Stingy London Landlord Forces Renter to Pay Electricity in Old Pound Coins

By Holly Brockwell on at

Renting in the capital seems to get worse every day, and the latest tale of landlord-related woe has given us the kind of blinding but impotent rage that Change.org petitions depend on.

A tenant in Archway, North London, recently posted to the London subreddit (that's a forum page dedicated to a particular topic, for the non-Redditors among us) asking if anyone had any of the old-style pound coins going spare, because their rented flat still uses one of those coin-operated electricity meters and the landlord didn't feel like upgrading it to take, you know, legal tender.

Coin-op meters are very much a product of a bygone age, but so is renting in London, where avocado bathroom suites and plague-inducing levels of filth are still popular.

While prepayment meters are often used in places where it wouldn't be practical to require billing (in communities where tenants wouldn't necessarily have a bank account, for instance), these have moved with the times and are now updated by smart card or online. Instead, some people have to do this to use electricity in twenty actual eighteen:

"Once a week or so, I get up on a step-stool and put more money in the meter. A couple of times I haven't paid attention to the level on the meter and all the lights went out on me."

And now they can't even do that, because the machine requires coins as obsolete as this arrangement.

The renter, originally from the US and therefore perhaps not conversant with the level of shadiness employed by British landlords, asked about the problem and was told "that they replaced the gas meters with £2 coins a number of years ago, and it was a huge pain in the ass, so they didn't want to mess around with the electric ones."

Instead, they would prefer their tenants scramble to find coins that haven't been legal tender for over a year just so they can power the flat they no doubt pay an arm and a leg for. While neighbourly Londoners offered to donate their old round pounds, the fact that this post had to be made in the first place says a lot about the housing crisis.

Interestingly, if the landlord does decide to remove the machine to modify it to accept the new coins, they'll be in breach of the law when they put it back. While legislation enacted in October 2016 stopped short of actually outlawing the coin meters (sadly), it did say you can't put any new ones into use. And that includes putting old ones that you've messed about with back into use.

Surely landlords aren't leaving the old meters unmodified so they don't have to replace them with ones from this century, are they? Or so they don't have to pay the £5,000 fine for putting old ones back in? Either way, it's definitely not because they don't have enough coins.