Tenants prevented from switching utilities illegally according to new research.
- 10% of UK tenants have been illegally stopped by their landlords or property management agents from changing energy suppliers.
- 3% of private rented sector tenants cannot switch utility companies because of restrictive clauses in their tenancy agreement.
- 7% were informed verbally by their landlord that they were not allowed to change energy supplier.
The assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) or rental contract is allowed to contain restrictive clauses that stipulate tenant’s require permission from the landlord before switching energy supplier, however, permission cannot be reasonably refused.
The same is also true if tenants require payment meters installed for their gas and electricity supply. This is where the bone of contention lies for many landlords, as once a property is fitted with prepayment meters, there is a charge to the property owner (landlord) if they wish the property to be changed back to a normal meter and quarterly billing.
Landlords have been able to offer preferential rates to tenants using Utilities Warehouse offering competitively priced energy, telephone and other cost saving services to tenants as part of an attractive rental package. The services taken up provide the landlord with a small commission, and changing supplier could mean the difference between the landlord operating a profitable business and making a loss. So tenant’s switching utility suppliers is not always in the landlords best interests, despite cutting the tenant’s fuel bills.
Data from uSwitch, showed
- 38% of private tenants had switched utilities in order to find a cheaper energy supplier
- 33%of private tenants were unaware of their right to change energy providers
- 33% of private tenants could see no point in switching suppliers as they would not be living there long-term.
Despite the potential annual savings of up to £420 according to uSwitch.
Tenants concerned about high energy bills should consider approaching their landlord about switching utility companies and seek permission to do so, however according to uSwitch, 22% of PRS tenants claim that their landlords don’t want to be bothered by tenants over energy suppliers.
An attitude that seems to also cover energy efficiency, with 26% of tenants saying that they wouldn’t talk to their landlord about energy efficiency because they didn’t think their landlord would be interested, and 10% of private rented sector tenants wouldn’t feel comfortable raising it with their landlord.
Over 40% of PRS tenants say that the rental property they are currently living in has little or no energy efficiency measures installed.
uSwitch Director of Consumer Policy, Ann Robinson, said: “With more and more people renting, it’s vital that people don’t feel that being a tenant means relinquishing the right to control their household bills. The fact is that if your name is on the bill you have the right to shop around for a better energy deal. If your rental contract says otherwise, then talk to your landlord or letting agent, it is in all parties interests for rented property to be on a cost-effective tariff and as energy-efficient as possible. Now is also a good time for private landlords to look at energy efficiency. Energy suppliers have a pot of money to spend on making their customers’ homes energy efficient and only have until the end of this year to spend it in order to hit government targets. As a result, there are now a huge number of offers for insulation, ranging from the free to the heavily subsidised. Taking advantage of these now would benefit both landlords and tenants, as a minimum outlay will see lower energy bills and a more attractive, rentable home.”
Current energy efficiency schemes available in the UK include:
Warm Front : Available across England only, Warm Front installs insulation and heating measures for people receiving certain income-related or disability benefits. The scheme is available for people who rent privately or own their own home.
Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) : The main energy suppliers (British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, RWE npower, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy) are providing free or low-cost energy efficiency measures, commonly loft and cavity wall insulation. All properties in the UK are potentially eligible for help under CERT, although the most vulnerable people (for example the elderly or people on low incomes) are given priority. Both tenants and home owners can apply, although tenants must have the landlords’ approval for work to begin.
Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) : The main energy suppliers (British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, RWE nPower, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy) are providing free or low-cost energy efficiency measures, such as solid wall insulation, to properties in areas of low income.
Find out if your area is eligible by visiting http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/funding/funding_ops/cesp/cesp.aspx
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