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Tenant has had the gas cut off and has no intention of reconnecting it.

(43 Posts)
DramaLamaDancing Sun 17-Apr-16 10:51:26

Yesterday I went to a house we own to do some maintenance with DH (replacing a fence panel that had broken)
After we finished we also wanted to make arrangements to replace the lounge carpet, while I was talking with the tenant DH went to the loo, when he came back he commented that there was no hot water and asked if there was an issue with the boiler (combi) the tenant said no but there wasn't any gas, eventually she told us that she owed the gas company a lot of money and when they came up fit a gas meter (with a warrant) the 'capped' the gas.
She said that she has no intentions of having it reconnected as she doesn't want to pay the bill so is happy to live without heating or hot water until she can sort it out with her ex.
(There is some complicated issue with him supposed to be paying the utilities instead of mantanence)

The boiler is the only gas appliance in the house and it's completely her choice if she wants to live without heating or hot water, even though she has a primary aged child and a toddler (and not her form of water heating no I'm not sure how they are bathing)

I'm worried that it has some implications for us, I told her we could have a gas safe person come and reconnect the gas but she said no as that would mean the prepayment meter would start working and it is one of those that beeps continuously when it is out of credit, and as she has no intention of topping it up (and paying the debt) it would drive her potty beeping away.

Does anyone know if there are any issues with allowing her to just live with the gas cut off like this?

SaveSomeSpendSome Sun 17-Apr-16 10:56:44

Hmmm

I wouldnt want a tenant like that in my house tbh. She has a couldnt give a shit attitude and thinks she doesnt have to pay bills. This kind of attitude is bad news for you as a landlord/landlady.

The problem with her not having heat is that the house could become damp.

Also i think it is neglect for a child to live in a property with no heating or hot water.

In your shoes i would give her notice and find a better tenant.

BrieAndChilli Sun 17-Apr-16 10:58:49

From your point of view I would be worried about damp, although coming into the summer heating isn't normally on anyway but definitely next winter, an unheard house may have implications to the state of the house. Plus If she has no hot water then she can't be cleaning things very well - mopping floors and cleaning bathroom/kitchen.

LIZS Sun 17-Apr-16 11:01:28

I'm surprised the gas company would cut it off and replace the meter on a tenant's say so. Could she have pretended to be the homeowner? When did you last have it checked? Check your agreement as I'm sure you can insist on it being reconnected and supply reinstated, probably at her cost. Agree she sounds unnecessarily obstructive and consider giving notice.

RudeElf Sun 17-Apr-16 11:06:49

Can you give notice? I know in my contract there is a part about paying all utilities and not having them in arrears. I would worry about the fact there are children there and no hot water. Not sure if it has implications on you (except when she leaves and you are left with a bill?) but i wouldnt allow this to continue.

notquitegrownup2 Sun 17-Apr-16 11:12:15

I would be concerned that she hadn't told you about it and I would want confirmation from the gas company that this had been done by them, legally and safely. I would also want to check with a plumber that it wouldn't affect the boiler adversely, being left unused for a period of time.

Do you have a tenancy agreement with her? Does it not include anything about her having to obtain your permission to have any work done on the property and appliances?

That said, I don't get the impression, from what you said that she "has a couldn't give a shit attitude" as a pp has said. She sounds as if she has financial difficulties and has taken a decision to do without hot water whilst she sorts things out. It is possible to bath children in cool water, using a kettle to top up, especially in summer.

I would talk to her again and make it clear that you should have been consulted. The property needs to be heated in winter, or you will find yourself with damp problems. Having talked to a plumber and the gas company, you could set a date, therefore, for her to have sorted her finances out, giving her and you a time to get the gas connected again and the boiler running.

bluespiral Sun 17-Apr-16 11:15:19

It sounds to me like she just can't afford to top up the meter.

AnotherEmma Sun 17-Apr-16 11:15:31

If I were you I would encourage her to go to her local CAB to get advice about the debt, child maintenance and relationship issues. Give her a chance to resolve it but explain how important it is that she does.

It sounds like she has enough on her plate so I wouldn't want to make her homeless without first giving her an opportunity to resolve things.

bluespiral Sun 17-Apr-16 11:16:26

And yes they will fit a repayment meter without the landlord's agreement, this happened to me many years ago when I was in a financial muddle.

clam Sun 17-Apr-16 11:28:00

So, when she eventually moves out and you, as owners, get the gas re-instated, might they come after you for the arrears?

