Utility Bills: who is liable to pay?
Following the increase in the cost of living and uncertainty over rising energy bills, it’s been noticed that landlords appear to be moving away from tenancy agreements with bills included.
As such, the tenancy agreement will typically include a clause requiring the tenant to pay for utilities used throughout the tenancy and to contact all utility services to change the account into their name (where the tenant continues to use the same utility provider).
What if the tenant is liable to pay for utility services but he/she does not change the account into their name and a bill is sent directly to the landlord?
In a recent case, a landlord client of our legal provider Woodstock received an energy bill relating to services provided to the tenant at the rented property. Following the landlord’s instructions, Woodstock contacted the tenant to remind him that he is liable for all utility services throughout the tenancy by evidencing the relevant clause in the tenancy agreement and requested that he contact the energy provider immediately to change the account into his own name. We also confirmed that if he fails to change the account into his name and the landlord suffers a loss as a result, Woodstock would advise their client to pursue a money judgment against the tenant.
In addition, Woodstock contacted the energy provider directly to confirm that the landlord is not liable for the utility bill and any other bills generated during the tenancy and requested that they cease contacting them immediately.
Importantly, we advised the landlord that she should not pay the energy bill because the tenant is liable under the tenancy agreement. In respect to any energy bills already paid by our client, she is entitled to pursue a money judgment against the tenant to recover the losses suffered.
Can the tenant change switch utility providers?
Yes, the tenant does have a right to switch utility providers. This means that the tenant will have to put the new account into their name, and this should avoid a bill being sent to the landlord.
Unless the tenancy includes bills or it is silent on who is liable to pay for utility services, the tenant remains liable throughout the tenancy.
The tenant has a right to change utility providers, but the tenancy agreement may impose certain obligations on the tenant in respect of this.