After 10 days of reports of soaring energy costs, PropTech supplier Goodlord has produced a series of tips for letting agents on how they can help tenants with the issue.
Rik Smith, head of tenant services at Goodlord, says:
Point fuel-poor tenants towards financial support - If your tenants are struggling to keep up with the bills, it’s important that they are aware that most suppliers do have support available for low income and fuel-poor households. This includes the Warm Home Discount which provides eligible households with a £140 discount, as well as Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.
Smith says: “Having an open and honest discussion with your tenants can help you to gain an understanding of their situation, allowing you to offer the right level of support. Some of these payments will be made automatically, but others need to be applied for, which means speedy action could make a big difference. As a first port of call, tenants should contact their energy supplier.”
Outline what happens if a fuel supplier goes bust - Let your tenants know in advance that there's no need to panic if this happens, and their power will not be cut off. The government and Ofgem have stated that the current crisis "is not an issue of supply" and "the UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources with capacity that can more than meet demand. Instead, within a few days a new supplier will be appointed and your tenants will be switched over on a new ‘deemed’ contract, with energy supplies continuing as normal.
Advise your tenants to take a meter reading as soon as they hear about their supplier going under (or better still, take a photo of the meter with the reading and serial number visible) and then to sit tight until the new supplier gets in touch. They should do this rather than looking to switch supplier immediately as this could create additional complications.
Encourage tenants to find out what price increases mean for them - Advise your tenants to check who their supplier is and what tariff they are currently on using a recent energy bill. If your tenants are on a standard variable tariff or prepayment meter, they will be subject to the Energy Cap Increase.
This starts today (October 1) and is a rise of 12 per cent. This will affective 50 per cent of homes according to Ofgem. Those on standard variable tariffs paying by direct debit will see an average increase of £139 from £1,138 to £1,277. Prepayment customers will see an average increase of £153 from £1,156 to £1,309. If possible, Ofgem recommends shopping around for a better deal.
If tenants are on a fixed rate tariff, the price per unit of energy is locked in for a specific period, usually 12 or 24 months, and as such, they are probably best to remain on their existing plan until the end of their contract. Ensure that your tenants are making informed decisions about their next course of action.
Improve energy performance in properties: Despite properties needing energy to be comfortable, there are other steps that landlords and agents can take to ensure their properties are as efficient as possible, keeping costs down for tenants. Making sure that the windows and doors are fitted properly to keep heat in is an easy assessment to make, and routinely servicing boilers and heating systems can be beneficial in avoiding costly repairs and recognising when improvements are needed.
The energy performance of properties s so often determined by their ability to retain heat. Smart meters and low-energy bulbs can also help to make a difference, so check in with your tenants to see if any extra steps can be taken to improve the energy efficiency of their home or the appliances within them.
(All recommendations by Goodlord)