With the cost of living increasing and energy bills increasing, smart meters are all the rage right now. Smart meters allow you to record exactly how much gas and electricity is being used. They accurately record the amount of energy used and avoid either the landlord or tenant being overcharged.

As a landlord, you may have questions about smart meters and how they’re likely to affect you and your tenants. Here are the answers to whether you’re able to refuse a smart meter as a landlord, how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of them.

But, before we explore these, it is worth mentioning that it has been statistically proven that by using smart meters, an estimated £19.5 billion will be saved during the rollout period between 2013 and 2034. There will be a large reduction in the use of energy and savings in cost for suppliers, resulting in an estimated net savings of £6 billion. (Davies, pg. 6)

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters act as a replacement for standard meters. They require you to track your own meter readings and submit them to your supplier to ensure your bills are accurate.

They work by using a secure national communication network to send your energy usage automatically and wirelessly to your supplier. This ensures you don’t need to rely on any estimated energy bills or provide your own regular readings.

Because smart meters also come with a display that gives you real-time information about your consumption and the cost, they’re a great option for those wishing to save some extra money.

Installing a smart meter is optional, but they give users a range of benefits, the main one being that they help users to make choices to reduce bills and become more energy aware.

Did you know that smart meters are being rolled out to every home across Great Britain free of charge? This also includes all types of rented accommodation. This means that if you are paying the gas and electricity bills, you are allowed to ask your energy supplier to fit a smart meter in for your household. 

What does .gov say as of March 2023 about smart meters?

“Consider having smart meters installed. Smart meters can help you keep an eye on your energy bills and make changes to save money. If the energy bills are in your name or you prepay for your energy, you can choose to have smart meters installed, though you should check your tenancy agreement first and let your landlord know. If your tenancy agreement says you need your landlord’s permission to alter metering at your property, they should not unreasonably prevent it. Smart Energy GB has independent information about the benefits of smart meters for tenants and how to ask your supplier for the installation. If your landlord pays the energy bills, you can ask them to have smart meters installed.”

Want to read more from the ‘How to rent checklist’ from .gov? Click here to learn more.

The alternative is to carry on with standard practices of receiving your gas and electricity and then factoring the costs into monthly rental charges.

Advantages of smart meters

  • You don’t have to submit meter readings  smart meters automatically send out readings to your supplier, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to submit them monthly.
  • You can track your usage and spending – the display can show exactly how much energy you’re using as well as the costs. It monitors and encourages good energy habits.
  • More accurate bills – smart meters send your readings automatically, so you’ll only be billed for what you use. If you forget to submit a reading, your supplier will have an estimate of how much energy you’ve used over the billing period. The estimate will be based on the typical amount of energy you’ve used in the past. Additionally, as of March 2023, it is estimated that there has been a £56 annual savings for a “typical dual fuel household with a smart meter”. (Davies, pg. 6)
  • Shows faulty appliances  the display shows how much energy you’re using at any given time, allowing you to notice any spikes which may result from faulty appliances. Being able to identify these will ensure they’re dealt with as quickly as possible.
  • Protecting the planet  smart meters improve your awareness of energy consumption and are likely to result in you using less than previously. By changing behavioural habits, there will be less pressure on the electricity grid.
  • Prepay friendly – if you have a prepayment meter, you can track how much credit you have left on your meter, and some even let you top up from your smartphone. This is especially something important to consider during the cost-of-living crisis we are currently experiencing.

Additionally, the government has proposed that the proportion of meters in homes to be smart by the end of 2025 should be 80%. (Davies, pg. 6) So, if you are looking to install a smart meter, now is the time to do so. 

Disadvantages of smart meters

  • Older smart meters become redundant once you’ve switched – if you have a first-generation smart meter when you switch suppliers your smart meter may temporarily become redundant. This means that your smart meter will continue to record your usage, but it will lose its smart functionality, and it won’t be able to send your readings to the new supplier automatically.
  • Displays may not be accurate – when you switch to a smart meter, the display should continue to display energy use, but its ability to communicate with the smart meter may be inconsistent or stop working.
  • Poor signal – first-generation smart meters communicate using mobile networks and in the same way that your mobile signal can sometimes be unreliable, so can smart meters. If you have a weak mobile signal, it can prevent the meter from sending readings to the supplier.
  • A smart meter won’t reduce bills by itself – although having a smart meter can help achieve a general reduction in bills, it can’t reduce your usage alone. The idea is that being aware of your usage and spending will make you more inclined to reduce your usage. In reality, it’s likely to be a different situation from each home to the next, especially so if you don’t pay a lot of attention to your smart meter.
  • Some suppliers don’t support smart meters – in truth, not all suppliers are able to offer or support smart meters, so this is something to take into account when deciding to have a smart meter installed.

To summarise, a landlord can’t refuse a smart meter if a tenant’s name is on the energy bill and they’re the ones paying for it. After all, there are certainly more benefits than drawbacks to having a smart meter installed on your property. With a decrease in annual spending on energy, and an increase in the protection of the planet, installing a smart meter is a positive! 

For more information on the benefits of smart meters, follow Smart Energy GB on LinkedIn. They have all the tips and tricks you need to ensure a safe and smooth transition to being able to use smart meters in your property, either as a landlord or a tenant. 

Landlord Insurance can help to provide flexible and comprehensive insurance for a wide variety of tenant and property types. There isn’t a legal obligation for a landlord to take landlord insurance, but it can be a great way to help safeguard your financial future and ultimately protect your investment. Contact us today to find out more.

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