Posted by: Nigel Collins
As reported in Third Sector, PwC recently reported that Charity Shops are the fastest growing retail sector. This could of course in part be due to the tax breaks they receive such as mandatory 80% non-domestic rate relief but dealing with the electricity and gas suppliers should not be overlooked if the charity is to maximise net income.
When any new tenant takes over a premises, it is important to find out as soon as possible who the incumbent energy suppliers are as from the date when a change of tenancy takes place, deemed contract prices can apply and these can be more than twice those available (through Auditel) on a fixed price contract. Suppliers are taking a harder line and backdated contracts are not so commonly available as they were a few years ago so best not to wait until a first bill arrives as this could be 3 to 6 months down the line.
Also, as a matter of procedure, charities should take a note of meter serial numbers and meter readings on moving into premises. These will be asked for by the energy supplier when processing what is called a Change of Tenancy (or COT) and are normally supplied by the previous tenant if they have remembered to contact the supplier on vacating the premises. Take photographs of meters if possible. This could all be useful evidence if the landlord or previous tenant delays notifying the supplier of the COT and has not taken readings. I use the meter serial number to check that clients are being billed for the correct meter and if not, to raise a query with the supplier.
Some electricity meters have a confusing number of readings which can be scrolled through by pressing a button on the meter. As long as each reading has been noted and how it is denoted (e.g. Rate 1, Rate 2, etc.), I usually find that I have the information required for the supplier.
Finally, when vacating the premises, you need to follow a similar procedure and notify the suppliers of the COT. Otherwise, you will be left paying the bills.