Q: I’m furious because I’ve just discovered that a tenant who left a few months ago has left without paying the gas and electricity bills. I’ve already released the deposit and the total unpaid bills add up to £200. I don’t know what to do and am worried that this will affect the credit worthiness of the property and put off future tenants. I have a forwarding address but nothing else. Help!
A: Let’s scotch one myth: credit ratings are not attached to properties or addresses. They are related to people. That your previous tenant hasn’t paid their bills will not affect your credit rating or that of future tenants. The only credit score at risk is theirs because they are the ones who haven’t paid their bills.
You, as the owner of the property, are not responsible for paying these bills either. And neither are your new tenants. Assuming that you took accurate readings from the electricity and gas meters at the beginning and end of the tenancy, you have all the proof you require of who should pay for what. There’s absolutely no need for you to do anything at all, if you don’t want to. But let’s assume the bills keep coming and at some point someone will come a knocking for the unpaid bills.
We recommend, therefore, that you get in contact with the utility companies, confirm that the previous tenant has left and provide dates and readings for the meters. You have a forwarding address for the old tenants so you should feel free to give that to the utility companies too. You should also forward the unopened bills that you have received to the forwarding address they left as you (or the new tenants) might naturally do anyway.
One other thing. We assume that you know all this because you have been opening the mail addressed to your previous tenant. Best to keep quiet about that, because it’s technically illegal to open mail addressed to other people.