Shelter responds to fears some tenants could miss out on the government's £400 energy rebate

Posted 03 Aug 2022

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “Tenants whose energy bills are included in their rent or service charge cannot directly claim the energy discount. Instead, they will be at the mercy of their landlord passing on this much-needed support.  

“There’s no specific legal obligation for landlords to pass on this support but they aren’t allowed to overcharge tenants for the energy they’ve used or make a profit on it. This could be the case if they pocket the government support and continue to charge the same rate for utilities. Landlords can only charge for energy used, the standing charge and VAT. So, it’s worth making a note of how much energy you’re using to make sure you're not paying more than you should.  

“It is unfair that those at the very sharp end of this crisis could miss out on this much-needed support. The government is looking into this as they’ve acknowledged it’s not right. We urge them to make sure this support goes straight to the people who need it the most, not their landlords. In the meantime, visit Shelter’s website to understand your rights as a tenant and get free expert advice.” 

 ENDS 

John Gallagher, Solicitor at Shelter advises tenants to check what type of rental contract they’re on: “There are two types of arrangementwhere your rent can include your bills: a fixed rent where your tenancy agreement states your total rent includes a set amount for gas and electricity. Or variable service charge where the landlord sends you a separate charge every time, they get a bill. The rules around how you are charged for energy use depends on the type of arrangement you have–soit’s worth checking your rental contract to see.” Depending on type of rental contract, John advises: 

  • If you pay a fixed rent that’s inclusive of bills, there’s no specific legal obligation for your landlord to pass on the energy discount. Instead tenants arecurrently at the mercy of their landlord and whether they decide to pass the government support on. But the government has said it is looking into this.  

  • If you pay a variable service charge that covers your gas and electricity, your landlord isn’t allowed to overcharge you for the energy used or make a profit on it. Landlords can only charge for units of energy used, your share of the standing charge, and VAT - this is called the ‘maximum resale price’. If they pocket the government support and continue to charge you the same rate for utilities or more they may be in breach of these rules. 

He advises tenants who are on a variable service charge worried they might be overcharged: 

  • To make a note of how much energy you’re using to make sure you're not paying any more than you should.And if you think your landlord has overcharged you ask for a copy of the bill, and an explanation of the charges. If they’ve charged you more than the maximum resale price, you can ask them to either lower the charge to the correct amount or refund the difference if you’ve already paid. If they don’t you can try to get the money back by using a small claims court. 

  • It’s worth being aware that until the government makes the Renters Reform Bill law and bans Section 21 no-fault evictions, there is always a risk that tenants can beissued with a Section 21 notice, andtheir landlordwill not have to provide a reason for evicting them.  

  • If in doubt, Shelter’s website has up-to-date information on your rights as a tenant and what your landlord can and can’t do during your tenancy. 

ENDS 

Contact: Shelter Media Team 0344 515 2162 or 07850 901142 (out of hours)