Tenant wins compensation after estate agent's 'unlawful' energy transfer
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A tenant locked in battle with an estate agent after they changed her energy supplier without telling her has accepted £500 compensation and a grovelling apology.
But Joanne, 42, who did not want to reveal her last name, said she wants estate agent giant Sequence Connells to go further and review its "underhand” policies.
Joanne and her landlord, 58-year-old Richard Woolf, were horrified when she received expensive energy bills from SSE (also trading as OVO Energy) at the home he rents to her on Norfolk Road in Ipswich in October last year.
When Mr Woolf hired agent William H Brown — a trading name of Sequence Connells — on a let-only basis, he had spotted a clause “buried deep in the contract” which said his tenant’s supply would be switched to SSE.
He stressed to Ipswich branch staff at the time he did not want this to happen, and they agreed verbally.
In December, after we published our last report, Sequence Connells apologised to Joanne and Mr Woolf for the stress caused, offering £500 which Joanne accepted.
In an email she received from them, the employee confessed there was “no lawful basis” to send her data to SSE, and that the saga had “highlighted a training issue” within the Ipswich branch office because the “opt out” process was not actioned.
A spokeswoman for Sequence Connells added: “The transfer of utilities was an error on our part and we are in the process of resolving the issue.”
But for both Joanne and Mr Woolf, the bigger issue is not that the “opt out” wasn’t actioned, but that estate agents can switch a tenant’s supply over to the agent’s provider of choice unless they are explicitly instructed not to in writing.
Joanne called it “disgraceful”.
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“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?”, she said.
“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.”
The Sequence Connells spokeswoman declined to answer when we asked if they would be reviewing their practices.