Should separate Communal areas have separate electricity meters?
02/12/2011 9:48 am
I live in an Housing association property that shares a communal area with one other tenant with it's own door entrance. The next doors property is also owned by the same Housing Association, which has it's own separate door entrance and communal area shared by three flats. The problem is there is only one Landlords electricicty meter for both separate communal areas and all five tenants, three in in one building and two in the other have to pay for the Landlords electricity costs consumed via both communal area five ways.
The main issue is that one communal area is using their storage heater and the other isn't and the yearly Landlords electricity costs are £366 and the two tenants in the communal area that does not gain the benefit of that storage heater in use, is having to pay towards the electricity consumed to operate that storage heater in the other three tenants communal area.
What I want to know is, should separate communal areas have their own independant landlords electricity meter? Have i a right to ask for this, as I believe that when these two houses were converted into flats many years ago, that two separate meters should have been installed as there are two separate communal areas where two tenants share one area and the other three ternants share the other and both communal areas have their own separate door entrance. And should the Landlord be expected to pay for the cost incurred to separately meter both communal areas?
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02/12/2011 11:04 am
You can ask for the meters to be separated, but do remember that you will then double the standing charge as there will be two meters instead of one. You will also have to fund the cost of the installation.
As the electrical usage is so low the saving you may make from the separated meter will be offset by the cost of the extra standing charge (you would individually be paying in the region of £65 for that alone). If you are paying 1/5 of £366 currently then already you will be losing once power is charged for.
What may be better is to ask for the removal of the heaters if they are not needed. If they are needed, for instance to ensure the fabric of the property does not get undermined with damp, then you should start to use yours too. But perhaps they can be adjust to simply ensure a frost free temperature is maintained in the hallways.
It may on the face of it seem unfair, especially as you are in the 'smaller' communal area and are sharing with a separate lareger one. However, a leaseholder valuation tribunal would be concerned with the reasonability of the charging arrangement. That said, you may have recourse to the LVT as a final option if any of you are leaseholders.
02/12/2011 11:24 am
Many thanks for your imput and appreciated advise.
I have calculated that the cost of vacuuming both communal areas for the whole year equates to about 13 hrs at 15 minutes per week (5 mins for my communal area and 10 mins for the other), for 52 weeks in a year and the both communal door entrance lights, which I have been informed use energy efficent bulbs, are equal in electricity used by both communal areas. These lights come on at night and go off in the morning when it comes light again. These appliances will use very little in electricity in the whole year, so a high percentage of the Landlord's Electricity Costs are more than likely down to one communal areas use of their storage heater.
The Housing Association have written to all tenants of both communal areas to suggest that the storage heaters be removed in both, but I at the moment do not know whether there will be any objections to this. I for one am not asking for them to be removed, but that might be the better option. I just feel that when the two houses were initially made into flats, both houses should have been independently metered as they have separate communal areas.
The housing association have said exactly what you have said, that if a separate meter was to be installed, our property would have to pick up the bill, but the meter already installed for both communal areas is actually on our side, fitted to our building. Should the landlord have really initially installed two meters when the houses had been converted into flats way back, as they are really separate houses with separate communal areas?
02/12/2011 11:53 am
That the meter is already in your bit will not prevent the cost being shared across the 5 of you.
It sounds like the heater issue is already being looked into. If it is removed you may want the landlord to check that ventilation to the areas is adequate to continue the air circulation through the area, and that damp precautions are in place.
Arguing what should have been, in this instance, is not going to help bring a resolution for you more than already seems in train. However, do keep in mind the additional standing charge of the two meter solution. Currently about a third of you shared bill is standing charge - splitting the meter would mean that you would be paying nearly £130 shared between the two of you instead of between five. If the main electrical use of the heater is removed then you will be paying £130 plus usage for a light bulb and plug socket!
Assuming that the heater is taken away. Would you accept the removal of the carpet so the corridor only needs to be washed not vacuumed (so the plug socket can be removed) and for the light bulb to be added to your own flat electricity with a notional (@ £15) per annum service charge credit as compensation? This would allow for the meter to be removed, and so save you the largest single item, the standing charge, as well. You can not force the landlord to do this, but they may consider it if asked.
02/12/2011 12:33 pm
Here are some calculations I have just made...
Door entry light for our communal area (two residents): Light: 15 watts per hour at 12 hours per day = 180 watts of electricity used. multiply that by 365 = 65.7 kwh per year. If the unit rate was the same as my own tariif within my own property ie 11.620p per kwh, the cost of the door entry light in itself for the whole year would equate to something like £7.63, shared between the two of us. The vacuuming would equate to: 5 mins per week at 260 mins per year or 4.3 hours, at a cost of £1.00 of electricity used, if the vacuum cleaner is say, a 2000 watt per hour appliance. So taking in all those equations, the cost of electricity used for lighting and vacuuming of just our communal area shared by two residents for the whole year would be £8.63 and then the standing charge on top (which if we say is the same as what i pay for my own flat itself ie 20.90p) = £73.
So our communal areas electricity costs would be just over £80 inc standing charge.
At the moment we are paying £73 each to pay towards electricity and satnding charge used and charged for both communal areas.
That means that if our communal are was metered separately, we would be paying and saving £30 less each year each, for own communal area!
That's of course, if the charges are the same as what i have quoted.
02/12/2011 12:49 pm
Apologies for an earlier factual error in my earlier posts, stating the standing charge as nearly £130, when is is closer to £80 (I was looking at the wrong column in the communal power sheet I referenced).
