Getting a handle on your money will make university much less of a hassle. You need to make sure you have enough for rent, nights out, food – and the rest. Let’s talk bills, including utility bills, to take the headache out of the process and prevent any tension about who owes what. Here’s our guide to student bill splitting.
What utilities do you need?
You’ll likely need to sort out:
- Gas & electricity
- Contents insurance
- TV licence
Who pays what?
What bills do you need to pay when renting? There’s often confusion over whether it’s your responsibility to pay for utility bills (e.g. gas, electric & water) or your landlord’s, so let’s clear things up.
If your tenancy agreement states ‘bills included’ you don’t have to worry about gas and electricity. But, with most tenancies, this isn’t the case. Water, on the other hand, might be sorted by your landlord and included in the cost of your rent. However, don’t assume – always check. You can’t change your water supplier.
As a tenant, you have a legal right to choose your energy provider. So, if you want a cheaper deal, it might be a good idea to switch energy suppliers.
In most cases, broadband, TV licence and contents insurance will be down to you to sort too.
How to split bills in a student house
You have a few options here. How you do it is up to you, and depends how close you are to everyone, as it needs to be fair. Here’s some advice for student renters.
#1 – Use a bill splitting app
It’s a good idea to avoid a bill splitting company, as they’ll likely charge for the service – and it’s often a fair amount at that. However, apps are a much better option, such as Splitwise.
You can keep track of shared expenses and balances with housemates – not just for bills, but essentials like toiletries and household items (if you share them). It’s fair and easy to organise, reducing the risk of arguments.
#2 – Assign one housemate
Who’s the most responsible housemate, the one best with money? Another option is to give them the responsibility of organising the bills and asking people for how much they owe them. It’s not for everyone, but can work well in houses with fewer people.
#3 – Give everyone a bill
Don’t like the sound of the previous option? You could share the responsibilities equally, for example, one tenant sorts broadband, the other gas & electric etc. Every month, you’ll all be responsible for sorting out who owes what (spreadsheets help!).
However, it can get a bit confusing. After all, what’s the point in sending one housemate a fiver for broadband if they owe you a tenner for gas and electricity? Plus, you need to ensure everyone has enough money in their bank account to cover the cost of the bill until everyone pays them back. Many use student loans to pay rent and bills, so you’ll need to factor in when money comes in vs. out.
#4 – Joint bank account
If you want to cut out the hassle of paying everyone individually, you could set up a joint bank account. All bills are paid from there, perhaps through a standing order.
However, this account will need to be set up in one person’s name. The risk here is if one person (or more) falls behind and doesn’t make contributions, it could affect the credit rating of anyone whose name is on the account. So, how well do you know the people you’re living with? Can they all be trusted to make payments on time?
How to set up utilities
If the responsibility is yours, setting up utilities for the first time can be tricky. The good news is it’s easier than it sounds.
- Find out who your energy supplier is (asking your landlord is probably the easiest way)
- Locate gas & electricity meters (again, ask your landlord but kitchen & hallway are good places to start looking)
- Take meter readings on the day you move in (this helps you avoid paying for energy the previous tenants used)
- Contact the current supplier to take over the bills
- Find out what tariff you’re on (if it’s they’re standard variable, or ‘default’ tariff, it will likely be the most expensive)
- Find a better energy deal (switching could help you save)
Do I need insurance?
Your landlord will have sorted buildings insurance, that’s nothing to do with you. However, that won’t protect any of your belongings or personal items.
For this reason, it can be a good idea to take out contents insurance. Many students don’t, as it’s another expense, but student houses can be the target of burglaries. So, it could be worth it to spare the risk.
Get insurance quotes below – for free.
Top tips for splitting bills with housemates
Here’s how to save money and hassle when it comes to student bill splitting.
- Get everything sorted ASAP
- You don’t want to have to spend the first few weeks of university without broadband, for example
- Put everyone’s name on the bills. If one person is solely responsible for the account, it could harm their credit score should anyone fall behind on payments
- Negotiate your tenancy agreement, you could get bills included in the rent and save a headache! It might be too late now, but keep it in mind for next year, or if you move home
- Watch out for hidden costs
- Found a super cheap deal? Always read the small print – there might be a hefty installation cost you’ll all have to fork out for
- Set up direct debits and standing orders so you don’t forget to pay bills
- Pay everything on time
- Keep communication open with your housemates. Ensure everyone is clear on who pays what – and when
- Set a monthly budget
- Ensure you know when bills come out (e.g. water, if you pay it, is often every 3 months)
- Check minimum periods
- Some contracts and utility companies try and tie you in for 18 months minimum, but you may not be in your student house that long. If you leave your contract early, you could be hit with a high early exit fee
- Always check with your landlord before setting anything up, certain bills might be included
- See if you can get a cheaper energy supplier
Last Updated: September 15th, 2021