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Landlord calls utility companies for your payment record? Then withholds deposit????


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Hello, we've given notice on a property we have been renting for 18mths. We've never had any issues with the landlord (other than landlord strolling into the garden when he wants) and we've always paid our rent in time etc.

We knew that the previous tenants had caused some problems and we actually had an early morning bailiff visit because of them (they were looking for the previous tenants.)

When we gave notice the landlady was upset and asked if we'd reconsider and we discuss their previous tenants; at that point she told me that when the tenants moved she called the utility companies and was given details of the tenants payment history and final amounts owed so she withheld their deposit until the previous tenants gave in and told her to pay the final bills out of their deposit. She also said that she was being told by the estate agents to give the tenants their deposit back etc but she didn't.

 

We pay all our bills by direct debit and the idea that she will probably call and be given our personal information is really irritating me. I've already spoken to most of the utility companies and we will jsut continue with out DD's. Can she withhold our deposit (which is £3k +) if she feels like it because of utility bills?

I'd be really grateful for any information; also should the utility companies be giving her this information?

 

Many thanks

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Hi Caguser

 

Wow, that was some deposit

 

If you have a contract with the Utility company, I cannot see how anyone else can speak to them regarding your account.

Is the account in your name or the landlords?

 

I would think that you would need further advice if your landlord discusses YOUR account with the utility companies.

 

Sorry i cant offer any further advice, but no doubt someone will be along soon who has better knowledge of this subject

 

Hope to have helped a little

 

Paul

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Thanks Paul, that's more or less what I thought. The account is in our name, and we genuinely have paid rent and utilities up-to-date and on time, which is why I'm a bit miffed that they think they can discuss our personal info with these people (if we're honest it's because they've always been a bit controlling and over-involved so this is really just the last straw.)

 

Yes, that was some deposit! We pay a large rent and, I think, the landlords requested a higher than usual deposit because of their previous problems.

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No, no, no, she cannot withold any part of your deposit for utility bills as long as they are in your name. It was illegal for the utility companies to give out the previous tenants' payment history under the Data Protection Act. As long as the bills are in your name, the utility company will chase you for any outstanding amounts, not the landlady, as she has no contract with them whatsoever. As long as you ensure that you notify the utility companies (pref in writing) that your tenancy ends on XX of XX month, then there should be no problem with them charging you for any use she gets out of them in the days after you leave (seen that happen before).

 

She cannot withold the deposit 'because she feels like it' - deposits are for damages at the end of a tenancy, and all damages have to not only be proven to have occurred during your tenancy period (i.e., with an entry and exit inventory showing a difference), but the repairs have to be accounted for with invoices and receipts. The money is yours in its entirety unless the landlord can prove that you've damaged something over the boundaries of normal wear and tear.

 

If you wanted to be a little sneaky, you could contact the utility companies and ask for it to be noted on your records that the account will only be discussed with you and a password of your choice - 'you've had a bit of trouble with minor identity fraud recently, catalogues in your name or something, and want to make sure that all the companies you deal with are sure that they're dealing with you'... that may pre-empt any attempt she makes to (illegally) discuss your accounts with the utilities companies.

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Demon, thank you very much. I was actually thinking of contacting them but was struggling as to how to put it to them!

I also informed the landlady that there is a 'fraud alert' on this address-in the previous tenant's name-which doesn't directly effect our credit history but has meant that we've had to provide more than the usual ID requirements when we've opened accounts etc, so I was thinking that that might be a good way of opening the discussion with the utility companies!?

 

Thanks again, it's a weight of my mind about the money as they've always dragged their feet over anythign we've asked them to get sorted (insects in the water and a bee's nest to name but a few-neither were resolved) and we've decided to"vote with our feet" and go but I definitely do not want to leave them with our money!

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If you wanted to be a little sneaky, you could contact the utility companies and ask for it to be noted on your records that the account will only be discussed with you and a password of your choice - 'you've had a bit of trouble with minor identity fraud recently, catalogues in your name or something, and want to make sure that all the companies you deal with are sure that they're dealing with you'... that may pre-empt any attempt she makes to (illegally) discuss your accounts with the utilities companies.

 

Good Point, I wouldn't even call it sneaky. You have every right to protect yourself and your identity.

