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I rent an apartment in a building with several units. All electricity meters are behind a locked door.

My electricity provider asks me to provide readings from my meter every three months, and I used to do so in the past. At first I had a key to the meters, and later when the locks were replaced with numerical ones every resident was given the passcode.

Recently, the locks to the doors have been changed yet again, and I have neither the key nor the passcode. I have contacted the company that manages building maintenance (which is not my landlord or letting agency) and they have confirmed that they are the ones who replaced the locks, but they refuse to give me access to the meters.

Their best offer was to instruct the cleaner who comes every two weeks to take a picture of the meter and email it to me, but I feel this is inadequate. I would prefer to get a reading from the meter whenever I need it, without having to wait. In addition, when this happened in the past I was given a picture from the wrong meter and as a result I feel I cannot rely on them.
If I cannot give a reading to the provider in time, my bill will be based on a guess of how much electricity they expect me to have used. I would very much prefer to continue giving them accurate readings in time.

Is the management company's refusal to give me access to the meter reasonable? Can I force them to allow me access?

Research on legality

While researching this matter I came across this website: https://mocopa.org.uk . My electricity provider is among those who have signed the agreement, which states that when a meter is installed or moved,

The location must be accessible to the Customer so they can read their meter

while "the Customer" is defined as

a person to whom a Supplier proposes to supply or for the time being supplies electricity through an Exit Point (as such term is defined in the Use of System Agreement).

I am not a lawyer so I cannot tell if "the Customer" is me in this case or the management company, but if it is myself then it seems the provider might be in breach of this agreement by allowing a third party (the management company) to restrict access.

I contacted the provider (without specifically mentioning MOCOPA, however) and they claimed that the matter is between me and the management company.

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    Interesting question. I have no idea what the answer is.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 17 '20 at 1:20
  • Did you try to talk to the landlord? They should instruct the maintenance company to give you access.
    – Greendrake
    Nov 17 '20 at 3:43
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Normally, the person who uses the electricity and pays for it is the "customer", that's you, not your landlord nor the maintenance company. Check out section 6.3.3 (A) of the MOCOPA agreement:

the Distribution Business shall agree with the Customer or developer the position and space for the Metering Equipment, and shall, in so much as it is within its reasonable control, ensure it remains reserved. The location must be accessible to the Customer so they can read their meter and to the MOCOPA Operator (via the Customer). Consideration shall be given to the accessibility of the location to all users. The Distribution Businesses’ service termination equipment and the Metering Equipment should be located between 0.5 and 1.8m above finished floor level subject to unavoidable constraints such as vandalism or fire risk mitigation

Essentially, after the locks have been changed the last time, the building is no longer compliant with MOCOPA agreement requirements: I don't see any provisions that would allow to substitute the customer access to the metering equipment with an access via a proxy such as cleaning personnel.

Start by sending a letter by registered mail to the maintenance company, requesting them to provide you the access to the meter. Mention the agreement you have found as grounds for your request. You might want o clarify upfront with your electricity provider who exactly you are supposed to contact, the maintenance company would be my first guess.

Chances are, you'll be given the access code. If they still refuse, they should state the reasons for doing so. Check their answer carefully, and if you are not convinced, you could take legal action (you may want to bring the response letter to a lawyer first). Having a copy of the letter you'd have sent will be a requirement for the legal action to be effective.

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  • This is likely good advice, but on what legal grounds would the tenant be demanding this access?
    – Ryan M
    Nov 17 '20 at 8:40
  • @RyanM I added what I think is the relevant section of the electricity distribution agreement. I assume the OP's house owner / housing association / maintenance company has signed such an agreement with the electricity distribution company. Nov 17 '20 at 12:47
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    Thanks for the suggestion. MOCOPA is an agreement between operators and distributors, however. The management company has not signed it because it is not something they're (theoretically) involved in. Would they care about it, other than the possibility of the provider telling them to?
    – George T
    Nov 17 '20 at 17:21
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    @GeorgeT The management company has equipment on the premises (the meters) that doesn't belong to them, so they don't get to arbitrarily decide to restrict access to it. They didn't sign MOCOPA, but they did sign an agreement with a MOCOPA-compliant distributor business, and that business must have requested them to comply with the section 6.3.3 (A) when the electricity was supplied to the building. Nov 18 '20 at 8:24
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Probably not

There are several independent legal relationships here:

  • the contract between the landlord and the tenant
  • the contract between the electricity retailer and the tenant (customer)
  • the relationship between the landlord and the building owner
  • the contract between the building owner and the management company

The doctrine of privity means that a contract can only impose rights and obligations on the parties to the contract. Because your electricity supplier has no contract with your building manager, the latter has no obligation to do anything the former wants.

So, unless there is a generally applicable law that requires access to meters (there may be, I don’t know enough about the local jurisdiction - and the UK is not a single jurisdiction), then they don’t have to.

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  • Perhaps the OP should start by contacting their electricity provider to clarify exactly which party they have a contract with, so that they can address their request for access to that party without guessing who that might be. For sure the electricity provider has such a contract, otherwise individual apartments' power meters would have been removed from the premises as they are otherwise a pure liability for the building (they take up space and represent fire/electrical shock hazard). Nov 18 '20 at 8:37
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Only via the landlord.

The building management provides services to either the building owner or the landlord (they may not be the same legal person e.g. the owner may just let a real estate agency run the building, or may only let them manage tenancies, or may manage tenancies themselves). The building management does not owe anything to you directly.

One way or another, your primary point of contact regarding any issues in relation to living in the building is the landlord. They will be able to tell the building management what to do — either directly (if they are also the building owner), or through the building owner.

So, if your landlord cares to keep tenants happy, they may directly or indirectly convince the building management to grant you access to the meters. If they do not care, you might be able to compel them to care via complaints process or a tribunal dispute.

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