We have had an interesting enquiry in the office today so thought a post on the subject would be helpful. Unpaid bills are no doubt an issue that will crop up a lot at the moment given the difficulties everyone faces with the coronavirus pandemic.
Specifically, previous tenants who no longer live in the UK have vacated a property leaving unpaid gas and electricity bills in breach of their tenancy agreement provisions. The current tenants are paying their bills as normal. However, the landlord of the property has been contacted by a gas company who is suggesting that the landlord is legally required to settle the unpaid bills.
The gas company is relying on the Gas Act 1986 Schedule 2B paragraph 8 (1) which states:
Where a gas supplier supplies gas to a consumer otherwise than in pursuance of a contract, the supplier shall be deemed to have contracted with the consumer for the supply of gas as from the time ( “the relevant time ”) when he began so to supply gas to the consumer.
Consumer is defined in the Act as:
“consumer ” means a person who is supplied with gas conveyed to particular premises (in this Schedule referred to as his premises) by a public gas transporter;
Therefore the gas company appears to be relying on a paragraph which states that in the absence of a written agreement there is still a contract between them and any consumer of gas in any premises which they service. Consumer is then defined as a person who is supplied with gas. The dictionary definition of consumer is also a person that buys goods or uses services. By no stretch of the imagination can landlords be using gas for a property that they have rented out. The consumer is the tenant who has the benefit of the gas that is supplied to the property they occupy. In addition, the provision only applies where there is supply without a contract. That was clearly not the case here. The contract was with the tenants and they have defaulted on it. Accordingly, there was no supply within the terms of paragraph 8.
We therefore disagree with the gas company and confirm that the same reasoning is applied to any electricity bills that tenants may unfortunately fail to settle prior to vacating a rental property.
The contents of this blog post is not legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If legal advice is needed readers should contact a solicitor. No responsibility for any information contained within this post is accepted and PainSmith solicitors accepts no liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this post.
Published 1 April 2020