 

I think all accounts should have this in place if you discuss matters over the phone. I know my Sky account needs a password as well as a few others. Its all to easy to commit fraud nowadays and the more measures in place the better

 

Paul

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Your landlord cannot unreasonably withhold all of the £3k. I don't think it is unreasonable for a landlord to request Electricity, Gas, Water and Council Tax bills. And even if the landlords decides to withdraw it should only be for the 'estimated' bills amounts, so say £250 would be fair.

 

Sadly, people not paying electric bills (say if this has been going on for months), means that the electric company can break the door down and remove the meter and same for gas. Also, the Borough's Council Tax people are 'trying' to make landlords responsible non-payment of their tenants.... So I can understand the concerns of your landlord. However, if the landlords says he/she wants to keep all of the £3k - then GET WORRIED!

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Your landlord cannot unreasonably withhold all of the £3k. I don't think it is unreasonable for a landlord to request Electricity, Gas, Water and Council Tax bills. And even if the landlords decides to withdraw it should only be for the 'estimated' bills amounts, so say £250 would be fair.

 

Sadly, people not paying electric bills (say if this has been going on for months), means that the electric company can break the door down and remove the meter and same for gas. Also, the Borough's Council Tax people are 'trying' to make landlords responsible non-payment of their tenants.... So I can understand the concerns of your landlord. However, if the landlords says he/she wants to keep all of the £3k - then GET WORRIED!

 

Then I assume you should also contact the tenants credit card companies, store cards, loan companies, contents insurance, catalouges and car insurance provider etc, as they while equally none of the Landlords business, may mean people "breaking down" the door to recover debts.

 

The provision of Electricity, Gas, Water and Council Tax is the tennants responsibility and has not a damn thing to do with the LL. If I buy a house do I ask the vendor to provide me with all their utility payment details on the off chance they havent paid and withold £250 off the sale price just in case? (by the way £250 will likley be getting on for half the deposit total in most cases).

 

The LL doesnt need to protect themselves they are already protected by a tenancy agreement that makes THE TENNANT responsible for C/TAX and utilities. Using this as an excuse for witholding money is just ripping your tennant off.

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NO NO NO I am not talking about store cards, loan companies, mail order or tv licensing or phone companies etc...

 

I am simply talking about the Utilities & Council Tax. Okay, image you just moved into your lovely new flat. You turn on the cooker and heating and find there is no gas. You investigate, check the gas box outside to find the gas meter is gone!. You phone up British Gas and they say it was taken because the bill was not paid for the last eight months!!. So who gets the headache of trying to sort the mess out? Who has to take time off work - as British Gas come round and fit a new meter? (but British Gas might only agree to provide a gas card meter not a normal meter and even then British Gas might give you grief because they might think you *are* the previous tenants and pretending to be someone else just to get the gas back and BG might demand a deposit because the property is blacklisted....). And tell what tenant would not be seeking compensation from his/her landlord this? e.g loss of cooking facility, not hot water and no heating?

 

The situation is worse if the gas and electric meter is inside the property, because the landlord has to pay for the door to be replaced etc....

 

I don't think it is unreasonable for a Landlord to REQUEST the FINAL bills and ONLY if the tenants refuse to provide documentation withhold a portion of deposit until it is paid.

 

I do agree it is the tenants that responsible for the bills, but sadly the world is not as simple as it seems! (with Gas, Electric, Water & Council Tax are special cases!)

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Then I assume equally it will be acceptable for the tenant to withold the last months rent jyst in case the landlord uses all the financial information the tenant has provided him for spot of identiy theft?

 

When a tennant leaves, the landlord or letting agents takes the final electricity and gas meter readings a rings the Electricity/Gas company and says im the Landlord of 1 Bob Street and my tenant has moved out. Not sure if they have provided the final meter readings but here they are anyway. Same with the council tax.

 

It is totally silly to say that one day a new tenant will check in and the gas and electric meters will be missing! You think the gas or electric man just turns up one days and says "Surprise we are here to take your meter". There will be a host of threating letters and remminders before hand (which incidently you wouldnt get because the agent/LL would have already contact the utility companies).

