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Stuart J
Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 22400
Experience:  PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street Practice
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My ex husband and I owned a property which was let to tenants.

Customer Question

My ex husband and I owned a property which was let to tenants. We separated and a year later he was given responsibility to collect the rent and to pay the utility bills. In our divorce settlement the house was put back into my name only for me to find that he had not paid the electric company and I was handed a bill for £2548.18. I have disputed this bill and carried on paying the utilities since the house was given back to my responsibility. I have now received a letter from a debt collection agency to say that they will be seeking a Warrant of Entry to either disconnect the supply or fit a pre payment meter. I have been in contact with the supplier, Utility Warehouse, and as there was a declaration of trust on the property I was responsible for the debt. Your advice would be welcome on this matter on the issues of:

Who has the responsibility of the debt?
Can the bailiffs gain entry even though I am in contact with the supplier to resolve the matter?
Am I in my rights to attend court to resolve this dispute and for my ex husband to take the debt over as he caused it?

Thank you.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.
Who gave him responsibility to collect the rents?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The house was in his sole name and had a right as a landlord and owner. This changed as part of the divorce settlement. I am waiting for the transfer to take place over to my name.

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

So it was an agreement between you, for him to pay the utility bills?

The house is still in joint names?

Are you disputing the amount or the liability?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

no there was no agreement, he just took control and kept me out of the frame, the house is still in his sole name, the transfer has not been done yet, i am disputing the liability and the amount

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

there was no agreement for him to pay the bills he would have just paid the utilities as he had the money from the tenants, we were not speaking so he didnt speak to me about it,

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

So the house is in his name, you do not own it jointly?

How does your liability for the utility bills rise then?

You say that in the divorce settlement the house was put back in your name implying that it was in your name at some stage earlier, then you say that the house is still in his sole name. You then say that bear was no agreement I. am getting more confused as time goes on.

Can I have accurate facts in detail from beginning to end please, including how your liability has arisen , because I am sorry to say that at the moment, I cannot make head nor tail of how you got into this situation . . Thank you

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The house was put in his sole name in 2004, but with a declaration of trust to protect my interest (I owned it with the previous partner). When we split in 2010, i ran the property for a year, collecting the rents and paying the utilites, it was my only income, but he decided in Nov 11 that he would start taking the rents and he threatened the tenants with eviction if they paid me, and as the owner and landlord, (HMO license in his name), they were to pay him. He made things very difficult when i went there to carry on collecting rents so when the tenants said they were going to pay him, i had to stay away. I asked the electric company to take the account out of my name and put it in his, as he would be responsible for the bill now, the account was in my name and was being paid by direct debit, after a lot of arguing with them, they agreed to take my name off the account from 5th Dec 11.


He had the house and all the rents for 10 months, we went to court in August and I got given the house, and was to take over on 1st October 12. I then rang the Utility Warehouse to say i was taking over again, and presumably they realised he had run up a large bill throughout that year, and as he wouldnt pay it, they wanted to put me back on the account so I would be responsible too. He showed them the declaration of trust, and they decided i was a joint owner, and liable for half the debt with him. He had had the money from the tenants and not paid them enough, it is his debt, he is also doing the same thing with the water company, and after several threatening letters from me, they have took my name off and said its his debt, owever the electric company wont, and they are sending bailiffs now, who want to come into the house and disconnect the electric. There is children in the house, and a pregnant woman!!

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

You cannot be responsible for a bill which isnt in your name even if you won the property. You cannot be liable by association!

Tell them that if they continue to pursue you for the period

while
the account is in your husband's name, you will refer the matter to the energy
ombudsman. http://www.ombudsman-services.org/energy.html

to
be frank, I would probably do it in any event as soon as possible.



If
they turn up disconnect the electricity, do not let them in and call the police if they do not go away.



It
would actually be better if a solicitor were to write to utility warehouse on a
most urgent basis. In fact, I would follow up every telephone call with the
letter sent by first class post and recorded delivery.



If
you want to get rid of this in the most risk free and easiest way possible,
simply pay the bill and then sue utility warehouse in the Small Claims Court to
get the money back on the basis that you paid under pressure/duress



The next
part is really important for me:



Please
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The thread remains open. Thanks



Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 22400
Experience: PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street Practice
Stuart J and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thanks for the reply. I actually emailed the energy ombudsman in December, but havent had a reply yet, they say there is a back log and i should hear within 14 working days.


The utility company say their legal department have said that because of the declaration of trust, that makes me liable for the debt!! Whats your view of that?? The water company said the same thing to begin with but changed their minds, and removed my name from the account!!


 


I have told the utility warehouse, that they are responsible for the debt my ex ran up, as they were sending him estimated bills each month, which were less that they should have been, and he was happy to pay them, without giving them actual readings each time. Also arent companies legally bound to get actual meter readings some many times a year, not just keep sending estimated ones??

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.


You
are not liable for bills of any service that you don't use or are not in your
name. It seems like you have been talking to an idiot in a call centre.

A
landlord isnt responsible for tenants bills which are in tenants name. Then situation
here is no different.



They
will estimate bills if he doesn't give actual readings although they can get
court order to enter to read meters

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


no the bills werent sent in the tenants names, theres 7 units and 3 pay coins into a coin meter which would have been emptied each month and 4 had card meters where they had to buy cards from my ex, so he had the money for the electric and he had to pay the utility warehouse each month. The bills were in his name, but they are saying as theyve seen the declaration of trust, they were putting my name back on the account, making me liable with him.


Who i spoke to twice was a person in collections who had spoken to their legal department. Ive told them to take me to court and i will have my say, and show that he was running the house for 10 months and had the money to pay, but wasnt, do you think i have a good chance of winning the magistrates around that way?

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.


I
appreciate that, I was using the bills in the tenants name as an analogy.

What
they are saying is that your husband could leave the lights and the electricity
and the heating on 24/7 on full blast, and because you have an equitable
interest in the property (not a legal interest) you are responsible along with
your husband for those bills. Rubbish.

This is not magistrates Court, it is County Court.

I would certainly be going to court to defend it

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