
Oh strewth. It's never straightforward, is it?

I think I'm going to have to take a common sense approach, in that all the information I have at my disposal suggests unequivocally that the tenant is gone and not coming back - they've no keys to get back in for a start! They are also literally now on the other side of the world until after the end of the tenancy in a couple of weeks time.

If anyone's losing out here, it's the beleaguered LL!

Mrs Mug
16-12-2011, 13:14 PM
If anyone's losing out here, it's the beleaguered LL

Compare the cost to yourself of a few weeks of gas/electricity to run the central heating system set to a low temperature for a few hours a day, to the cost of repairing the damage caused by burst pipes in your loft.

drfrot
16-12-2011, 13:17 PM
Compare the cost to yourself of a few weeks of gas/electricity to run the central heating system set to a low temperature for a few hours a day, to the cost of repairing the damage caused by burst pipes in your loft.

Loud and clear. Please see earlier post about being generally hacked off with being a LL. Not in the most receptive of moods today... for which I apologise.

Ericthelobster
16-12-2011, 15:18 PM
In respect of the utilities, I beleive that as the tenancy has not been surrendered that the tenant is liable. With cold weather coming, the tenant may thank you for turning the heating on and ensuring the pipes dont freeze.Totally disagree that the tenancy hasn't been surrendered.

The tenant has agreed terms with the landlord about quitting; has paid all his rent until the end of the term; has returned the keys; and has told the landlord he's moved out.

If the pipes were to freeze/burst now, causing X amount of damage, I really cannot imagine in a million years that any court would say that the tenant was liable.


I think I'm going to have to take a common sense approach, in that all the information I have at my disposal suggests unequivocally that the tenant is gone and not coming back Sounds like a plan...

Petetong
16-12-2011, 20:30 PM
Eric, I appreciate your views, but I dont see the landlord having accepted surrender in any of his posts. Actually he states that he' understands that he cant re-rent the property until the end of the tenancy'.

The tenant has offered surrender and from the landlords posts he has not as yet accepted. His actions since the offer of surrender are not those of a landlord who has accepted surrender, unless he is doing things in the property which he has not stated in his posts.

I would use the following county court to support some of my arguments.

http://www.letlink.co.uk/case-law/surrender/artworld-financial-corp-v-safaryan-2009.html

shining light
16-12-2011, 21:09 PM
Regarding the utilities, I don't believe it makes any difference as to whether or not the tenant has "surrendered tenancy". He has left the property and informed the utilities of this, presumably giving a "closing reading" so will no longer be using the gas, electricity etc and so cannot be charged for it.

mind the gap
17-12-2011, 12:15 PM
In order to accept the T's surrender, all the LL has to do in this situation is reply to his text saying 'I accept your surrender. You are no longer liable for any utility charges', although personally I cannot see this is necessary. The tenancy has clearly surrendered the tenancy and the LL has acted in such a way as to suggest he has accepted that surrender.

As far as the boiler is concerned, it is in any case the LL's responsibility and the only way OP could justify charging the T for its repair is if the T had damaged it in some way. Very hard to prove, with boilers!

drfrot
18-12-2011, 15:39 PM
Thanks all. It's complicated, of course. I discovered from a neighbour that a few weeks ago there was a leak and the gas board came, switched everyone off, dug up the courtyard and replaced all the pipes that supply the meters (all located in one common utility room). For reasons that remain unclear (and may be forever lost), the T did not get it switched back on. The neighbour related that their flat was inspected, their boiler checked and then the new supply pipe was uncapped.

This didn't happen at the flat for some reason, and arriving to a vacated flat with no gas supply (no surprise the boiler wouldn't work!) was the first I'd heard about it. A plumber I called in identified where and how the supply was capped, but referred me to the gas board to get it uncapped.

The saga continues, and I'll be contacting them tomorrow.

drfrot
18-12-2011, 15:43 PM
a few weeks ago there was a leak and the gas board came, switched everyone off...
...the T did not get it switched back on...

It occurred to me this may be the reason they moved out. Why oh why oh why didn't they contact me?!