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Electric Dispute with Scottish Power / Other Flats wired into my meter


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Hi all, I've been told this is the very best place to come for sound advice, so here goes - it's a long convoluted story but I'll keep it as short as I can.

 

I live in a one bed flat that occupies the front half of a three story town house.

 

Last year, unbeknown to me, Scottish Power messed up billing on my account for electric (something to do with them changing their computer system to a new one). Then out of the blue I received a bill for £1100 - on top of what i had already paid / been paying. I questioned it (obviously!) They said the figure was correct and based on actual readings. I continued to question it and raised an official complaint.

 

I have no TV and use my washing machine once every 2 weeks. I have a desktop pc that is on all day and a fridge freezer. That's pretty much it apart from small items like LED desktop lamp, phone chargers etc. So there's NO WAY I could be using the amount of electric they claimed I was using.

 

So while this complaint was being processed by Scottish Power (A whole other nightmare!) I continued to pay £100 a month off the debt they said I owed. As obviously I would be using SOME electricity, just not the amount they claim.

 

Few weeks back, out of the blue, a debt recovery agent turns up at my front door, threatens me with all kinds legal fees, court costs etc if i don't sign his paperwork and agree to having a prepayment meters fitted. Feeling intimidated, I signed his paperwork.

 

This morning an electrician from Scottish Power turns up to fit my prepaid electric meter. He takes one look at my meter and says, "Can't change your meter, there's a problem". Well the problem, according to the electrician is that my meter has other stuff wired into it, which he guesses to be, the communal power for the entire building, hall way landing lights on every floor, fire alarm, AND another flat - again guessing it to be the little bedsit behind my flat, but on the same floor.

 

So my questions are:

 

Has a crime been committed?

Where do i stand legally?

What action should i take? (Can't afford lawyer - I'm on benefits)

What should i do about this money Scottish power still insists i owe them?

 

This whole situation has been massively stressful. I've actually developed Alopecia which I directly attribute to the stress of the alleged debt and the excruciating frustration of trying get coherent answers from Scottish Power. I don't need to tear my hair out, it's falling out all by itself!

 

All suggestions welcome and greatly appreciated.

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Hi all, I've been told this is the very best place to come for sound advice, so here goes - it's a long convoluted story but I'll keep it as short as I can.

 

I live in a one bed flat that occupies the front half of a three story town house.

 

Last year, unbeknown to me, Scottish Power messed up billing on my account for electric (something to do with them changing their computer system to a new one). Then out of the blue I received a bill for £1100 - on top of what i had already paid / been paying. I questioned it (obviously!) They said the figure was correct and based on actual readings. I continued to question it and raised an official complaint.

 

I have no TV and use my washing machine once every 2 weeks. I have a desktop pc that is on all day and a fridge freezer. That's pretty much it apart from small items like LED desktop lamp, phone chargers etc. So there's NO WAY I could be using the amount of electric they claimed I was using.

 

So while this complaint was being processed by Scottish Power (A whole other nightmare!) I continued to pay £100 a month off the debt they said I owed. As obviously I would be using SOME electricity, just not the amount they claim.

 

Few weeks back, out of the blue, a debt recovery agent turns up at my front door, threatens me with all kinds legal fees, court costs etc if i don't sign his paperwork and agree to having a prepayment meters fitted. Feeling intimidated, I signed his paperwork.

 

This morning an electrician from Scottish Power turns up to fit my prepaid electric meter. He takes one look at my meter and says, "Can't change your meter, there's a problem". Well the problem, according to the electrician is that my meter has other stuff wired into it, which he guesses to be, the communal power for the entire building, hall way landing lights on every floor, fire alarm, AND another flat - again guessing it to be the little bedsit behind my flat, but on the same floor.

 

So my questions are:

 

Has a crime been committed?

Where do i stand legally?

What action should i take? (Can't afford lawyer - I'm on benefits)

What should i do about this money Scottish power still insists i owe them?

 

This whole situation has been massively stressful. I've actually developed Alopecia which I directly attribute to the stress of the alleged debt and the excruciating frustration of trying get coherent answers from Scottish Power. I don't need to tear my hair out, it's falling out all by itself!

 

All suggestions welcome and greatly appreciated.

 

First of all, since you "occupy" : do you own the freehold, or a leasehold / tenancy?.

 

If a leasehold / tenancy, you need to involve the landlord. They may have information on how / when the meter(s) was(/were) set up.

 

You also need to see if you can get a feel for how this situation has arisen / how long this has been going on for.

Where is your meter? Is it in a communal area?

 

You (+/- any LL) need to get a qualified electrician in. Get them to document the current set-up.

