Bills are an important part of living away from home and you will need to learn what to do pretty quickly!
You become responsible for the bills on the day your tenancy agreement starts, not the day that you decide to move in. So when you pick up the keys it’s a good idea to ask the landlord or agent which providers currently supply the property and where the meters are.
It isn’t possible to provide all of the information about bills in one page so if you have any questions, Just come into our shop and talk to one of the staff members.
What is a Meter?
A meter is a small box attached to your supply of gas, electricity and possibly your water that records how much of each you are using. This means that as long as you provide regular readings to your supplier, your bills will be accurate as to how much you are using.
They aren’t in the same place at every house (although they are often in cellars if you have one), and they aren’t always together, so it’s worth finding out from the landlord or agent where they all are when you collect your keys.
A prepayment meter uses a card or key which you take to a local shop to top up with credit to use. These aren’t very common and can cost you more for your gas and electricity, but they are a good way of budgeting and knowing exactly how much energy you are using.
Don’t forget to top up your meters before you go away on vacation (such as over Christmas) because they will continue to take the standard charge every day, and you should have your heating on low when it is cold to ensure the pipes don’t freeze.
Setting Up an Account
Once you have your keys you will need to take meter readings – one from all of the meters your house has, and give them to your providers when opening your account with them. This can normally be done over the phone They will use this reading as the start of your account, so it’s a good idea to have one or they may use the last tenant’s previous reading which could cost you more.
Your suppliers will also come and read the meters themselves on occasion, so make sure you’re honest. If you aren’t sure how to read the meter, many suppliers have a guide on their websites which you may find useful.
Not Sure Which Provider Supplies the Property?
In Sheffield, water it is always supplied by Yorkshire Water where as gas and electricity providers vary. If your landlord or agent can't tell you who your supplier is there are ways to find out:
You can find out your electricity supplier easily online here.
You can find out your gas supplier by calling the following number: 0870 608 1524
Switching Your Provider
Everyone is able to switch their gas and/or electricity provider, and you can save some money by doing so. Before switching, it is a good idea to find out if you are tied into any contracts. Some providers offer good rates for energy but if you leave the tariff early, there can be an early exit fee charge.
If you have decided to change suppliers, you can use a search engine to compare deals. It is a good idea to use an Ofgem Accredited comparison site, you can find a list of these here.
What Are the Options for Paying the Bills?
There are no one size fits all approaches when organising bills and this is something that you should discuss with your housemates.
- Set up a bank account and all pay in money when you receive your student loans.
- Take responsibility for a bill each and ask your housemates for their share of the money when it arrives.
- Use a company that offers all of the bills and charges the tenants individually. These include Glide and Split the Bills.
- Ask the landlord if they can include the bills for an increased rent amount. (They might not, but it’s worth a try!)
How Much Will the Bills Cost?
We are asked a lot how much bills cost, and this will vary based on your usage and what you require. Sky, for example, costs a lot more than Freeview! The basic ones you will need are Electricity, Gas (if supplied to the property), water, internet and TV license. Depending on the type of internet you choose, you may also need telephone line rental.
Internet and TV Licenses are usually a fixed price and easy to budget for. Other bills which are based on your consumption will vary depending on the time of year and how much you are using. You will have the option to pay monthly or quarter by direct debit which is usually a fixed price every month to make sure you aren’t paying loads in winter and almost nothing in summer.
As a very rough guide, it would be best to assume that bills will cost somewhere between £10 and £20 per person per week, but don’t take this as an absolute answer! It could be more, or it could be less.
Things to Be Aware Of
Where you are organising the bills yourself, try and have everyone’s name on the bill. This means that if it isn’t paid, one person won’t be solely responsible. Not all companies will allow this, so if you’re the named person make sure that there will not be any issues with your housemates paying.
Companies that offer all bills from one provider will charge for their service such as Glide or Split the Bills. This could be a flat rate fee or an amount on top of your energy prices. However, you may also find that some bills they provide cost more than if you bought them yourself so make sure you do some comparisons. You may also be required to pay a deposit, so make sure you have some money to spare just in case! This type of arrangement works well for large groups, or properties where no-one wants to organise everything.
If you pay for your TV license by direct debit, they charge for 12 months in the first 6 months of starting your direct debit. You will need to contact them to cancel the direct debit and to apply for some of your money back if you’re only going to live in the property for 9 months.
If you’re going to have internet at your new home, chances are you’ll need to wait for it to be installed. This could be anywhere up to around 6 weeks, particularly in busy times. If you’re going to want connection to the outside world, you may want to consider organising this in advance and setting a date where you know you will be at the property.
Internet deals can seem like a great idea at the time, but if you need to cancel it early, you can find yourself faced with a cancellation fee. Try and find a 9 month contract where possible, or work out how much the deal actually costs including the cancellation fee. You could ask the landlord if they would be willing to include the internet for an increased rent.
Heating in Winter
If you’re going home in winter, over Christmas perhaps, and the house will be empty you will need to leave your heating on. You can turn it down slightly, but this will stop the pipes from freezing and bursting which would cost you a lot of money to repair - if you caused the damage by not having the heating on it would normally be your responsibility to pay!
It’s also important to have the heating on to prevent damp and mould, particularly if you are drying your clothes inside the house on a drying rack.