A Guide to Utilities for Renters

4.5 million households in the UK are in private rented accommodation, a sector that has more than doubled since 2004 and now represents 10% of all households. 46% of those aged between 25 and 34 privately rent, and the number is only expected to rise, as wages have flatlined and house prices soared. It’s very likely you either live in privately rented accommodation or will in the future and it’s helpful to know the rights of tenants regarding their utility bills.

A Guide to Utilities for Renters

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As a tenant, the arrangements with your utilities will be written into your tenancy contract, the document that governs your financial and legal rights and responsibilities and those of your landlord. If in confusion about your utilities, consult your tenancy agreement.

Paying for your utilities

If you’re a renter, your utility bills, for gas, electricity, and water, will be handled one of two ways. Either you will arrange and pay for your utilities directly or your landlord will do so and charge you for them, either as a separate bill or by rolling the charge into your rent.

Your landlord can charge you for utilities if it is stated in the tenancy agreement, however legally they cannot charge you more than the maximum resale price for your energy and water.

The maximum resale price for energy, as defined by industry regulator Ofgem, is “the same price as that paid by the person reselling it, including any standing charges.”

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The maximum resale price for water and sewerage services, as laid out by the industry regulator Ofwat, is “no more than the amount they are charged by the company” plus a “reasonable administration fee,” set at £5 a year for purchasers without a meter and £10 for purchasers with a meter.

If you believe your landlord is overcharging you, you are entitled to ask them how they arrived at the figure and they’re bound to show you their calculations. If you think you’re being ripped off, get in contact with Citizens Advice.

Switching energy supplier

If you arrange and pay for your own utilities, your landlord cannot prevent you from switching the property’s energy supplier. This is contrary to rumour and may be contrary to what your landlord believes. A recent survey by uSwitch discovered that 20% of landlords—and 14% of tenants— believe that landlords have the right to dictate which supplier their tenants use, even when the tenants are responsible for the bills. This isn’t true.

Ultimately if you’re paying your own utility bills, being a renter doesn’t compromise your ability to seek out the cheapest energy deals. However, your tenancy agreement may specify that you must notify your landlord in writing when you change the property’s energy supply and doing so is often considered common courtesy.

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There is one exception to your right to switch is if you want to switch from a pre-payment meter to another type. You’ll need your landlord’s written permission to do so. If you don’t obtain it, you can be responsible for restoring the original type of meter when you vacate the property and the cost of doing so can be deducted from your deposit, if the tenancy agreement specifies this.

If your landlord is responsible for your utility supply and bills, you won’t be able to switch supplier without going through them. However, you are entitled to know who the supplier is and how you’re being charged. You also may ask your landlord if they’ll switch the property’s energy supply, although they are under no obligation to do so if they’re handling the bills.

When you move in

You should take meter readings for both your energy and water meters on the day you move into a new rented accommodation, to avoid being charged for a previous tenant’s use, and give these to the supplier. Your water supplier will be your area’s regional supplier. Your landlord should provide you with details about the property’s energy supply when you move in, although uSwitch found that a large percentage—23%—don’t give their tenants these details.

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You can find out a property’s electricity supply by contacting your regional electricity distribution company and asking to speak to the meter point administration service (MPAS). You can find out a property’s gas supply by contacting Meter Number Helpline on 0870 608 1524 and providing them with your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), a unique 6 to 10 digit gas supply reference code found on your gas meter.

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  1. May 13, 2019

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