Contracts for Utility Bills on a Park Home site

The scenario described in this article is based on an enquiry received through the Park Home Owners Club website, as well as a response from the Independent Park Home Advisory Service.

Scenario – change in how utility bills for your park home are managed:

You live on a park home with permanent residency, where most of the residents are over 60. Your contract with the park says that you pay monthly ground rent plus your gas and electricity directly to the site owner. Your gas and electricity are on meters and are read every month, so you only pay for what you owe. Your water is not metered.

One day everyone on the park receives a letter from the park owner saying that they have contracted out to a company to manage their utility bills from next month. The letter also says that:

  • Residents’ personal details have been passed on to the external company.
  • All residents must have smart meters fitted.
  • All residents must pay for their utilities in advance and keep their account in credit or risk being cut off
  • Each household will be charged an “administration fee” each year on top of their existing bills.
  • The smart meters in question will not have a display, therefore they will have to check their account online or call the contracted company if they wish to check their usage.

What do you do in this scenario?

 

Do I have to pay for a smart meter for my park home?

It’s not compulsory for any UK home owners to have a smart meter for their utilities. In many cases where the electricity is supplied by one of the larger UK electricity companies such as Eon, they may not be interested in fitting smart meters as the supply is straight to the park owner rather than to you.

In cases where a third party has been contracted, having the smart meter may make it easier for meter readings to be sent to the park owner or the sub-contractor. Therefore, it may be necessary for the park owner to fit a meter with the capability to send readings wirelessly. In this case, the installation and all associated costs are the responsibility of the park owner and should not be passed on to home owners or affect rates or pitch fees.

Can the external company charge me an administration fee?

Put simply, no. If your contract dictates that you pay your bills directly to the park owner and the owner decides to use an external company to manage the utilities, then it is their responsibility to foot the bill for any additional fees the company may charge. You only have an agreement with the park owner: nobody else.

According to the Directive of OFGEM (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) - the government regulator for the electricity and natural gas markets in Britain - the park owner can only charge you for the electricity you use and cannot profit from these charges.

Do I have to pay for my park home utilities in advance?

There’s no legal requirement for you to pay for your utilities in advance. The OFGEM Directive explains how a park owner can calculate the unit charge to be applied to residents’ meter readings. This can only be done when the park owner has received the supplier’s bill.

Of course, you must pay the park owner for utilities and services you use as and when they are supplied – however, it would be contrary to the agreement to pay in advance so there is no legal requirement for you to keep your electricity account in credit.

Who should I be paying my park home utility bills to?

If your contract requires you to do so, you should pay your utility bills directly to the park owner. You are under no legal obligation to pay the contractor that the park owner has hired to manage the utilities – that is their responsibility.

Can my personal details be passed on without my consent?

The park owner cannot pass on your personal details to the external company without your consent – otherwise they are in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation GDPR.

If your contract dictates that you should pay your bills directly to the park owner, there should be no need for your details to be passed on. If the park owner wants the sub-contractor to work out the residents’ electric bills, they should only need the meter readings and relevant pitch numbers.

So, what should I do?

If you are a resident of a park with an already agreed contract outlining that utility payments are to be made through the park owner:

  • You are not obligated to pay for a smart meter, or even have one installed.
  • You are not obligated to pay your bills to anyone except the park owner.
  • You are not obligated to pay an administration fee.
  • You are not obligated to pay for your utilities in advance or keep your account in credit.

 

Park Home insurance from Towergate

As a specialist insurer with 40 years’ experience, we’ve come to know what park home owners want from their insurance. Combined with our flexible approach to insurance and a helpful approach to customer service, we’re confident that our cover and service will give you financial confidence and provide essential support where it’s needed most. See our park home insurance page for more information.

This is a marketing article by Towergate Insurance.

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