Many readers of the blog will have seen the news this week news that the Energy Price Cap has risen by 54% and will be worried about the impact this will have on them and their tenants. To illustrate this increase, those who are currently paying the default tariff charge will see the price increase from £1,277 to £1,971 per year.
Many landlords incorporate utility bills into the rent while others leave it as a standalone bill that the tenants pay separately. What is undeniable is that this increase in price may leave tenants vulnerable to some type of arrears: either through rent or a form of utility debt.
With the impending risk of potential energy bill related debt, we have looked at the forms of assistance that is available for tenants. After all, energy-related debt for tenants will likely exacerbate the potential problem of paying the landlord rent.
Firstly, we will look at Energy companies and their various funds
Many energy companies do provide energy-saving measures and provisions that will reduce the likelihood of energy debts. An example of this would be smart meters which allow residents to see exactly the cost of their energy on any given day. This will allow tenants to better understand the breakdown of costs for the various different energy bills.
In addition, Energy companies often have ‘emergency debt funds’ or some form of economic relief that are in place for those who have already accrued energy arrears.
They can usually be found on the energy website, so that is always a good place to start. Relief can take many different forms, but most companies offer payment plans so tenants can pay off debt over a number of months. One useful resource from British Gas is an interactive map which lists of various energy relief funds in certain areas.
Another useful document is the British Gas Energy Trust ‘Bounce Back Checklist’ which has information on the relevant benefit schemes as well as various grant schemes available. Landlords may also look at the ‘Turn2us’ website which shows grants in specific localities.
Government Benefits and Reliefs
The Government has various benefit schemes that specifically help those in trouble with energy debts. These reliefs schemes are:
- Winter Fuel Payment – a £100 to £300 fuel payment for people born on or before 26 September 1955.
- Cold Weather Payment – a £25 payment for every 7 days of very cold weather between November and March.
- Warm Home Discount – a £140 discount for some people getting Pension Credit or some people in low-income households.
- Household Support Fund – a funding package to help vulnerable households this winter. Contact your local council for advice and help on accessing the fund.
On top of this, you should also check that your tenant is in receipt of all available benefit payments. There is a very useful website here which calculates the benefits that a person is entitled to.
Energy Saving Tips
Whilst energy-saving tips can only go so far in reducing your bill (switching off lights after leaving the room saves on average only £14 a year) if built upon can give rewarding results.
The Energy Saving Trust site is a very useful starting point for quick and affordable methods to reduce your housing bill.
In all honesty, there are hundreds of sites that offer energy saving tips, so by going online for five minutes and spooling through some of these websites, you will probably find enough information to help your tenant (and yourself!). It may be useful to use sites such as MoneySupermarket which show the average price saved with each method, so you can estimate how much the tenant can save.
However, a warning: landlords should be under no illusion that some energy efficiency measures may need investment from the property owner, not just the tenant. For example, using a smart meter and being more sparing with your heating system will not do a lot of good if the walls are not properly insulated or the boiler is leaking or inefficient.
Can Landlord Law Help?
At Landlord Law we have developed a special kit to deal with tenants in rent arrears- seeking non-eviction solutions to debt problems. This is the Helping Tenants in Arrears kit – information can be found here. The kit gives a step by step guide as well as links and guidance to online resources and funding.
Do you have any suggestions?
If you have any tips to save energy and reduce your bills – put them in the comments area below (although note it will close after 3 months).