One of the first things that will usually happen when you move into your new rental home is that the accounts for the utilities – electricity, gas, water and sewerage – will be switched to your name.
But, how do you know that these are on the best tariff?
Here’s some advice on choosing and switching utilities when moving into a rental home.
Your right to choose
Although the landlord may already have agreements with utility providers, you have a statutory right to choose your utility provider – although this will usually be excluded if you live in an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) or have utilities included as part of the rent.
In other words, if you pay the bills, you have the right to change providers. Common courtesy dictates that you should tell your agent and/or landlord should you make a change.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have read carefully and to have understood the terms of your tenancy agreement as the comparative cost of different utility supplies can run into hundreds of pounds a year.
Registering with your utility company
Before registering with your chosen utilities at your new address, make sure to inform the providers you may have had at your former address:
- let the companies know you are moving at least 48 hours before you move
- check if any cancellation fees apply (some suppliers will waive this as you are moving home)
- take meter readings on the day you move out and pass these to the relevant providers
- consider if you want to take your current tariff to your new home – but be sure to do a comparison first to find the best deal
- inform them of your new address – so they can send you the bill for the final accounts, which you need to pay, of course, or risk prosecution
Switching energy suppliers
Each utility provider has different requirements involved with switching. Here are some ways to switch utilities:
Your principal tool for switching energy (electricity and gas) from any utilities already installed by your landlord should be a price-comparison site, such as uSwitch – who are specialists in the sector.
The company offer a very straightforward and simple way of switching from one supplier to another.
Make sure you have the following information to hand:
- your postcode
- a recent energy bill (if your landlord can give you one) showing the utility provider’s name and consumption of energy by the previous tenants – preferably on an annual basis, but failing that quarterly or monthly consumption
- if you do not have the name of the current provider, simply enter your postcode on UKPower to find it
- alternatively, let uSwitch know the size of your rented accommodation and how many people are going to be living there and they are able to make an estimate of your likely energy consumption
Water and sewerage
Water and sewerage are similarly essential utilities, but you currently have no choice in the company you use, since this is determined on a solely regional basis.
Water UK provides a map on which you may find the water and sewerage companies serving your particular area.
There are moves to deregulate water supplies – and introduce the competition already enjoyed by consumers in their choice of energy suppliers. But, this is currently only available (since the 1st of April 2017) to charities, eligible businesses and public-sector organisations.
Telephone and broadband
The rented accommodation you move into may already have a landline telephone and broadband connection.
Run a speed test on the current connection.
Compare broadband deals in your area using a postcode checker.
It’s not a utility, of course, but whilst selecting and registering them, you also need to register for payment of council tax.
This means identifying the relevant council responsible for your new address. This may be found simply by entering your postcode on the government website, where you will then be directed to the relevant council’s website. Payment of council tax may usually be made online or via direct debit.
Often, the letting agent will deal with the transfer of utilities and council tax so check with them, whether they will do so, prior to duplicating the effort yourself.
If the landlord pays the bills
You cannot elect to switch utility providers if your landlord is paying the bills. But, when the landlord charges you for the energy you consume, this must be:
- no more than maximum resale price of the energy
- if your consumption is metered, you pay per unit used, plus your share of any standing charge
- if it is not metered, the landlord is obliged to explain the basis on which he is charging you, perhaps by showing you a recent bill.
If you have any questions or queries or want to complain about the way your landlord is charging you for energy, you might want to start by contacting the specialist help service provided by Citizens’ Advice. Alternatively you can reach out to Ofcom, the UKs communication regulator.
Ready to switch?
For utilities – click here
For broadband and telephone – switch here