 

What if you ask the tenant to prove they have paid the utilities and they say no, and you withhold some of their deposit, and they take you to court and it turns out they have paid it? cost you a lot more then wont it?

 

If you have nothing constructive to add to the thread then dont bother.

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There is no legal requirement for tenants to prove they have paid all bills incurred while they were at the property. If you're suggesting that, then Planner's example of credit cards, mobile contracts, is not as stupid as you seemed to think. None of these bills, including Council Tax, are secured on the property. They have nothing to do with the property, and therefore nothing to do with the landlord. They are personal bills, and personal debts, only enforcable on the debtor themselves and no one else. All the 'hassle' that you seem to think will occur can be stopped with a copy of the previous tenant's tenancy agreement, showing the end date, and a copy of the notice to quit served on the previous tenant by the landlord. Alternatively, Council Tax records proving that there is a new occupier should suffice.

 

If the creditor discloses any information about the debtor's account to a third party without the debtor's express permission, then they are breaking the law and must be reported, both to the police and the Information Commissioner.

 

Hope that's cleared things up for you, Rajesh.

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caguser wrote:-

We knew that the previous tenants had caused some problems and we actually had an early morning bailiff visit because of them (they were looking for the previous tenants.)

 

How many of you have actually faced bailifs for the previous tenant? I had to face such a wretched thing - the bailifs were demanding to enter my home to do a walking possession order. I had to hold the door tightly, because they were pushing in. These guys were pretty aggresive. Even though you protest you are not the previous tenant all they say "well you would say that!". I wanted to dial 999 was intimated and threatened, but was worried the baillifs would rip the mobile out of my hands and use that for the debts. Plus, the embarassement of neighbours of the fiasco going on. As a law abiding citizen I had to face such a disgraceful ordeal.

The matter got sorted out eventually... but I am still bitter about the experience and am still waiting for an apology and compensation from the baillifs.

 

Some years back, I was given a gas card, so I assumed I would top it up, only to find a £96 debt on it. I had to phone British Gas, to get them to come round and reset the meter - they gave me an appointment time of 8am-1pm, so I had to miss a whole day's work, because the previous tenant never cleared the debt. Even though the meter was outside BG insisted that I was at home to do the reset. So who will compensate me time and the aggrevation that I got?

 

And I have seen with my own eyes British Gas men take meters away!!!

 

On another occassion I was being shown a house and the estate agent could not get into the property with the keys he had. He said he had been there only yesterday to do a viewing. He was worried squatters had taken on the place as the locks looked changed and there were drill marks on the door. It turned out the electricity company had broken in and removed the electric meter and replace the lock.

 

With the problems I have faced, I support Landlords who demand to see the final electricity, gas, water bills or check that there are no debts on meters. All these are services to the property and in my view part and parcel of the property.

 

I am NOT saying landlords should check credit card bills or any other personal matters which don't affect the property.

 

My position has changed because of all the bad things that I have seen.

 

Are there any other solutions to such problems?

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caguser wrote:-

 

 

How many of you have actually faced bailifs for the previous tenant? I had to face such a wretched thing - the bailifs were demanding to enter my home to do a walking possession order. I had to hold the door tightly, because they were pushing in. These guys were pretty aggresive. Even though you protest you are not the previous tenant all they say "well you would say that!". I wanted to dial 999 was intimated and threatened, but was worried the baillifs would rip the mobile out of my hands and use that for the debts. Plus, the embarassement of neighbours of the fiasco going on. As a law abiding citizen I had to face such a disgraceful ordeal.

The matter got sorted out eventually... but I am still bitter about the experience and am still waiting for an apology and compensation from the baillifs.

 

Some years back, I was given a gas card, so I assumed I would top it up, only to find a £96 debt on it. I had to phone British Gas, to get them to come round and reset the meter - they gave me an appointment time of 8am-1pm, so I had to miss a whole day's work, because the previous tenant never cleared the debt. Even though the meter was outside BG insisted that I was at home to do the reset. So who will compensate me time and the aggrevation that I got?

 

And I have seen with my own eyes British Gas men take meters away!!!

