LANDLORDS face a potential Tory cash bonanza with nothing to stop them holding on to the £400 energy bill rebate which the government is paying over to them for each tenant, Shelter warned yesterday.
Tenants are ‘at the mercy of their landlord passing on this much-needed support,’ said the housing charity.
An estimated 585,000 households – 13% of private renters – have energy bills included in their rent and the government says it expects landlords to pass on the discount, but there are no enforcement measures.
The typical household energy bill could hit £3,615 a year in January, up from £1,400 a year in October 2021, according to a forecast from consultancy Cornwall Insight.
The government has announced a £400 discount on energy bills, and last week it revealed that the money will be paid in six instalments, with a discount of £66 applied to energy bills in October and November, and £67 a month from December to March 2023.
How the money is received will depend on how you pay your bill.
However, for tenants whose energy bills are included in their rent, their landlord would receive the discount as they are the bill payer.
But charities have raised concerns that landlords will not pass on the saving to their tenants.
‘There’s no specific legal obligation for landlords to pass on this support but they aren’t allowed to overcharge tenants for the energy they’ve used or make a profit on it,’ Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said.
‘This could be the case if they pocket the government support and continue to charge the same rate for utilities.
‘Landlords can only charge for energy used, the standing charge and VAT. So, it’s worth making a note of how much energy you’re using to make sure you’re not paying more than you should,’ she added.
Neate said it was ‘unfair that those at the sharp end of this crisis could miss out on this much-needed support’ and urged the government to make sure it went ‘to the people who need it the most’.
Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy at Citizens Advice, said there was no clear guidance on how landlords should pass on the discount ‘or any law to make sure they do’.
‘We’re worried that renters could fall through the cracks and miss out on extra cash,’ she added.
Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: ‘A lot of landlords have already raised the rent to take account of higher energy bills and there’s no easy way for tenants to ask them to pass on the £400 grant if they don’t want to – threatening to move out is one approach but that is difficult when rent on a new property could be much higher.’