 

If the set up is as desired by the LL : you'll need to agree a way forward with them.

Otherwise, if you believe there has been a crime* committed: inform the police. Ask them to send someone round to gather evidence, as you'll need to get the power supply fixed / made safe, and you want them to be able to see the set-up / obtain evidence before it is altered.

 

Once that is sorted, get the electrician to ensure the only electricity going through your meter is only going to your flat. They may be able to comment on if the power to other than your flat appears to have been professionally routed / set up that way when the townhouse was divided, or "abstracted"/ 'teed-into' since.

 

*It wouldn't be a crime if had been deliberately set this way by the LL (although, pretty poor practice!). If someone has "teed into" your supply, with the intent of obtaining electricity that you have to pay for : that is a crime.

 

For academic interest : It isn't Theft per se, as "electricity isn't property", instead a separate offence under the Theft Act of "abstraction of electricity".

 

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/theft_act_offences/#a05

Electricity is not property within the meaning of section 4 Theft Act 1968 (Low v Blease [1975] Crim L.R. 513) and cannot therefore be stolen. When electricity is used without due authority, or dishonestly wasted or diverted, prosecutors should charge the offence of abstracting electricity contrary to section 13 Theft Act 1968.

 

 

 

Inform Scottish Power, too. They'll likely hear from their engineer, but you want them to hear it from you too, so you can keep a record of who you informed, when. If you are a victim of a crime, tell them to "call off the dogs" for debt recovery, offering them the crime reference number.

Say that you'll happily pay for what you've used, though it may need to be estimated, (and you have already likely OVERPAID?), so get meter readings for when the set-up is changed to supply only your property, so you can get an idea of the usage for your flat alone.

 

Other than "yes, you can fit a pre-payment meter" ; what did what you signed say / what have you agreed to?.

Also, what changed?? if you had an agreement to pay and had kept to it, why did a DCA suddenly become involved?

 

You likely will have to involve your neighbours too: whilst you don't want to tip them off if they've been abstracting your electricity, if they are innocent parties in this, they'll notice when their power goes off..........

 

Do they have their own meter? they may be paying some for the power to their flat that doesn't route through your meter, but just be thinking "hey, this flat seems very economical on electric" rather than them knowingly letting you pay for their electric!.

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you will need to get your LL/freeholder involved and if they are responsible then they should make the arrangements to make good your losses. This may take a while to calculate the consumption of the parts of the property that are not in your lease/tenancy but getting the payemnt to SP put on hold for 3 months should be possible and then new meter readings supplied and back calculations for your bill provided so you can then either pay any balance or reclaim overpayment. from SP or LL

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Hi, Many thanks for the responses...

 

It's a tenancy. Private landlord. I've been here two years and my electric has been high from day one. When I first queried it with Scottish power they said normal seasonal variance, which I knew couldn't be right!

 

Meter is downstairs in the communal hallway.

 

Far as I know I only signed agreeing to the fitting of a prepayment meter.

 

In the meter box there are 4 meters (building consists of 3 flats, and 1 bedsit)

 

We never had an agreement. They said they were looking into my complaint. While they were doing that (from last August till a few weeks ago!!) I was paying £100 of my own accord - because I'm either decent or stupid. Maybe both. Their answer to my complaint, after soooooo many months was a “Stalemate” Email and said if i wasn't happy, I had 6 months to contact the ombudsman. I was seeking advice from a friend and awaiting their response before responding to Scottish Power (a few days tops)

 

In the meantime a letter arrived on the Thursday from debt recovery company (Grosvenor Legal) acting on their behalf. It said get in touch or pay the debt immediately or face legal action etc etc. On Friday I made an immediate online payment of £20 to their account. On Saturday about 2 O' clock, their guy is knocking at my door with paperwork for the prepaid meter installation.

 

I've emailed both Scottish Power and the Debt recovery (Grosvenor Legal) about what the electrician found and said.

 

I still don't know how to approach the landlord. Although obviously I must.

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I would put your approach to the Landlord in writing in the first instance - (s)he might be totally innocent in this and not realise this has happened - I would have thought that the Landlord would be the person to agree to a prepayment meter being installed ?

 

Just advise the LL what you have told us and ask if (s)he was aware of this. Explain what has happened so far and ask if they can throw any light on the subject.

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I raised that question with the debt recovery guy. He told me the electric company own the meter not the landlord and that if I didn't sign they'd get a court order and it would happen anyway, leaving me liable for court fees and installation fees. I signed in the hope of protecting myself from escalating debt.

 

I will have to speak to the landlord, my concern is for a "worst case scenario" whereby he IS aware, knew all along, and turns nasty / defensive, gives notice to end the tenancy etc, and / or there is animosity between me and the landlord or me and the other tenants (who's bills i may have been paying and who will now have to pay their own).

