If you’re a tenant that’s eyeing up the possibility of switching energy providers to save a few quid, but unsure if you’re able to do so without grovelling to your lousy landlord for permission first, I’ve got some good news for you!
In short, you most likely have the right to pull the ol’ switcheroo without requiring permission from ‘The powers that be’ (i.e. your landlord).
But let’s take a look at the details before you make any grave mistakes…
Why tenants may want to switch energy suppliers
In almost all cases it’s to benefit from cheaper rates, just like everyone else.
Switching energy providers is one of the best ways to make a significant saving on energy bills. According to Look After My Bills (LAMB), they have saved their customers £450 or average each year (average based on real savings by UK resident LAMB customers).
Although, saving money it’s always the primary driver for switching energy suppliers. I once had a tenant that switched purely out of principle, because they received terrible customer service from their current supplier. It had nothing to do with the prospect of saving money. However, as an added bonus, he probably did make a saving by switching, too (most people do).
Below are a couple of popular energy auto-switch services that will compare the market for the energy best tariffs. They’re all highly rated with great feedback:
Look After My Bills||
How ‘Look After My Bills’ (LAMB) works
P.s. Yes, in case you’re wondering, these are the same folk that appeared on Dragon’s Den and “got the best deal EVER” (YouTube clip).
How ‘Flipper’ works
How ‘Migrate’ works
An Energy Switching Service will search the market to find the best energy deal for your HMO, BTL and your own home, so you benefit from the best available tariff, and they’ll manage the entire switch for you.
“Auto-switching” is an additional feature (which many standard “switch” services DON’T provide), which enables them to automatically re-switch you onto the best tariff after your fixed term ends, ensuring that you are always on the cheapest deal.
All you need to do is sign-up once to an auto switch service, and that’s it. They take care of the rest. Over and over again.
I recommend looking at the FAQ section of each switch service to determine how they manage switches, some of them slightly differ from one another.
Are tenants allowed to switch energy suppliers?
If you pay your energy supplier directly for your gas or electricity then you have the right to switch suppliers. No permission required. DO IT!
In most cases, tenants directly pay the supplier in single-let properties. However, in HMO properties, it’s unlikely the case – usually the landlord will include the energy bills with the rent.
Can my landlord stop me from changing energy suppliers?
In short, not if pay your energy supplier directly.
It’s actually a common misconception by landlords – they believe they can stop their tenant’s from switching suppliers.
Should I notify my landlord that I’m switching energy suppliers?
To maintain a transparent and healthy relationship, I believe it’s always best to inform the landlord before switching, even if you don’t really have to.
I can’t imagine that any sensible landlord would have any issues with it (and even if they do, they can’t really do anything about it). Just explain that you’re switching to a cheaper supplier. If that manages to ruffle your landlord’s features, then so be it. They’re most likely unreasonable and have bigger issues to worry about.
What if my landlord pays my energy supplier
As said, in single-let situations, it’s very unusual for landlord’s to pay the suppliers directly. However, if your landlord does pay the energy company directly and then charges you, you do NOT have the right to switch supplier.
You’ll need to [kindly] ask permission from your landlord first if you want to switch. Again, from my experience, most landlords won’t have an issue with it, especially since it usually doesn’t cost anything to switch.
What if my tenancy agreement says I can’t switch energy suppliers?
There’s often clauses in tenancy agreements related to energy suppliers e.g. some clauses will stipulate the landlord’s preferred supplier.
According to Citizen’s Advice, “this won’t stop you from switching supplier” (but you should tell your landlord or letting agent anyways).
But they also mention that, if you do switch supplier, you may have to return the account to the original supplier at the end of your tenancy. This is an issue you should discuss directly with your landlord.
Are tenants allowed to change the physical meter (e.g. replacing a normal meter with a prepayment meter)?
I once had an [asshole] tenant that fell behind on their energy bills (plus every other bill under the sun), so he was forced to switch to a prepayment meter by his supplier. That meant the meter had to be physically changed to a unit that accepted the prepaid dongles (which need to be topped up).
From my perspective as the landlord, it wasn’t the most ideal situation because when they vacated, the new tenants didn’t want a prepayment meter. Generally, most people that are on top of their bills won’t want a prepaid meter, because, quite frankly, they can be a royal pain in the ass! You frequently need to get them topped up, and it’s not unusual to forget, which means the gas and electricity can unexpectedly stop working. Not ideal. You know the electricity will disappear at a crucial time, too.
It wasn’t long before the new tenants replaced the prepayment meter to a normal one.
I’m digressing here.
The point is, your landlord can’t stop you replacing a prepayment meter with a normal meter (or vice versa).
The only caveat is that because changing the meter will count as an ‘alteration’ to the property, you might have to put the original meter back at the end of your tenancy. Again, this is something you should discuss with your landlord – s/he might be happy retaining the meter you switched to.
However, if your landlord wants to you switch it back, you’ll have to pay any fee your energy supplier charges for changing the meters again. However, most suppliers don’t charge a fee for installing or removing meters if there’s a reasonable period between the switch. For example, if you switch to a prepaid meter and then 6 months later you want to switch back to a normal meter, there usually isn’t a fee.
As a final note, if you’re actually in the market to switch energy suppliers to make some wonderful savings, whether you’re a tenant or any thing else, I definitely recommend checking out uSwitch.com to see what’s on offer.
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be contrued as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.