This is a case study of a current Safer Renting case.
I’m writing it for 2 purposes:-
Its is classic example of the human fallout of rogue landlord activities.
I posted a call for assistance on Linkedin and was deluged by people offering to help.
For the Linkedin in people, this fleshes out my original bare details post and will hopefully answer everyone’s questions.
Thanks to everyone who offered to help. It is heartening to see that Linkedin can do more than try to flog you a BMW or tell you there is a job waiting for you in an investment bank.
Kal, we shall call him (the case is under investigation) moved into a studio flat above a small neighbourhood shop in 2011. He is an ageing man with health problems and little to no spoken English. All communication is carried out through an interpreter.
There is another small flat above his and the council are dealing with a rat infestation in the back garden.
Housing benefit was going to the landlord’s account but after a change in benefits last year the money is now paid into Kal’s account.
The landlord wont provide his bank details for Kal to pay into. The usual trick of avoiding any trail of evidence that might interest HMRC and refuses to give receipts for rent when Kal pays cash for the same reason.
Kal was under the impression that since 2011, his rent included utilities and said that the tenants in the flat above his had been paying the bill until January 2020, when the bills arriving were in his name.
The outstanding bill at the time of writing is £15,780. The debt going back many years and it is on a business tariff, not a residential one. There is only one meter for the whole property. Its situated on the ground floor because guess what? The meter runs the shop and both residential units. The £15k debt is for all three and its in Kal’s name
This is where things get tricky. Our case worker called EDF and spoke to someone about the problem, a difficult enough task when they usually wont talk to anyone but the account holder. The best they could do was to suggest that if Kal filled in the appropriate form, they would change the tariff from business to residential and backdate to the start of the bill.
That will help reduce the debt but its still a debt Kal doesn’t owe and with the shop still in operation, it should be on a business tariff, just not with Kal’s name on it.
I called a mate who until recently was a Revenue Protection officer for EDF and ran the problem by him.
He advised that Revs wouldn’t see it as one of their issues. The meter isn’t stolen or tampered with, so would only be of concern to billing.
A combination of EDF reluctance to share all details and Kal’s limited English and confusion means we don’t know yet how long Kal’s name has been linked to this account, nor how it got there.
Either he was responsible for the supply since 2011 or someone, probably the landlord, managed to get EDF to change the name when there was a large outstanding bill.
What surprises me as well, is how come EDF have allowed this bill to get so large without, seemingly having visited the property or warned anyone.
This is why I sent up a flare on Linkedin.
Complex housing law stuff we can do but I don’t know where to start with utility problems.
Kal has already been to CAB but didn’t seem to get anything that would help.
If the landlord has shafted him we will be looking at a housing law redress angle but for the utility problem we need to signpost him and I don’t know where to signpost him to, although thanks to the helpful folk who jumped in last night I have a better idea.
This is a typical rogue landlord situation and I’ve actually seen cases before where the tenant have suddenly found themselves named on a utility bill when they didn’t even apply for an account.
The landlord’s greed has rolled downhill and at the moment has left a vulnerable man with a massive debt he doesn’t owe.
Even if his name was on the bill since 2011 and he just didn’t understand, he shouldn’t be expected to pay the bill for two residential units and a shop, also owned by the landlord.
For the people on Linkedin reading this, if you want a better conversation, then email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ben Reeve-Lewis