 

On another occassion I was being shown a house and the estate agent could not get into the property with the keys he had. He said he had been there only yesterday to do a viewing. He was worried squatters had taken on the place as the locks looked changed and there were drill marks on the door. It turned out the electricity company had broken in and removed the electric meter and replace the lock.

 

With the problems I have faced, I support Landlords who demand to see the final electricity, gas, water bills or check that there are no debts on meters. All these are services to the property and in my view part and parcel of the property.

 

I am NOT saying landlords should check credit card bills or any other personal matters which don't affect the property.

 

My position has changed because of all the bad things that I have seen.

 

Are there any other solutions to such problems?

 

Think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. You are neither legally or morally correct in my opinnion. All the problems you have described dont need to be problems if the LL makes sure the council and utilities are infomred at end of tenancy.

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As I've said before, the moral stance can be whatever you want or believe it to be. Legally, a debt is only enforceable on the debtor themselves or their guarantor; legally, companies are not allowed to discuss personal account information with third parties.

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Just wanted to clarify a couple of issues raised in posts above -

 

It's very rare for a utility company to remove a meter for on-payment and leave the house with no supply, it's much more in their interests to install a prepayment meter and load the debt onto that, so 99% of the time that's what they do.

 

If you move into a property that has a prepayment meter, NEVER use the key/card that's already there. If there's a debt on the meter, it's not the last tenant's fault that this is still on there, it collects the debt at a statndard weekly amount and won't reduce the debt any quicker if they put more on. Even if there's no debt on the meter, if you use an existing key/card you're going to have to pay the standing charge and emergency credit which will have accumulated in the period since the meter was last topped up. ALWAYS phone the utility company as soon as you know you're moving into a property with a prepayment meter - if you don't and you end up paying someone else's debt then I'm afraid it's entirely your own fault!

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Just wanted to clarify a couple of issues raised in posts above -

 

It's very rare for a utility company to remove a meter for on-payment and leave the house with no supply, it's much more in their interests to install a prepayment meter and load the debt onto that, so 99% of the time that's what they do.

 

If you move into a property that has a prepayment meter, NEVER use the key/card that's already there. If there's a debt on the meter, it's not the last tenant's fault that this is still on there, it collects the debt at a statndard weekly amount and won't reduce the debt any quicker if they put more on. Even if there's no debt on the meter, if you use an existing key/card you're going to have to pay the standing charge and emergency credit which will have accumulated in the period since the meter was last topped up. ALWAYS phone the utility company as soon as you know you're moving into a property with a prepayment meter - if you don't and you end up paying someone else's debt then I'm afraid it's entirely your own fault!

 

This happened to me the firs time I came across a prepayment meter! I was paying someone elses debt for about 8 months before they sent me a statement and I realised. A quick letter to British Gas and a copy of the tenancy agreement and I had a nice fat cheque in the post!. Ailly mistake I will know next time but easily resolved if it does happen!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi everyone, thanks very much for all the feedback on my initial post. I have one final question and am hopeful that someone out there may be able to shed some light.

 

We leave our current property in a month; all is well, never any arrears, all bills up to date and I will inform the utilities of the date we leave, new address and ask for a final bill to be sent.

As any move is expensive we will probably not be able to pay the final bills immediately-though we still envisage being with the same suppliers and informing them that x account will be paid on x date.

 

There is a clause in our tenancy agreement under 'How the security deposit will be dealt with' that states 'And unpaid accounts for utilities or water charges or environmental ervices or other similar services or council tax incurred at the property for which the tenant is liable.'

My worry, as the landlords are holding a £3k deposit which we are in need of, is that they landlords will say "nope, not giving it back until you pay the bill and we know you've paid it."

Surely, the fact that we inform the utility companies and agree a date to repay with them is sufficient for the end of tenancy?

 

Be grateful for any advice. Thanks

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As before, if the bills are in your name then the landlord will not be affected by anything that you do or do not pay, and therefore has no say in it. The deposit is security for damages; if the LL retains any for 'unpaid bills' and the like then he is effectively deciding for you how your money should be spent paying off your financial affairs.

 

It may be an idea, for your convenience, to copy in the landlord when sending your letters to the utility companies giving your new address and asking for a final bill. That way, the LL can be assured that the utility companies have an address at which to chase you should you decide (not that you will) to leave bills unpaid.

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