 

Or maybe I'm over-thinking it...

Edited by Saigon_FCC
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I cannot give any advice by PM - If you provide a link to your Thread then I will be happy to offer advice there.

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@ stu007 thanks! Just to note, the wiring inside the meter cupboard and the wires in and out of my meter doesn't look dodgy, it all looks very neat and professionally done.

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Do you know anyone who is qualified to do domestic electrical work? The wiring going out of the meter can then be traced and the ones that are for areas other than your flay can be diconnected from the consumer unit. It may be as simple as pulling a fuse... Wont get you a refund but when others kick up a fuss the LL will have to do something. If yoyu are afraid of LL's reaction then it isnt going to go well on other fronts either.

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Sadly, I don't know any electricians, or I would have called them a long time ago. All of the stress of this saga stems from me KNOWING something is very wrong but getting zero helpful assistance from Scottish Power. They have no desire to help me resolve the issue they partly created. If they hadn't messed up all my billing, this extra usage on my meter would have come to light much much soon.

 

Update on the situation: I called the landlord's manager (I've never met the actual landlord, only his manager) and told him the story so far. He had no knowledge of the situation. He told me to find the extra fuses attached to my meter and turn them off and see what happens. Which i did. All the communal hallway lights (in the whole building- not my flat) and fire alarm went off. My meter instantly slowed down to about half the speed.

 

Now the guy in the flat below came out of his flat when the fire alarm sounded and asked what i was doing. I explained. Now here the plot thickens. The guy downstairs in the flat directly below mine is a kind of unofficial caretaker for the whole property. He was in my 1st floor flat for ten years. He vacated and moved downstairs, and that's when I moved in, exactly 2 years ago.

 

So I asked him what he was paying for electric when he lived in my flat. He said £60 for gas AND electric. Which leads me to suspect that any changes to the wiring were made just prior to my moving in.

 

Another strange thing was when guy downstairs came to see what I was doing, he turned his meter off at one point. then back on. His wheel wasn't spinning at all, having turned it back on, which we both noted and commented on. He went into his flat to see if his fridge was okay. When he opened his front door, the hallway light in his flat was on. I don't really know what that means - Only the facts: 1. his meter was switched on. 2. the meter wasn't turning. 3. his lights were on. 4., At this time, my meter was on and was spinning.

 

Like I said earlier, though, any work done in that meter cupboard was clearly done by a professional electrician. Seams to me that someone is being dishonest, I just don't know who.

 

My brother in law came over and photographed and videoed the whole meter set up - just in case. And of course, Scottish Power will be making their report having seen the meter set up on their visit last week.

Edited by Saigon_FCC
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Your argumant is not really with SP, they are merely the middleman in this dispute as they are supplying electric to a meter point and everthing your side of the meter is legally connected but just wrongly so. As I said, if there are separate fuses on the consumer unit for the bits that arent yours just remove the fuses and lock the fuse box so people cant replace them.

Your dispute will be with the landlord and they will need to sort out a separate supply for the communal areas or get theother dwellings wired correctly into their own meters. There may be an older meter where the electric supply comes into the building, often in a cellar or under a staircase.

You could look inside the fuse box, there will be a big single fuse in its own wired box next to the meter and then a box containing a number of differently rated fuses. These should read something like 1x30amp, 1or 2x 20amp and then probably 2x 5 or 10amp. The 30 amp will run the cooker, the 20 amp fuses the sockets in the flat and a shower and the other lower current fuses are for the lighting circuits.

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The incorrect billing part is. I even had a (standard) apology letter off the CEO accepting as much. Getting anything done about that mistake has been the issue (I'll take that up with the ombudsman once I've made the whole complicated mess coherent enough) The rest, yes I agree with you entirely. As far as SP is concerned the power has been used and they want paying. I get that part, totally.

 

I can't just unplug the communal lights. the whole building would be left in darkness. The tall, narrow, steep, staircases without light are pitch black and treacherous. If i were to do that, and a another (innocent) tenant fell down the stairs, I would be morally responsible, if not legally too. likewise, turning off the fuses switches off the fire alarm for the whole building. My conscience wouldn't allow me to do that. And even if it could, the fire alarm wouldn't. Once power is switched off the alarm sounds after about 30 seconds (fail-safe / emergency power?). That's what alerted my downstairs neighbour when i switched those fuses off.

 

I've been paying their share of the electric for two whole years - I guess a few more days won't kill me... and knowing that I'm going to insist i get that money back... property manager is supposed to be bringing the landlord over next week.

Edited by Saigon_FCC
typos fixed
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