One in eight renters at risk of missing out on vital support with energy bills
More than one in eight private renters - equivalent to half a million (585,000) people - may miss out on vital support to cope with rising energy costs, Citizens Advice has found.
The charity warns that tenants with a landlord who manages their bills are locked out of accessing the £150 Warm Home Discount. They could also miss out on the upcoming £400 energy grant from the government this October. You can only receive these funds if you pay your energy supplier directly.
This risk disproportionately affects people on low incomes, young people and people of colour who are more likely to be renting. People aged between 25 to 34 years make up the largest group of renters across the UK (35%).
Previous research by Citizens Advice shows one in five renters expect their rent to go up this year. While some tenants prefer contracts where energy bills are included in the rent, Citizens Advice is worried that many won’t know they could miss out on government support.
There is currently no legal requirement for landlords to pass on the £400 energy grant to their tenants and no guidance on how it should be managed fairly by landlords.
Fears over poor practice
The charity has highlighted a number of ways in which private tenants risk falling through the cracks because of a lack of protection or information on how their energy bills are managed:
Tenants can miss out on savings because their energy contract is in their landlord’s name, which means they’re unable to change it
In some cases, landlords pay for energy and then ‘resell’ it to their tenants. The landlord is only legally allowed to charge the tenant the same price they paid, but tenants can struggle to enforce their rights if they think they’re being overcharged
Some tenants are charged via “sub-meters” where landlords organise energy for the building, often through a business energy supply contract. As the price cap does not apply to these contracts, tenants can see rapid price increases and miss out on support. People with prepay “sub-meters” are especially at risk, as they could be left without energy if they cannot afford to top up
Cases seen by frontline advisers include a man with mental health problems who had less than £10 left on his prepay electricity sub-meter and couldn’t access support via the Warm Home Discount because he wasn’t the named billpayer. In another case someone had bills included in their rent, but was put on a prepayment meter by the energy supplier because their landlord failed to pay them.
With more than a million rented households already in fuel poverty in 2021 before energy prices soared, it’s more important than ever that tenants are able to access the support they’re entitled to.
As the Chancellor recently announced more support for households to cope with the rising cost of living, Citizens Advice is urging the government to bring forward clear guidance for landlords on how they manage the upcoming grant if they control their tenants’ energy contract.
The charity is also calling on the Government to make sure tenants can take control of their energy bills if they want to, so that they can receive support directly.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“With the price of energy at a record high, it’s vital that government support reaches the people it’s intended for. We’re worried that many tenants are falling through the cracks, putting them at risk of missing out on money to help them with soaring bills.
“Renters must be able to take control of their energy payments if they want to, so they can get all the support they need. The government should also bring forward clear guidance for landlords to make sure tenants don’t miss out on the upcoming £400 energy grant.”
Energy bills: your rights as a tenant
If you pay your energy bills directly, you have the right to choose your supplier and to have a smart meter installed, though you should let your landlord or letting agent know.
If your energy bills are included in your rent this should be clearly stated in your tenancy agreement, along with details on when the rent can be reviewed by your landlord. Some tenancies can include ‘fair usage’ clauses about how much energy you can use.
If your landlord pays for your energy and then ‘resells’ it to you, they can only charge you for:
the units of energy you've used
your share of the standing charge (a flat fee charged on every energy contract)
the VAT owed (5% for energy)
Sub-meters. Your landlord can charge you a fee for any sub-meters they install in your property. In the unlikely case that your home doesn’t have an energy meter, your landlord must estimate as accurately as possible how much you should pay.
Further information on your rights is available on the Citizens Advice website. If you need personalised support, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133 or get advice online.
Notes to editors
- More information can be found in Citizens Advice’s report: ‘Room for Reform’
- 13% of renters have their energy bill included in the rent. (Source: Table 3 Q2 "Are any of the following bills included in your rent?" 13% (138) on a base of 1079. Nationally representative omnibus survey conducted by Yonder Data Solutions for Citizens Advice, with a weighted base of 1,079 private renters in the UK. Fieldwork took place 16th-17th February 2022. 4.5 million households rented across the UK in 2017 (source: ONS)
- Across the UK, tenants are more likely to be younger, with those in the 25 to 34 years age group the largest group (35%) (source: ONS). Tenants are also disproportionately more likely to be a member of an ethnic minority - in 2016, 27% of Asian or Asian British people rented privately and 21% of black or black British people rented privately against an average across the population of 17% renting privately (source: HoC Library).
- Previous research by Citizens Advice showing one in five renters are expecting their rent to go up this year
- Citizens Advice’s One Renter Every Minute report outlines problems tenants faced during the pandemic.
- Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
- Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
- The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
- Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
- Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
- For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.
- We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.