A tenant has received what has been described as a “grovelling” apology from the Connells lettings agency after it switched her energy supplier without her - or her two landlords’ - agreement.
The row first blew up some five weeks ago when local media in Ipswich covered the case of landlords Richard Woolf and Jane White, who were angry that William H Brown - who they hired on a let-only basis - used what the pair called “underhand” tactics to administer their tenant’s energy account.
In December, one of the landlords found what was described as an "uncomfortable clause" buried deep in the contract, stating that Sequence UK Limited, owned by the Connells Group and trading as William H Brown, "may pass" a tenant's personal details to OVO Energy (also trading as SSE) so electricity and gas could be provided by them, and Sequence UK could administer the tenant’s account on their behalf.
When the agency did this, the tenant received what were described as “expensive” new energy bills.
The Ipswich Star cites The Property Ombudsman as saying this change could not happen without the landlord’s consent and should always involve an “opt in” rather than “opt out” approach. The landlords were unaware of the change and did not give consent.
At that time - early December - a spokeswoman for William H Brown told the Ipswich Star that the transfer of utilities had been an “administrative error”, where the landlord’s request not to have the energy supplier transferred wasn’t acted upon.
Now it appears that the agency has compensated the tenant to the tune of £500 and the renter has received an email from a William H Brown staff member admitting there was “no lawful basis” to send her data to another energy company, and that the saga had “highlighted a training issue” within the Ipswich branch office because the “opt out” process was not actioned.
The tenant is quoted as saying: “I’m lucky because I have had time on my hands to deal with this, but what if I didn’t, and what if I didn’t have a landlord that had my back and made sure to read every word of the 67-page contract?
“It makes me sick that estate agents are exploiting vulnerable renters and hitting them with extortionate bills just so they can make a bit of commission.”
Landlord Today has asked Connells for its comment on the issue.
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