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Heating And Cooling A Rental: Who Is Responsible?

Who pays what during a tenancy, particularly energy bills, can cause confusion between landlord and tenant. And it isn't just who pays for the quarterly running costs. What happens if an appliance breaks down? Or if bills go unpaid? Hopefully, we can clear up some of the confusion here.


The importance of the tenancy agreement


A well-drafted tenancy agreement is essential. It lays down the responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord. And it's this document which must clearly show who is responsible for paying the utility bills. There shouldn't be any ambiguity. No room for doubt. The tenancy agreement must clearly state who is responsible for paying the bills.


In the vast majority of assured shorthold tenancies, it will be the tenant who pays the water, gas and electricity costs. But the tenancy agreement must make this clear. If it doesn't either the landlord or the tenant could find themselves facing unexpected expenses.


Only pay what you owe


The start of a new tenancy can be a busy time for all involved. The landlord is concerned with all the paperwork and dealing with any fallout from the previous tenant. The new renter has to cope with the stress of moving into a new home.  It's easy to overlook things in the flurry of activity.


But on the first day of the tenancy, it's important not to forget to take accurate meter readings. It's advisable to take the readings during the check-in process. At this point, the tenant should also have the utility bills put into their own name.  This ensures the new tenant only pays for the energy they use.


The tenant is of course only liable for the bills during the term of their tenancy.  Once the lease ends so does their responsibility. Take a final meter reading during check out.


Getting the best deal


There are many different energy suppliers all offering special deals for new customers. So, it can make financial sense to switch the supplier. And the tenant is well within their rights to do this. The only exception is if the landlord pays the bills. But if the tenant is responsible for energy costs then they are within their rights to change supplier.


If the landlord has a preferred supplier they could insert a clause in the tenancy agreement which insists the tenant switches the supplier back again before leaving the property. Otherwise, it's entirely up to the tenant which utility company they use.


What happens if the tenant doesn't pay?


As detailed in the tenancy agreement the tenant must pay the energy costs accrued during their lease. If they leave the property without settling their account with the utility company they will still owe that money. The utility company will take recovery action. Often the gas or electricity provider will seek payment from the landlord. But they have no grounds to do so. Their contract was with the tenant whose name appears on the account, not the property owner.


When things go wrong


Appliances do break down. And with heating and cooling appliances it usually happens at the wrong time of year. In the middle of a cold spell, you can rely on the boiler packing up. And during a heat wave, it would be typical for the air conditioning to break down.  But who is responsible for repairing the appliances and resolving any issues?


Again the tenancy agreement is vital here. But except in the rarest of circumstances, it's the landlord who must repair any faulty appliances. However, the tenant should report the problem in a timely manner. The landlord must then resolve the issue within a reasonable timeframe.


This doesn't apply to appliances owned by the tenant. For example, if during hot summer the tenant buys a mobile air conditioning unit which then develops a fault. It's up to the tenant to get the appliance repaired.


In between tenancies


In a perfect world when one tenant moves out another will move straight in. It's then just a question of switching the energy accounts into their name. However, should the property be empty for any period of time responsibility for the bills returns to the landlord? During any void periods, the landlord should make sure all energy accounts are transferred to them. Just don't forget to change the details again when a new tenant moves in.

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As a private landlord, it's your responsibility to ensure your property is safe. That it's in good repair and fit to live in. If the property is damaged or in need of repair it's you and not the tenant who must carry out the repairs. Whether it's fixing a sink or something far more serious like fire damage.