5:35pm Wednesday 4th June 2014
By Rebecca Perring
A St Albans couple, who were shocked to discover they were paying hundreds of pounds for their neighbours' crippling bills, have won their two-year battle for compensation.
Estzer Kosa and Zsolt Horvath were "furious" to learn they had been footing the bill for the electricity usage of the flat upstairs in Beech Road for more than a year since moving in, in October 2011.
Despite the couple’s complaints of extortionate bills - £200 to £300 per month for a two bedroom flat, they say they were assured by Abbey Estates Agency in St Albans that they were only paying for their consumption.
Ms Kosa, 29, said: "I started to think something was dodgy when our electricity bills were almost triple what they used to be when we lived in another flat, and that is when we were just paying for electricity.
"It was just very expensive - it shouldn’t have been that much."
Ms Kosa says she had her suspicions because the flat was part of a building, which had been divided in to two flats owned by the same landlord.
The mother-of-two continued: "We started to get the feeling we were probably paying for the flat upstairs.
"But after complaining to Abbey and trying to contact the landlady ourselves we received every excuse. I even changed my bulbs to energy saving, but that didn’t make any difference."
After several complaints to Abbey Estates, they agreed to change the boiler in March 2012, which they said may have been faulty. However Ms Kosa said the bills remained high - even during the summer months.
It wasn’t until November 2012 Mr Horvath received a £622 cheque and a letter from Abbey Estate Agency informing them the flat upstairs didn’t have a proper electricity meter and they had indeed been paying for both properties’ electricity consumption.
The flat upstairs only had a sub-meter, which counted the electricity usage but was connected to the couple’s electricity meter, which was registered to British Gas under Mr Horvath’s name.
Ms Kosa said: "It was a relief to have it confirmed, but they behaved like it was nothing.
"We were furious. The landlady refused to pay or to take any responsibility and ignored any contact with us.
"It has been a really hard few years. My son was born during that time and six months after he was born I had to get a job so we could get by - we just couldn’t afford to pay the bills."
Since the couple moved out of the Beech Road flat in February 2013 they have been fighting to claim back their money.
Former tenants have paid the couple and during a hearing at Chelmsford County Court on May 22 the couple’s former landlady was ordered to pay £1,000 and the last tenants of the flat upstairs, £500.
Johanna Attewell, from Abbey Estates said: "We were totally unaware that there was not a separate electricity supply for the flats as each unit had its own electricity meter and we took the readings at the start and end of each tenancy and kept records as we always do.
"We were later informed that in fact the top floor flat had a sub meter running from the lower flat and therefore was not receiving an individual electricity bill. The normal meter and the sub meter look identical and we would have no reason to suspect that it had been arranged in this way.
"As soon as this came to light we contacted Estzer and Zsolt to inform them of this fact - they also had no idea and just thought that their bills were high
"We straight-away tried to contact the previous tenants that had lived at the top flat and persuaded them to pay their share of the bills.
"We have total sympathy with Eszter and Zsolt finding themselves in this position but we have been totally blameless in this case and in fact have done everything that is possible to rectify this unusual situation."
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