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Billed for 6 years of gas already paid

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Hi, I am desperate for some help if anyone can, the story is as follows, sorry if it is long winded.

 

I am a sole trader running a Lawnmower Repair Business, I lease a 1400sq ft commercial unit from my landlords.

 

My landlords supply the Gas, Electricity and Water, I am billed directly from the landlord for the utilities and not their supplier which is not one of the big 4 believe is CNG Contract National Gas Ltd. I do not know who supplies them the electricity or water (a good guess for the water would be Yorkshire Water)

 

So I took the lease out in February 2010, Trumbling along. struggling along to run a business as it was, paying my bills, rent, suppliers etc etc etc. Every month the Gas, Electric and water bill dropped through the letterbox always on the 5th of the month and they were always paid on time, as far as I was aware the gas was up to date, billed for usage and paid.

 

Then in Sept 2016 the landlords said to me they think there is a problem with the gas and to leave it with them, anyway, fast forward to now.

 

We have had a revised bill from them saying we have underpaid the gas since 2010, it was their fault as they calculated the meter reads incorrectly (ALWAYS originally billed by actual meter reads, we have all meter reads by way of photograph back to then, we took a photo of all utility meters every month (so did the landlord)) aparently they said they were calculating on imperial or metric instead of the other way round.

 

So the invoice is £13,000, but they will accept £5,500 to clear the matter.

 

If we don't pay it in 7 days they are taking us to the small claims court etc etc.

 

Some thing stinks if you ask me. Can they do this? do we have a leg to stand on? does the Bills of Exchange Act s59 not apply?.

 

I called citizens advice to ask about the Back Billing 12 month limit and they said this does not apply to me as my landlord re sells me the gas rather than the actual supplier, but they can only back bill 6 years as to the statute of limitations.

 

£13,000 or even £5,500 is impossible to find for a sole trader with 7 days notice, last accounts I turned over £60,000 with a profit of £6,000, last year was a shocker for lawnmower repairs/sales.

 

Please, if anyone could offer any guidence/support/advice I would be eternally grateful.

 

thanks

 

Dave....

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I need to read through your story again to get a better understanding of it because it's a bit involved. However, don't worry too much about getting a claim form against you. This can be a very good move because it moves it into court and out of their procedures and allows you to present your case to an independent judge who will listen carefully to the evidence. If you are in the right – then the matter will be solved quickly.

 

Let me warn you that very often these kinds of companies threaten legal action but actually they don't like to take it and so it may just simply be a bluff.

 

 

Do I understand that the people who are threatening the legal action against you is the landlord? Rather than the utility company?

 

Presumably you have got some kind of written tenancy agreement which makes it clear as to who is responsible for what?

 

 

I have a closer look at your story and come back to you with some questions.


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I really don't understand the basis of this miscalculation. I'm not aware that there is any imperial or metric calculation in respect of gas meter readings. Please can you explain.

 

Have you been shown the gas bills that apparently your landlord has had to pay? Have you asked for them? What form do your gas bills normally take?


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all gas meters used to be imperial

they have been mostly changed out

but some suppliers wrongly continued to charge imp rates after new metric meter installation - thus grossly over charging customers but that mostly died out 5yrs ago.

 

so now to your issue

it could be the otherway around.

 

There are two types of gas meters; the older style imperial meters and the more modern metric meters.

 

If the meter shows a 'ft3,' then it's imperial and measures in cubic feet.

 

If the meter shows 'm3,' then it's metric and measures in cubic meters.


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Blimey! How come you know all that stuff?


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I don't know why I bothered to going to university :-(


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Thank you Bankfodder for your time replying.

 

You are right in saying that it is our Landlord that is threatening us with court action if we dont pay the invoice. We have absolutely no dealing with CNG Ltd, infact we only just found out that they are the suppliers to our landlord recently.

 

We have not seen any of the original invoices from the supplier to our Landlord.

 

They said they have been reading our meters for the last 8 years and they have been incorrectly been calculating it. Our meter is M3 (Cubic Meters) and the landlord says when they do the calculations they were not correctly calculating it into KwH and this is howcome it has been under billed.

 

Sorry if I confused you with Metric / imperial.

