Charities express concern that £400 household energy bill support scheme rebate will not reach private rented sector tenants whose rent is inclusive of utility costs

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The headline in The Guardian is stark - "Renters 'at mercy of landlords' over £400 energy rebate" but the possibility of a cohort of private rented sector landlords being happy to make a profit out of a rebate meant to help struggling households is clearly enough for charities to raise their concerns.

Both Citizens Advice and Shelter have highlighted the possibility that tenants who rent properties where energy bills are included in the rent (more common in HMO properties than in single household properties) may lose out on any excess above their energy costs that is not passed on to them by their landlord. It could be said that at present this problem is academic given that the energy price cap amount the rebate was originally a response to has been blown out of the water by new estimates showing that the cap is likely now to reach more than £3,500. However, the underlying flaw in the system remains - how does one ensure that the household the rebate is meant to support actually receives the whole benefit of that support and a landlord does not enjoy an uncontracted for profit at the expense of a struggling tenant.

As Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter has said "Tenants whose energy bills are included in their rent or service charge cannot directly claim the energy discount. Instead they will be at the mercy of their landlord passing on this much needed support." She also points out that landlords are not under an obligation to pass on the support to their tenants but that, legally, they are not allowed to overcharge tenants for energy use or make a profit on the amount they charge.

Whilst Govt say they are looking at this issue it might be a productive move for all concerned if local authorities were to see a way to contact, for example, all HMO landlords in their area advising them that they are not allowed to profit via an excess of money paid over and above the actual cost of energy used by a tenant plus the standing charge and VAT. After all, as HMO properties must be licensed the council will have the contact details for all licensed HMOs in their area. After all, as the Guardian article reports, Citizens Advice point out that over 585,000 households have energy bills included in their rent - 13% of the private rented sector total. Good landlords and aware tenants would be wise to keep a record every penny's worth of energy used over the coming months.

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