I figure I might as well put this out here, seeing as there's a fair few renters about. Hopefully one of you might have been in a similar situation.
I'm a student. I rented a five bedroom house with some friends last academic year - we were living there from September 2007 to June 2008. That's 9 months, but 3 of those were holidays, so really we only lived there for 6 months, tops.
We were with Scottish Power for gas & electricity. We changed to EDF, but they took so long to switch that we were only actually switched over three weeks before we'd moved out, at the end of May. The bills were in my name (because my housemates were a bunch of lazy asses), but I left for South Africa on the 30th of May - my housemates had to take the final meter readings and I told Scottish Power to send on any final bills to my parents' house. While I was away, I got an e-mail from my mum telling me that the final Scottish Power bills were £263.43 for electricity (reasonable), and £915.67 for gas (clearly fucking ridiculous for 6 months in a well insulated house - for comparison, this year I'm living in the draughtiest, least well insulated, no double-glazing house ever, and the winter's been ridiculously cold, and we still only had a £300 bill for September to January). She was determined it was wrong, and I agreed - we paid the electricity bill in full, but decided to hold off the gas bill until I got back and see what Scottish Power did.
In November, the landlord from last year was still refusing to give us our deposits back, so I called up and asked EDF and Severn Trent Water for our final bills to prove we'd paid up. I asked EDF if there was an outstanding balance on the house for Scottish Power, and they said that they'd have been told if there wasn't, and there wasn't. Thinking it had all been an administrative error I forgot about it.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a debt collection agency saying I owed the money, plus £200 in late fees, immediately, or I'd be taken to court. This is the first I've heard of it - my landlord last year has clearly failed to forward any mail, they haven't phoned me despite having my number, and they haven't posted anything to the forwarding address I gave them. I've spent most of the morning phoning Scottish Power - the lady in the call centre was sympathetic, but thought that the only explanation was an incorrect final meter reading (the calculations on the bill came out fine - I had meter readings of my own from January 2008 as I was worried why they were still using estimated readings, but using them comes out as something like £500+ for January to June, which is of course far too high considering the warmer weather). But I have no idea how to do that (although the house we rented is still empty, so presumably we could get marginally accurate readings?).
So yeah, I'm a bit fucked, really. I need time to sort this out, but they say that once it's been turned over to the debt collection agency then it's out of their hands (which I think is bullshit, especially if they've not even bothered to try and contact me in the meantime).
Er, little help, someone?