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In the last five years, two things have increased dramatically: household energy prices and the number of people in rented accommodation.
Understandably, many renters are often put off switching energy suppliers, either because they think they need their landlord’s permission or they feel the hassle of switching outweighs any savings they may make.
Recent research has shown that in the last eight years the cost of household energy has increased five times faster than household income. Switching supplier is a good way to redress this imbalance.
Renters have rights
The office of OFGEM own rules explicitly states that renters paying their energy bills (rather than where the energy bill is included in the rent) have the right to choose their supplier. So if any of the permanent tenants in the property are named on the energy bills, they have a legal right to switch suppliers as they have the contract with the energy company, not the landlord.
Any landlord or lettings agent that issues tenancy agreements/contracts preventing tenants from switching energy supplier are breaking the law. A rental contract is allowed to stipulate that tenants ask a landlord before switching energy supplier, but the contract cannot refuse permission to switch altogether.
According to the OFT, as long as the tenant keeps the landlord informed of any change and offers to return the account to the original supplier at the end of the tenancy, the landlord’s consent cannot be “unreasonably withheld or delayed”.
The only grounds for a landlord refusing permission to switch suppliers are if the switching process results in any alterations to the property, such as installing a new meter or updating pipework.
The name on the contract
Tenants who pay their landlord directly for gas and electricity will not be able to switch. This is because it’s the landlord – not the tenant – that has contract with an energy supply company.
According to Citizens Advice, tenants who pay their landlord for energy and are concerned about the cost of their bills should have a word with their landlord. There is a maximum price landlords can charge tenants for energy, called the Maximum Resale Price so tenants should check they’re not being charged too much.
But renters need to know their rights on switching energy supplier, if only because the private rented sector is the fastest-growing housing sector.
Switch supplier now
So with 34% (1 in 3) of all UK households rented either from private landlords or the state, you would think there’d be a rush to switch suppliers.
However, recent research showed that only 38% have switched to a cheaper supplier. Just under a third is aware that, depending on their rental contract, they can switch energy supplier, but over a third believe, because they are renting, they have no say in the choice of supplier.