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  • Buy-to-Let

    Utilities: Best initial plan of action?

    Just about to have first tenants move into our first BTLs. The houses were set up by the developer with British Gas as gas/electric supplier.

    I called them up the day that we completed to ensure the accounts were changed to our name, and set up a Direct Debit to ensure that the void period between completion and first occupancy was covered.

    The agent on the phone said that the DD will only draw funds if there is any usage in our name in that month. Tenant will then either need to call British Gas and move the account into their name, or choose a different supplier.

    How do people normally ensure that utilities are paid during any void periods? Is this the best setup? What if the tenant chooses to move to another supplier and we still have our British Gas DDs set up?

    The intention is for it to be as 'hassle free' as possible so I don't want to be stressing that there is some random unpaid utility bill for a void period that I forgot about in 5 years time that then affects my credit score! I can also envisage that British Gas will probably be useless and keep taking funds through our Direct Debit even when we aren't responsible for the bills?...

    If the tenant has used an alternative supplier, I presume we as landlord would need to contact that supplier at the end of the tenancy and start paying the standing charge etc during the void period, making the original British Gas direct debit completely irrelevant anyway?

    A bit confused on the best plan of action!

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    You cancel current DD at bank as soon as properties are tenanted.

    Tenants will set up own payment arrangements - which may involve switching supplier but ideally ask them who that is for future reference.

    For any future voids ring supplier and tell them to invoice you directly until new tenants are in situ.

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    You should take meter readings (with pictures) on the day the tenant moves in, and provide them to BG along with the tenant's name (make sure the tenant consents to this by putting it in the tenancy agreement).

    Tell the tenant to switch from the deemed tariff they will be placed on asap and ask them to tell you who they go with if they change supplier.

    You can allegedly find out who the supplier is by phoning 2 organisations (one for gas and one for electric) but they have refused to provide this information to me because of GDPR - the tenant hadn't cancelled their contract.

    When the tenant moves out, you need to take meter readings (with pictures) and contact the energy supplier to tell them you are taking over. You will also want to move from the deemed tariff you will be placed on asap.

    You should make sure you supply the readings to the company as otherwise they will estimate the readings and, in my experience, it will normally mean that you will pay for a significant amount of gas/electric at the deemed rate (and by the time you get a bill, it is normally a real hassle to get them to change the readings as the difference is normally less than the £50/fuel before they must do something).

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