SaveSomeSpendSome Sun 17-Apr-16 11:30:02

You wont be liable for the bill. Landlords are only liable for the council tax bill if the tenant doesnt pay it.

She does have a couldnt give a shit attitude as i mentioned up thread as she "doesnt want to pay the bill"

If you are in financial difficulty you speak to the people you owe money to and come up with a negotiation plan. You do not just stick your head in the sand and ignore the bill.

However even though you will not be chased for the bill if your tenant doesnt pay it, you will have debt letters constantly coming to the property long after she has moved out and may have the balliffs at the door numerous times if they have no forwarding address for her.

I would not want this on a property i owned.

LIZS Sun 17-Apr-16 11:31:13

Bearing mind she wouldn't have told you unless you asked, I'd want to speak to the company themselves. There must have been ongoing correspondence over a period of time. She has been deliberately keeping the situation with them , and possibly other providers, from you. Is she up to date with council tax for example.

AnotherEmma Sun 17-Apr-16 11:38:22

"If you are in financial difficulty you speak to the people you owe money to and come up with a negotiation plan. You do not just stick your head in the sand and ignore the bill."

Actually the vast majority of people with debt and money problems have mental health problems and/or they are going through a very stressful period in their lives (relationship breakdown, bereavement, etc) so they do exactly that - bury their head in the sand, unfortunately. It makes things worse, of course. But it is generally better to encourage someone to seek help rather than kicking them when they're down.

CAB are usually very good at helping people with debt issues.

Ughnotagain Sun 17-Apr-16 11:59:01

Is there nothing in your tenancy agreement with her to say that she's responsible for paying the bills? I don't know how you'd word it but there are definitely property maintenance issues if it's not kept warm.

OurBlanche Sun 17-Apr-16 12:10:48

Contact the company, YOU need to know it was capped safely as, whatever she says YOU will be held responsible for anything that goes wrong if it was not capped by an appropriate person.

You can act now (which I would recommend) or when your annual gas check date comes up... it is, after all, the law.. then Section 21, as you don't have to give a reason and any court/arbitration would agree she is not treating your property with the care she is contracted to.

DramaLamaDancing Sun 17-Apr-16 12:21:16

Thank you for the replies.

I do not think she has a "couldn't give a shit attitude" but I can see how it would seem that way from my op, I was trying to keep the info to a minimum but I probably need to tell you all more.
I've NCed for this thread so I will elaborate on the situation a little.

She lived with her ex and the DC's, the house and all bills were in her name as he had very bad credit.
He was solely responsible for paying everything, (she was a sahm and he worked, I believe he was financially abusive, among other things)
He hadn't paid any bills for a long time and left her in massive amounts of debt, he left her towards the end of last year.
At the time she called and asked if he could be taken off the tenancy agreement and if she could change the locks as she was afraid he would come back, at the time she told us the basics of the situation.
It was a huge mess and we tried to help where we could, she has always been a good tenant and I felt that she honestly needed someone on her side.
She managed to sort out repayment plans for the debt and I thought it was all sorted out, she seemed to be doing better by Christmas.

It turns out that the gas company were unwilling to accept a payment plan that she could pay, they wanted £140 pm in addition to the £25 a month gas bill, she couldn't pay that so they went to court and got a warrant to fit a gas meter, when they did it they 'capped' the gas supply and told her she needs to pay £79 to have it reconnected (she showed me the letters yesterday) she also believes that have put a £20pw charge on the meter to pay back the debt (she was told this) which she can't afford, this is why she won't have it reconnected.
Her plan is to pay the £25pm that she was paying for her gas to the company towards the debt.

I will not be evicting her, that's the last thing she needs.
The gas safety check isn't due until August so we don't have to worry about that yet.

I just don't want there to be any issues for us as landlords due to the gas being disconnected.

OurBlanche Sun 17-Apr-16 12:26:17

That's all good, if you are sure then no need to worry over it. The disconnection/capping is between her and the provider. It is just the safety of it that is your problem.

