If you’re renting, you can still be an energy shopper and find a better deal. If you have never paid a bill before, just phone up the current energy supplier and ask them for a personal projection. This will help you when comparing gas and electricity prices. If you have a prepayment meter (one with a key or a card) you should still be able to switch energy suppliers with a debt of up to £500. Here are the answers to some of the most common queries that tenants have when switching energy provider.
Can I switch energy supplier if I’m renting?
Under consumer protection law, if you’re a tenant and directly responsible for paying the gas and/or electricity bills, then you have the right to choose who your energy supplier is. Your landlord or letting agent cannot unreasonably stop you switching.
Your landlord can only choose the energy supplier if they’re directly responsible for paying the gas and/or electricity bills.
There are a few situations where this might arise:
If your landlord pays the energy supplier directly and then reclaims the money from you.
If your landlord includes the cost of energy within your accommodation charges.
If your landlord assumes responsibility for energy supply between tenancies.
Sometimes a landlord or letting agent might have a preferred energy supplier, one that is set as the default supplier on the tenancy agreement. Ofgem rules state that you should be made aware of any tie-ins with specific energy suppliers. You should also receive details at the outset about any relevant gas or electricity tariffs and charging details.
If you notice this before you sign, you can talk to your landlord or letting agent about renegotiating this clause. However, even if they won’t change it, you’re still entitled to switch energy supplier. You are also entitled to switch at any point after you’ve signed the agreement, so long as you’re the person responsible for paying the bills.
On the day you move in, make sure you take a meter reading and call the current supplier to let them know what it is. Also do the same when you move out.
You may be required by a clause in your tenancy agreement to let them know if you switch energy supplier, and also return the account to the original supplier at the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord can’t stop you from changing your method of payment – for example, from a prepayment meter to a credit meter. However, you might be required to switch back at the end of your tenancy. There may also be costs involved in changing your method of payment, and you will be responsible for those too.
If you think the supplier is unreasonably trying to prevent you from switching, the first step is to contact them and ask why. Chances are, you’ll be able to resolve the issue there and then. If not, and you still believe they’re acting unreasonably after eight weeks, you can then ask the independent Ombudsman to investigate.
If your landlord or letting agent is being difficult or you need advice about an energy matter, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service. They’ll give you free advice on all consumer issues.
It is important to deal with this. Don’t ignore any debt recovery letters or calls.