 

They're saying they were not correctly converting somehow and they recently (2016) realised their mistake. However, I cant figure out how it took them 6 years to figure the mistake. As far as I am concerned, they read the meter 1st of month and invoiced us for our usage on 5th of month since March 2010, we paid the invoice and assumed we had paid for our gas.

 

Our gas supply is sub metered from the commercial unit at the rear of our property. So their are 2 units, 2 meters on the same supply. They get billed from CNG Ltd for both meters as if it was one supply

 

 

any further clarification points please let me know. and thanks again for showing interest in this for me, it is rerally appreciated

 

Dave

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so in the Op's case they could be correct in that he owes money [but only back 6yrs)

 

in that IF they were using a Ft3 calc and his meter is m3, then they've roughly only been charging him 1/3rd of what they should have.


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thank you dx100uk for your time in replying. Much appreciated to everyone

 

Dave

 

In addition, I am scared if it goes to court, because they have said they will accept £5,500 in full and final settlement, but if we don't pay then they will take me to court and sue for the full £13,000, so almost blackmailing me.

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So it is not even the gas companies error, it is the landlord's error.

 

Please click on the link at estoppel and read up about it.

 

I would suggest that you don't mention estoppel when you talk to the landlord – but I do suggest that you try to get further information including copies of all bills et cetera.

 

On the basis of what you say I think that you have an estoppel here and you need to hope that the landlord will sue you. You should then be able to run the estoppel and that would put an end to the matter once and for all.

 

This is my view.

 

Once you understand something about estoppel then come back here and let us know if there are any circumstances in place which you think might disqualify you from relying on this defence.

 

thank you dx100uk for your time in replying. Much appreciated to everyone

 

Dave

 

In addition, I am scared if it goes to court, because they have said they will accept £5,500 in full and final settlement, but if we don't pay then they will take me to court and sue for the full £13,000, so almost blackmailing me.

 

yes I am sure that they would sue you for the full amount although it would be a risky thing for them to do because a claim more than £10,000 would go onto the Fast Track which means that if they lost they would be saddled with your costs as well as theirs.

 

Of course the reverse is true and you would also be at risk of costs.

 

I think it's rather extreme to suggest that they are blackmailing. I know that in a way that is the effect but this is a normal type of negotiation in any dispute over money. Frankly the amount of money they appear to be prepared to accept in place of what they say they are owed seems to be such a small proportion that it makes me think that they realise that they have a very poor case.

 

If they sue you then you should run the estoppel and I would expect that your chances of success are much better than 85%.

 

However this is a risk that you will have to take. If they decided to reduce their risk by suing you for less than £10,000, then the claim would be allocated to the small claims track and that means that the winner would not be entitled to recover any of their costs from the loser. This is a very nice safe position to be in.

 

I'm sure of my ground relating to the estoppel. But I suppose that if you want complete peace of mind then you ought to consider paying them. However the sum they are demanding should be treated as an opening hand. You might eventually consider settling for much less than that. I would certainly want to see all of the documentation relating to this. I think eventually I would disclose to them that they should sue and be damned and that you will be saying that they are estopped from bringing the claim and that they should take legal advice before taking any rash action.

 

Of course I suppose another consideration is about your future relations with your landlord. Do you have a cosy relationship with him and do you need that kind of relationship? How will it affect you if your landlord then generally turns against you?


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Thanks to everyone so far who has replied.

 

I am just taking the time to try and do some learning, reading up on estopple, reading various pieces of legislation.

 

I am not sure which way to go. at the moment I would like to say we have a fairly good relationship with the landlords, but, would be willing to sour that for the sake of doing the right thing.

 

If I have to re locate the business, would rather not, but if I had to then I will.

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I suppose that you need to be looking at the economics of it all. If it's simply about moving office then it may not be very much money – but we don't know how big your office is and whether you have staff.

 

If you have a retail outlet then it could cause a lot of difficulties in terms of customer goodwill in that if you have an established presence in a particular place and your customers don't realise that you've moved and don't know where to find you then that would all be worth quite a bit of loss of value.

 

Your seven days that they threatened is almost up – tomorrow – so you will also get a feeling of whether or not you are being bluffed over it.


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