How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Ash Your Own Question
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
Type Your Law Question Here...
Ash is online now

I rented a flat which had obscenely high electricity bills.

Customer Question

I rented a flat which had obscenely high electricity bills. I spent 4 years there begging the landlord for help, the electricity company and citizens advice. Eventually I was told to move out. Just before I left I finally found out the problem - they had storage heating but the flat wasn't wired correctly for economy 7/storage heating, it was wired for traditional heating. I immediately switched to an appropriate tariff and my bills went from over £100 per month to £20 per month. I am taking the landlord to the small claims court to claim back the thousands of pounds I am out of pocket, but wonder what law backs my claim. They are saying my electricity tariff is my responsibility, but how could I ever know the flat was wired incorrectly? Indeed when I first asked to change tariff the electricity company urged me not to, they said they had never seen such a set up a flat.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  James Mather replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your question here on Just answer. It is my pleasure to try and assist you with this today. Please bear with me if I need to ask for any further information from you in order for me to be able to advise you fully. My name is Law Denning and I am a practising solicitor. I have been an expert on this website in UK law since 2008. During that time, as you appreciate, I have answered thousands of questions from satisfied users on a variety of subjects.

Because we are all in practice with clients and court and other users, I might not always respond in minutes, particularly evenings and weekends. Please bear with me in that case. I will be online and off-line all day most weekdays and weekends.

How much are you claiming for?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Around £4000 including excess bills, expert reports, court fees, and an amount for stress caused.

Expert:  James Mather replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. I am going to opt out of this for another
expert to consider. Please do not reply or it comes back into my inbox. Another
expert will pick it up at some stage. It is now open to all experts.

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Hello my name is Alex and I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply as this is not an ‘on demand’ live service, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return.

The expert has opted out - do you still need help?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes please

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
What type of tenancy do you have please ?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Assured short hold tenancy
Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Did you ever check with the landlord about the wiring or what tariff you should be on please?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I highlighted the problem as soon as I got my first bill (6 months into the tenancy), but they said if I didn't like it I could move out. I thought it might be a meter issue so I had SSE out about 11 times, and the Ombudsman. Eventually they changed the meter but still no luck. After 3.5 years my landlord sent out some electricians on their staff who couldn't figure out what was wrong either. Eventually a friend of mine figured out it wasn't wired correctly (only 1 feed into the apartment instead of 2). They never said anything about the tariff, I found out from SSE that flat had been on the same economy 7 tariff for 9 years - most of that time my landlord was using it for his staff.

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
So the whole install was wired wrong? Did you ever have an electrical certificate for it?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, it was wired for a traditional setup - radiators. For storage heating (economy 7) you need a split feed into the apartment so you can benefit from day and night rates, I didn't have that. I have an electrical engineer's report confirming this is the wrong setup for storage heating. It will of course work, but you'll pay several times as much as you should. If I had known I could have switched to a different tariff and saved myself thousands, but they never said a word. I suspect they didn't know, despite owning this building for many many years, they could even have built it originally.

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Yes I understand. If it has been wired wrong then clearly you have suffered a loss to which you would not normally have, in that you have paid too much for the electricity. You have cleared used the units but had it not been for the incorrect wiring then you would have paid less. The Landlord would be in breach of contract and/or negligence because had it not been for this then your bills would have been lower.

You do not need to worry about case law as this is a small claim and the same rules of evidence do not apply. The landlord is at fault and whether or not he knew is irrelevant because he would have a claim against his contractor for breach of contract. As a matter of procedure you do need the court permission to rely on the expert report so make sure you get this.

Can I clarify anything for you about your question today? If not, can I invite you to rate my service which I hope has been excellent.

If you need more help then please click reply. Thanks - Alex

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for this. I should now point out this went to the small claims court and the landlord is Eton College. They submitted no evidence in advance, but showed up on the day with an expert witness and a lot of documentation I could not decipher. I tried to ask for this to be dismissed as it hadn't been submitted in the given timeframes, but I was not even allowed to object. Consequently I was unprepared for their evidence. The judge ruled it was my responsibility to pick the correct tariff. I am now appealing and need help to put my case across using the right legal basis. If this is something you think can be done, and can help me with, I'd like further consultation with you. Is this possible?

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Yes you could appeal this. I am not able to offer consultation beyond this site as it is against the site rules. Did you seek permission to appeal?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes. I was denied it during the hearing (Eton College have strong links with the local government and I can't help thinking this had an impact on the judge allowing them to break rules etc.), but I appealed above him and have permission. I have to submit my response by 21st October.

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
You can seek permission to appeal on the basis:

1) There was an error in law - in that the Landlord was in breach of contract

2) There was an error in procedure - in that the Judge allowed evidence that was not previously disclosed

Those are your grounds of appeal. Alex

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi. Sorry to bother again, one last question. What part of the contract was my landlord in breach of? What section of law applies here? Their argument is that they provided heating that worked, the bills were not their responsibility. I'm not clear where they are against contract?

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
The Landlord and Tenant Act. Alex

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have googled this like crazy over the last few years but never found the right piece of legislation. A landlord is contractually obliged to ensure there is a functional safe supply of electricity and goods, but nothing to do with fair usage. I argued the case based on the supply not being fit for purpose but lost. Do you know the specific piece of this act that applies?

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Please see:

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks, but this doesn't help. It relates to safety, the system was safe, but not designed for storage heating so I don't see how this will help me. This is where I fell down before - I was unable to highlight what section of law requires the landlord to ensure the right supply matches the installed heating system.

Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.
Yes it was not installed correctly. That is the problem, it should have been. Had it not been for the Landlord getting it done wrong you would not have suffered a loss. This is the Landlord and Tenant Act and/or negligence. Alex