You need to add the electricity used to this £80 (the quarterly charge I have noted is £22.76, but there may be provider variance), allowing for VAT also, you are close to £90, and then divide by 2 to get your comparison. That would mean you would be paying around £45 where as currently you are paying £73 including the heating.
However, if you consider just the heating saving, and do not have the second meter (assuming the other corridor uses the same electricity as yours for lighting and cleaning) then the total cost will be the standing charge plus two lots of the power you calculated (lets say £20 to be generous) and VAT (negligable, lets say it is within the rounded £20). So that would be a total bill of £100 between five of you. At £20 you would be saving far more by keeping the single meter.
Doubling the meter cost on such a low electricity use will not do you a favour.
03/12/2011 6:17 pm
Many thanks again for your advise and imput, I will bear this in mind and hope that no-one objects to the storage heaters being removed, as it would definately reduce the cost each pay for electricity used dramatically in that case, unless something else is drawing off electricity or someone is using electricity for their flat/s, by plugging in to a communal area socket.
I'll keep you posted. :)
15/12/2011 6:10 pm
David; I suggest that you talk to the landlord about removing or disconnecting the storage heaters in both communal lobbies.
If the night storage system works well, it should pick up heat during the off peak period at night, and provide warmth during
the day or part of it. If you can do without heating in the communal hall, this is probably your best bet. Night storage heaters,
f they are old, can also be quite inefficient and use large amounts of electricity for a small heat output. The heaters should
have a 'fused spur' (switch), that enables them to be turned off, but if they are pretty old then it might be best to remove
them altogether to give you more space in the entrance lobby.
15/12/2011 8:58 pm
Thanks everyone for your valued advise. The Housing Association has written to all tenants suggesting that the storage heaters be removed from both communal areas. I have since worked out that 70% - 75% of the total yearly consumption of Landlord's Electricity Costs is down to the use of one storage heater in the communal area not shared by myself and the tenant above me. All five tenants are contributing about £1.40 per week to the Landlord's Electricity Costs and if there was no use of the storage heater in the other communal area, that figure would drop to around 40 pence per week! I have made it clear to the Housing Association, that it is not fair to expect tenants in a separate communal area to contribute towards anothers communal areas use of their storage heater, especially when it is consuming upto 75% of the yearly electric. Will keep you posted on the developments of the proposal to have them both removed.
16/12/2011 10:29 am
Well done David - it is so pleasing to hear from someone who is actually doing something positive for themselves and their neighbours rather than whinging on about what the Council of Association has not done as a result of failed telepathy.
I hope you and your neighbours gain the outcome that you want, and are then enthuised to continue to be active tenants seeking greater effectiveness and efficiency from your landlord, and through to from the wider community and the representatives we elect to do our bidding.
With more an more tenants like you the chance of the government getting away with the madness of the past decades becomes less, so I am really heartened by your campaign.
21/12/2011 12:17 pm
This post has been removed.
21/12/2011 12:32 pm
The options open to you here are to ask the landlord to remove the storage heaters; to request installation of a separate meter; or to request apportionment of the charges on a more equitable basis. While its widely recognised that storage heaters maybe an inefficient and expensive means of heating a space, they serve a purpose in the communal area by preventing condensation build up, so removal of the heaters may lead to long term maintenance problems.
Installing a separate meter will incur additional standing charges, so it will be important to understand whether the savings realised would offset the extra expense. Requesting fairer apportionment of the charges may be the best way forward. Ofgem has issued guidance (The resale of gas and electricity - guidance for resellers) which indicates that the reseller must have a methodology for apportionment and be prepared to explain how the shares have been calculated. It should be apparent through this process that your flat ought not to bear the cost of the storage heaters.
21/12/2011 1:23 pm
@Will - there is a storage heater in both areas - the resident reports turning the heater off. How is the landlord meant to ensure equitable division without means of determining this heater is off and always is off, unless it is disconnected. A separate meter may do this, but the extra cost of the meter itself would exceed the cost of the heating.
Against this, is there anything you would reconsider as the final sentance, whilst being what the resident wants to hear, is based on inaacurate assessment.
26/12/2011 6:58 am
Talking about communal areas - found this on youtube... Naughty landlord!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsRtcJccYs8&context=C3c34d07ADOEgsToPDskKLEdoJAqJlCOztzY2sDSdi
30/01/2012 8:33 pm
Many thanks for your comments and at present I am at stage 2 of the Northern Counties complaints procedure, where a Senior Independent Manager will review, as NCHA just simply want to repair the "not working" storage heater in my communal area shared by myself and the tenant above me. This would not solve the issue of the charges unless we decide to operate our heater at the same level as next door to equal things out. But by doing that the yearly cost of electricity usage would increase even further and by about 70% on top of the £366 charged for the last yearly bill last April, 2011. The tenants using the other communal area will then wonder why there has been such a steep increase in yearly electricity usage and only realise then the real costs of using these appliances.
I will advise them to your comments regarding apportionment and the guidance set by Ofgem.
I wil keep you posted and I do appreciate your expert imput in this andI do agree that it would be unwise to have the heaters removed (not my idea btw), but to apportion the usagecharges fairly or come to some arrangement with all five tenants in both communal areas to maybe have both appliances in use, but the one that has currently been the only one in use whilst the other hasn't, would need it's usage reduced by 50% to ofset the others coming into use and then there would be equal usage.
Hope that all makes sense.