Utility Bills

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Utility Bills

 

Take Control

Taking control of your bills can help you manage your finances and avoid deposit deductions and disputes at the end of your tenancy. It’s a good idea to talk about how you’re going to manage bills with your housemates; this can avoid arguments later on. 

  • Discuss your attitudes to money and how warm you want to be; try to reach a compromise.
  • Agree who will manage which bills but ensure all tenant's names are on the account.
  • Agree how and when you will collect the money to pay the bill, e.g. each term/month; pre pay in advance, or pay when you receive the bill.
  • Is there an 'app' you can use to help you keep track or to pay?

How much you pay for gas and electricity will depend on how energy efficient the property is; how much you actually use; the unit price of the fuel and cost of standing charges. It’s possible that the current supplier or the letting agent can confirm the previous annual bills cost for the new property.

Your responsibilities

You are responsible for bills from the date your tenancy starts until the tenancy ends. Tenants must adequately heat the property to avoid damp, condensation and mould; so even if you're happy putting on an extra jumper, you must have the heating on for a few hours a day in the colder months. When you go away for the holidays, keep the heating on at a minimum level to avoid freezing and bursting pipes. If you’re sharing a house, you are all responsible to pay an equal share of the bill. Agree how you will organise the bills - how will you pay? what will you use? Consider the environment as well as your wallet and make sure you take regular meter readings during the tenancy as well as at the beginning and end.

Paying bills yourself

It’s up to you whether you stay with the current providers for gas and electric or whether you switch. If you don’t know who the supplier is, ask the landlord or agent. Alternatively, you can check who the current supplier is online (please see our useful links). When you move in you should contact the suppliers for gas, electric and water to let them know the date your tenancy starts. Ensure every tenants name is on each bill and set up a payment method. Take a meter reading so that you can receive an accurate bill and remember to take readings regularly i.e. minimum every 3 months.

Check water meters when you’re not using any water (i.e. when appliances, taps etc. are turned off). If units are being used when everything is off you may have a water leak.

Check your tenancy agreement as it may include terms and conditions you need to abide by if you switch suppliers, i.e. you may be required to switch back to the original supplier at the end of the contract. Switching can take up to 3 weeks so you will pay the current supplier until the switching date.

Bill-splitting companies

This is usually the most expensive option. Tenants can set up these account directly themselves or some letting agents can arrange these accounts for you. Citizens Advice explain the true costs and risks here

We receive complaints about utility management companies and how easy it is to get clear information or accuracy of billing.

Bills Inclusive 

This is where you pay your landlord or letting agent increased rent and they pay for your utilities. This may include gas and electricity only, or could also include water, broadband, landline and TV licence. You will need to check your tenancy to see what is and what is not included.

Cons:

  • Tenants do not have control of the utility accounts, so if something goes wrong, they are reliant on the landlord or agent taking action. The utility provider will be unable to communicate with the tenants about the account because it is not in their names.
  • Most bills inclusive agreements will include a fair usage policy, so that should you use more than the agreed allowance, the tenant will need to reimburse the landlord or agent – this is usually deducted from the deposit at the end of the tenancy. However, if the tenants use less than the allocated allowance, they are unlikely to get a refund.
  • Tenants cannot shop around for a cheaper tariff – the tariff chosen by the landlord may be expensive and if you use more than the fair usage allowance, you may be paying more than necessary.

Pros:

  • If bills are included in the rent you do not need to chase housemates who are disorganised with money.
  • It can help with your budgeting.

Top tips: If you decide to go for a bills inclusive agreement, ensure that the tenancy includes clear details of any fair usage policy, agreement that the landlord or agent will provide copies of the bills to the tenants, clarity regarding who is responsible for taking and submitting meter readings. To avoid any potential disputes take dated photos of the meter readings at the start and end of the tenancy.

Useful links

Check your Energy Performance Certificate - EPC Register  

Check who your current energy supplier is - Citizen's Advice

For information from Citizens Advice about energy and water supply, including choosing gas and electricity providers, click here.

For more information on energy shopping for students click here.

For information from Citizens Advice about phones, tv, internet and computers, including choosing service providers, click here.