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3.8 Utilities

The tenancy agreement should indicate who is responsible for the payment
of utility bills. Ordinarily the tenant should take over the account and put
it in their own name, payment is then a matter between the tenant and
utility company. Most utility companies will allow the landlord to notify
them of the new tenant’s details and some will actually pay the landlord
for setting up the account with a particular supplier. A landlord can agree
readings with an incoming tenant and should advise them which company
or companies are supplying the fuel.

The utility companies might send someone to read the meter, or they
might ask the landlord or the occupier to do this. It is suggested that the
inventory agreed between landlord and tenant should include a note of
all relevant meter readings at the date the tenant took over responsibility,
together with a note of who took the readings. If fuel has been used during
a void period, a landlord can agree to reimburse the tenant who may have
to pay for it (if it is only a small amount) or pay the suppliers for the fuel

If the rent includes a charge for utilities (for example in the case of
individually rented rooms, where there is no separate bill), it is suggested
that landlords agree and set the rent at a level which reflects the cost.
Landlords should not arbitrarily increase the rent just because the bills
have gone up, but should follow the appropriate rules for rent increases.
A contract term which provides for the rent to be increased to reflect
increasing utility costs paid by the landlord will normally be considered
fair under the regulations – provided the tenant is given reasonable notice
of the increase and the opportunity to check the bills to verify that any                    increase in rent accords with the increase in the utility costs.

If the landlord pays the utilities, and the tenant is receiving Rent
Allowance, the payment they receive will be reduced by an amount to
reflect this.

Tenants can choose their electricity/ gas supplier. Landlords might find it
useful to include a clause in the contract requiring the tenant to advise if
they change the supplier, and who the new supplier is. This helps landlords
to know which company/ companies to contact at the end of the tenancy
if there is a void period. It also means the landlord will be able to correctly
advise a new incoming tenant as to which company/ companies provide
the utilities.

In a climate of volatile, and mainly increasing energy costs, landlords
should pay close attention to energy prices to ensure that the inclusive
rent they agree with the tenant does not vary from prevailing costs. In
order to keep running costs to a minimum landlords might make every
effort to ensure that the properties they let are as energy efficient as
possible and should consider implementing the recommendations which
accompanied their Energy Performance Certificate. Even relatively simple
measures such as fitting energy-saving light bulbs, thermostatic radiator
valves, draft proofing windows, fitting better insulation, or installing
double glazing can have a dramatic effect in reducing running costs.

Some of the measures attract benefits and grants, such as the Landlords’
Energy Saving Allowance (see section 1.6.1 earlier).

The leaflet from the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes is also helpful
and can be down loaded at www.eeph.org.uk/uploads/documents/