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Periodic tenancy - tenant vacated - utility bills?


Richard E

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Hi,

 

I am looking for a bit of advice on who is responsible for the utility bills as follows;

 

1st July rental payment received from tenant.

21st July tenant gave notice to leave (Original 6 month AST rolled over to a periodic tenancy with payments made on the 1st of the month).

21st July After reminding the tenant a one month notice is required, they agreed to pay it using their deposit. 

30th July tenant move out and handed over the keys.

31st Aug End of full one month notice period (?)

 

Is the tenant responsible for the utility and council tax bills up to the date they moved out (30th July) or up to the end of the one months notice period (31st Aug)?

 

The property has been empty since the tenant move out.

 

I would be grateful if someone can give me some advise on this.

 

Thank you

 

Richard..

 

PS apologies if this post is not accurate as this is my first one :-)

 

 

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Hi Richard

 

Despite common sense and no doubt the terms of your AST, you will find that if the tenant has notified the relevant utilities and the council of their moving out date that you will assume responsibility for all bills from when they moved out.

 

It sucks I know but that is the fact of the matter in real life application.

 

You could try and get them to pay up to the end of the notice period and some would pay, you could also submit it to a dispute over their deposit if there is any left but be prepared for a bit of a fight if they as said have notified of an earlier move out date as the utilities and council would chase you.

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Richard

 

Hopefully your AST will have stated that the tenant was responsible for payment of utility bills for the duration of the tenancy.  If they leave early, as indicated above - RB's comments are correct in that if your tenant has also notified the council and utilities of their departure then it is hard to undo.  You may be fortunate to find that they have not done it yet and you can register their departure for the official end of the tenancy but if they have already done it I think it is unlikely that the council will make the adjustment but I have seen it done - it depends on the council.

 

A good tip, which RB above will vouch for, is at the start of each tenancy take clear date/time stamped photos of all the utility meters and to put copies of the photo on the inventory which the tenant countersigns so that you have an agreed start point. (I have used records of photos to fight legacy disputes for landlords and tenants dating back many months with 100% success).  Insist that you the landlord (or your agent) registers the new tenant and get the pre-tenancy bills sent to the landlord for settlement - phone them through to the utility company - I have had both emails and letters "lost" by utility companies on a regular basis - take the name of the utility agent you speak to and note the time (it is worth the often extended time on hold).

At the end of the tenancy take the meter readings the same way   You will also need a forwarding address for the tenant so that final bills can be sent to them - you are not responsible for any of their debts, you are only  responsible for the gaps - in the summer turn of the gas and electricity (although you may need to replace the smoke detector battery back up) and shut off the stop cock so that no additional costs will be incurred - although there are sometimes standing charges which still accrue.  In winter weather you will incur costs for voids so that the property is frost protected - it is cheaper to keep heating on low than to pay for the costs of burst pipes.

 

Councils used to give 6 months grace post tenancy before you had to pay council tax but now most have closed this loop hole.  The more generous give one month to re-occupy but some hold the landlord liable from day one.  Also empty properties often accrue 1.5x the fee which is seen as a way of encouraging filling empty properties.  Councils tend to react to the the first notification of a change of tenancy so a good tip is to email the council on the day you receive notice to quit that the tenancy will be ending on the last day of the AST before the tenant gets in.  When the tenant gives their notice ask them for a forwarding address (if you can't get this you should have a next of kin address from the Prescribed Information for the deposit and or your referencing)

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Unfortunately the tenant was organised enough to take meter reading and inform the local authorities the day the moved out.

 

In hind site I could have made clear to the tenant they would be responsible for all bills to the end of the notice period (the AST does state the tenant is responsible to pay the Council Tax to the end of the term). However, knowing the (ex) paranoid tenant as I do, they would probably have insisted they kept the keys so they could make sure all services are switched off and no unnecessary energy is used. This would have meant further uncertainty for me if they were actually going to leave and delayed my full access to the property.

 

I guess, as you have both mentioned, this boils down to real life practicalities. Although it is very galling to have to pay the Council tax, water rates etc so soon, the tenant has actually left the property.

 

Both of your comments have been helpful.

 

Thank you

 

Richard..

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just trying to find the positives here ( I'm sure you know anyway but just in case ) - all the council tax costs, and utilities bills are tax deductable. Also there should be no water charges for you to pay if you advise the propety is unfurnished and empty.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Richard,

 

Re-reading the thread there is one thing that I forgot to mention that could well help you in the future, and for others who read this.

 

One of your critical errors for being caught out was accepting the deposit in lieu of the last month's rent.  The deposit is not designed as a last rent payment - it is meant to be held over for payment against unexpected dilapidations that were caused by the tenants negligence etc and to cover cleaning costs to bring it up to a similar standard as when it was originally let (minus fair wear and tear = not a lot for a 6 month let!).  It could also have been withheld to cover the the outstanding utility bills.

 

A lot of these "misunderstandings" can be headed off at the pass if they are clearly spelt out at the start of the tenancy and the tenants sign a document to say that they have read and understood the ground rules.  See the attached sheet which is an amended version of one that I have used in an agency. It is not a definitive guide but hopefully gives a good idea of what is expected.

 

Although I have hitherto thought that one month's rent value as a deposit was a fair amount to charge tenants, this is probably dependant on the rent and the relative value of damage rectification costs.  It is important that a realistic amount is charged; this will be regional and cannot be centrally legislated for. However, before getting too gung-ho on charging a high deposit bear in mind that it could be a limiting factor to those looking to let.  High deposits can be a stumbling block to attracting tenants and extend your void period which is another important consideration.

 

Tenancy Rules Pamphlet LL version.docx

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