Hi, I’m a landlord with a flat I rent out in west London. I use a managing agent to manage the property, collect rent, sort ASTs and inventories etc.
Earlier this year I raised the rent from 1800 to 2200 pcm and my tenants decided to leave. The property was then empty from 13th July until 20th October whilst the agent found new tenants.
When the tenants left an inventory report was done by the managing agent with meter readings and the tenants paid the outstanding gas and electricity bill.
However, they left the thermostat at 35 degrees, and the inventory clerk/agent failed to notice, meaning the heating has been on 24/7 for more than three months. The managing agent has now sent me forwarded bills for the unoccupied period for almost £2000!!
As the property was empty the agent is saying I am liable. The new tenant says this is from before their time, which I understand, but I also contacted the previous tenants who said they paid up to the ‘independently documented’ meter reading when they left and refuse to take responsibility.
Surely this should have been picked up by the agent / inventory clerk?
Do I have any recourse against the agent or previous tenant?
Nothing beats checking the place yourself .It is down to you
Thanks for the reply but this isn’t really feasible, I live in Germany for work which is why I use a London based agent
I would be livid with the agent, who should have ensured all utilities were turned off at the mains. I would put this on them.
The tenants are not liable if their tenancy ended unless you have strong evidence that they turned up the heating maliciously. You’d have to try to claim it from the agent. I dont know how strong your case is so you may want to avoid expensive solicitors and go the ombudsman route. That means a formal complaint to the agent and a demand for compensation. If you’re not satisfied with the result, you escalate it to whichever redress scheme they belong to. The schemes have the power to force a payment from the agent if they agree with you.
Given that it was July when they left I think it’s obvious the tenants did it out of spite (nobody would have needed the heating on full whack in the middle of summer) but they already argued that they have meter readings (ironically from the inventory report which I paid for!) showing the point up until which they were liable.
What evidence / route would I have for reclaiming this from the tenant? The deposit was already returned months ago.
In this particular instance I do not think you should pursue tenant - even if they did it as revenge , there is nothing you can do to prove (personal view). Once house/flat handed over it is your or your agent’s responsibility to check. First thing I would do to switch the boiler off, if summer (winter is different as frost can damage and can cause leaks so lowering thermostat to 5-10 might be a good idea). As far as I am concerned this is missed out by agent!
Forget the tenant, you have no chance. Focus on agent
As others have said, you cannot pursue the previous tenants for the bills incurred after they officially moved out. There is no legal ground for this. Have a look at the terms and conditions of the contract you have with the managing agent, if there is anything that refers to their responsibilities once a tenant moves out? You could make a formal complaint as David suggests. However, realistically, I expect this will be a cost that the landlord will end up bearing.
Also, I’m not sure who advised you to increase the rent by that much?! It’s a 22% increase which seems excessive, and I’m not surprised the current tenants moved out. I would have increased by 5-10% and had a continuously occupied property. This void period and additional costs has cost you at least £10k.
This is certainly not the liability of either your old or new tenancy. You’d need to check the agreement with the agent who handled the void period, to see what they agreed to do for the price you agreed to pay them. If they did not include checks on heating as part of their service, then they may not have breached any contract. I doubt you would win any legal claim against them for something that you ‘thought they would do’. It’s also easy to blame them with hindsight, but in reality maybe you should have been more specific with them about what you wanted them to do. ie did you tell them to turn off the heating?
i am really sorry this happened to you. Change your agent and dont pay their last bill. An agent who leaves a place empty all that time is about as much use as a one legged man at an arse kicking contest. We usually have zero empty time between tenants as as soon as we get notice we advertise immediately and get viewings under way. The tenants have screwed you but your agent is worse.
My advice dont go for top dollar on rental get the best tenant and maybe they will stay on. Being a landlord is increasingly tough today and we do empathize with your situation
Tenant is not liable, agent is. I would pursue from agent initially with a view of threatening loss of your custom if they don’t cough up.
If you arnt getting anywhere I would consider accepting half the amount as a way of closing the problem.
Pursuing it legally will be a ball ache and unless contract specifies a heating check then you are stuck anyway. I would expect it to but would a judge?
Raises red flags with me re the competency of the agent. Several issues:
1 They must have done very few viewings not to notice the property was so overheated
2 I would have thought that a check of the thermostat shouldd be routine if a property is empty for a period - had it been winter and the thermostat has been left off, you could have had burst pipes
3 On that note, check your buildings insurance - it is often void if the property is unoccupied for an extended period, so the agent should have been checking it regularly anyway.
Also, a void of that length suggested the property was over priced - smacks of greedy agent over-increasing the rent to increase their income from a higher commission and re-renting fee! As others have said, having the property empty for that long has wiped out the benefit of the increase in rent for years!
The agent should publish their complaints procedure. Make a formal complaint and if you are not happy with their response (ie they don’t agree to pay a good proportion of the bill), escalate it with them as required by their policy and then either ask them for a deadlock letter, or wait the required period (think it’s usually 8 weeks) and complain to their Ombudsman.
I would say focus on yourself… it’s your property and you are responsible for everything it is yours …
agent management incompetence.
no one visited the property in all that time.
it should never be empty in the current climate with tenant demand.
if they manage it & left it at 35 that long its their incompetency
chase the agent, never mind about the tenants maliciousness which is hard to prove! (mine leave it on 30 degrees and go away for xmas over covid times for over a month & then whine to me their bill is too high)
An appointed agent is responsible for aspects as per contract of service. What would be the point of entrusting an agent otherwise if the LL had to check everything that the agent is paid to do?
Landlords can live in other towns or countries, want sod all to do with it and pay a company that specialises in managing property!!
Would you like to be told that you should’ve fixed your own car because the garage you paid to fix it for you messed up, after-all, you own it??!!
Sorry to hear about your troubles. I lost trust in letting agents after incidents like this. They are paid but then do nothing. They don’t care about your properties one bit.
I would still hire them if I am far away from the property, as they can organize emergency repair, BUT I would also try to keep a connection (friends) who would’t mind helping me check the place out between tenancies.