It's nice that you aren't considering evicting her but you will have to keep an eye on the situation. If she lives in your property over winter with no heating that will cause issues with the fabric of the building, from carpets and curtains to walls and windows, condensation can be very destructive/cost a fortune to put right.

CotswoldStrife Sun 17-Apr-16 12:29:38

One of our tenants changed the meter to a card meter despite it being against the terms of the letting agreement [mad] . We were furious. There is usually something in the letting terms and conditions that they cannot change the supplier or the meters without asking.

You would normally be expected to provide the tenant with hot water - I'm not entirely sure what you can do about this if she won't pay the bill though. If her exH is not good with money then he's pretty unlikely to pay the bill IMO. I would press her to get it sorted.

TrueBlueYorkshire Sun 17-Apr-16 12:34:40

Most tenacy agreements have a clause to ensure the house is adequately heated and ventilated. This is to make sure the house isn't damaged due to condensation. In the British climate your property will slowly become damaged if it is not heated adequately.

The house i bought recently i got for a steal because the owner hadn't heated it properly for about 5 years so it turned off a lot of buyers. This meant the house had a weird damp smell and there was some damage to plaster etc due to the moisture not migrating correctly through the masonry and build up of damp (130 year old property). It took me about 3 months of heating, and ventilating the property to get the moisture content in the walls back to a good level as they where solid 12 inch stone and engineering brick walls. I've now refitted the entire place myself and repaired a lot of the damage she had done, but it was a bit frustrating waiting for the delay before i started redecorating.

When your tenant leaves this will affect future rents if the property smells damp as they will not want to move in or will offer lower amounts.

GreenTomatoJam Sun 17-Apr-16 12:42:49

CotswoldStrife - you sound like an excellent landlord, and she does sound like a good tenant, trying to make it through some awful difficulties - it means nothing from a stranger on the internet, but that really makes you a good human being.

I would check with a plumber, but I've moved into a couple of properties that had had the gas capped for over a year (owned by a company, old tenant died, they stripped it, put it on the market, but it took a while for that to happen/for it to all complete), and another that similarly had been stripped but not finished bfore that and there were no ill effects - neither had gone into arrears, so there was no meter change though.

The first house was a 60s semi, well ventilated (or possibly that should read drafty - single glazed when I moved in) so no heating over winter wasn't an issue - it was all cold, so no chance of condensation!. Getting a Gas Safe engineer out and getting everything re-commissioned was pretty easy. The only issue would be if she was drying a lot of clothes in the house/leaving the windows permanently shut. She sounds like a sensible sort, so I would hope that's not the case - but she'll have to figure out what she's doing come winter (although, we lived for years in unheated homes, and managed)

The second place was an ex-council - 30s house, and again, no problems no damp (again, well ventilated/drafty).

Whereas I lived in a modern flat and it was a damp nightmare around the windows unless I kept the bathroom extractors going continuously and left the windows open winter and summer.

I've also spent more time than I care to mention dealing with old tenant's payment demands/bailiffs - and actually, they've all been remarkably pleasant to me once I explained the situation (that I was a new owner/tenant) - although British Gas took a few tellings! I can't imagine my tenant experience is unusual so I'm not sure I would worry a lot about that - people almost expect it, and a firm voice on the phone tends to sort it out.

So I guess it boils down to, what kind of implications do you mean?

GreenTomatoJam Sun 17-Apr-16 12:44:22

Cotswold - I'm sure you're lovely too - I actually meant the OP (I blame a weekend of flights with children) smile

starry0ne Sun 17-Apr-16 12:47:04

The worry I would have is how much debt there is.. If they want £140 a month and she is only paying off £25 a month.. by the time winter comes she won't of even paid a months payment...She is never going to be able to afford to heat the property...

GreenTomatoJam Sun 17-Apr-16 12:47:57

If you were worried about her not having hot water, then an electric shower (probably a pain to fit), or one of these sorts of things in the kitchen UndersinkWaterHeater could at least take that off both your minds. They're not the cheapest way of getting hot water, but it at least gives you a hot tap.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Sun 17-Apr-16 12:48:23

Agree with AnotherEmma - CAB is the best bet. They're really helpful with debt and energy bills. They can even negotiate directly with suppliers in some cases.

bringmelaughter Sun 17-Apr-16 12:55:44

Utility companies have hardship funds that she should be encouraged to apply for.

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