340,000 families forced to go without gas as energy bills hit record
families were forced to go without gas last year because they could
not afford to top up their prepay meters, new research reveals.
The poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation, found
336,000 (14%) of households with prepay meters admitted they went
without gas for at least a day as energy bills hit record highs.
The research also
revealed that just over half of those who went without gas reported
their health had been affected as a result. The majority complained
of feeling cold, while others said it led to poor health or left
them depressed. Households who did 'self disconnect' also
tended to do so for longer compared to previous years, with most
going without gas for at least 2 days. The overwhelming reason for
self disconnecting was a lack of money.
There are 2.4m families in the UK with gas prepay meters, and,
according to the research, their average household income is just
£13,466. But with average fuel bills rocketing to £1,300 last
year, hard-up households with meters have been hardest hit, because
the big energy firms have insisted on charging them a premium for
those who pre-pay.
While E.on, Npower and Scottish Power have now removed the prepay
premium, British Gas, EDF, and SSE have heaped further misery on gas
prepay customers by refusing to scrap the excess charge, which can
cost up to £39 a year more than bills paid quarterly. British
Gas, EDF and SSE rake in an extra £7m a year through the
controversial premium, according to the Federation.
Federation chief executive David Orr said:- "Our research
reveals how the premium being charged to prepay meter customers
unfairly hits the poor, forcing many to go without gas - often
during the coldest months.
The fact that many families have
reported that going without gas left them feeling cold, unwell or
depressed is simply unacceptable in the modern age.
it is now imperative that British Gas, EDF and SSE stop trying to
make extra money out of low income prepay meter customers.
If these companies won't do the decent thing voluntarily then
ministers should step in now and compel them to equalise prepay
tariffs with those charged to those on quarterly bills."
The big 6 energy companies have all scrapped their prepay tariffs
for electricity - but British Gas, SSE and Scottish Power still
charge a premium for those using gas prepay meters. British Gas
charge £39 more, SSE £30 and EDF £9.
Stubborn landlords miss out on thousands in rent
landlords are missing out on thousands of pounds as they hold out
for unrealistic rents, say letting experts. Competition for
tenants is fiercer than ever due to the increase in homeowners
letting out their unsold properties. Letting experts say many
landlords are leaving their property sitting empty rather than
lowering the rent to attract tenants.
William Jordan, managing director of North West residential lettings
agency Jordan's, which has 8 offices, says:- "Supply is
outstripping demand due to the increase in homeowners letting out
unsold property. Tenants have more choice than ever and are
therefore more likely to negotiate hard on rents. If landlords want
to let their property, they must consider lowering the rent and make
their property stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Once the rent has been set at a realistic price, landlords need to
raise their game and make sure their property is in peak condition.
There are many small, cost effective ways of making a property more
appealing. We have hundreds of tenants on our books waiting for the
right property at the right price.
If your letting agent advises you to reduce the rent, carefully
consider this - it will mean a cut in income for them too, so
they'll only advise this if it's in your best interest. It's far
better to take a slight reduction, than have the property sitting
empty for weeks on end."
William Jordan offers tips for landlords struggling to let their
Consider furnishing your property - tenants may not want to
pay out for furniture in a rented property
Keep rooms light
and bright - don't get personal and decorate it in your
Don't be too tough
when choosing tenants - excluding all smokers, students, small
children and short term lets will narrow the number of tenants your
property is open to. The tenancy agreement will protect you against
Make the property
look appealing from the outside - keep the garden neat and tidy
and make sure outside lights are clean and in working order.
Don't cut corners.
Replace broken tiles and re-paint grubby walls. Small defects can
leave a big impression
There is huge
choice for tenants at the moment, make your property the one they
want - up to date décor and realistic rent will mean it will
high on an applicants list to rent