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One Utility Bill • 7 mins

The Ultimate Bills Guide (and how to split the bills)

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The Ultimate Bills Guide (and how to split the bills)

If you're one of the thousands of adults in the UK who live in a house or flat share, the odds are you've run into the dilemma of how to split the bills.

Even if you come up with a system, finances get complicated when there are so many shared bills to cover.

Share this guide with your housemates to get a system in place, or you could always just get someone to sort your bills for you

Bills you need to pay in a house share

  • Energy
  • Water
    • You might be on a water meter or a flat rate, and it's important to figure out which one.
  • Broadband
  • TV license and/or TV package
    • Streaming services might also come under this if you all share them
    • If you watch "live" TV anywhere, you need a TV license. Live just means watching TV as it's broadcast.
  • Council tax (sometimes - depending on your tenancy agreement)

This guide covers all the main points to consider when it comes to sorting and understanding your bills.

If you'd rather save the time and brain space, a bills package from One Utility Bill cuts out all of this faff. 


How energy bills work

Energy is most people's biggest household bill, after rent and council tax. Getting the right deal here will have a big impact on your outgoings. It's worth being clear what you get from different suppliers before you sign up. 

Capped energy deals explained

A capped energy deal is something almost everybody is familiar with. It's the deal you get when you get your energy directly from a supplier. This is how it works:

  • Your monthly payment is based on an estimate of what the supplier thinks you'll use
  • If you use more energy than predicted over the course of your contract, you'll get a bill for the difference, or a rebate if you use less.

Unlimited Energy explained

Unlimited Energy, sometimes called uncapped energy, is available from bills package companies like One Utility Bill.

  • Quotes often look more expensive than a capped energy deal, but it's not a like-for-like comparison, 'cause they're completely different services
  • A truly unlimited Unlimited Energy deal, like the one you get from One Utility Bill, can be a huge weight off your mind in a house share, especially if you have housemates with very different approaches to saving energy 😬

How does Unlimited Energy work?

There's a rundown of Unlimited Energy over on our services page, but a quick way to think about it is like an unlimited contract for your smartphone.

  • You don't need to worry about your usage
  • You don't get a refund for being under a limit 'cause there is no limit
  • It usually costs more than a pay-as-you-go option, but you get more from the service.

Of course Unlimited Energy isn't for everybody, which is why we offer a capped energy deal too.

How energy bills are calculated (and what's an energy tariff??)

The cost of your energy bills is made up of a few different elements, you're not just paying for the energy you use. 

Your energy bill covers:

  • The cost of wholesale energy

    • Wholesale energy costs shot up during the energy crisis, which is why prices got so high so quickly.

  • Costs of running the energy network

    • Maintenance of such a huge network is a lot of work, and is paid for by the standing charge - this is the daily rate you pay to be connected to

  • Fees and supplier profit.

    • Energy companies are businesses - which means they have to cover operating costs and turn a profit, so they bake these costs into their prices too.

    • VAT
    • Like lots of other daily costs, Value Added Tax is added to your energy bills at a rate of 5%.

How are you charged for energy bills? (and what's a meter reading?)

Meter readings let your energy provider know how much power you're using each month. You submit the readings from your energy meter(s) to your provider, so they can keep your bills up-to-date and adjust your monthly payments if you're using more or less energy than predicted. 

Here's a guide to meter readings so you can submit the right info to your supplier. 


Is it best to switch energy providers?

Switching between energy providers usually offers access to different tariffs/energy prices.

Since the energy crisis almost everybody has been on the standard variable tariff (SVT), which means there hasn't been much difference between suppliers.

Energy suppliers are starting to offer fixed prices again, but with wholesale costs expected to keep falling, they might end up being more expensive than the standard variable tariff.


Broadband for house shares

Speedy, reliable broadband package is an essential, but it's easy to fall into pitfalls meaning you end up with slow or over priced broadband, or even live for weeks without it!

Unlike other household bills, which you can get sorted a bit later if you need to, broadband can take up to three weeks to get set up, so it's best to start thinking about it ASAP!

Quick reference guide to broadband types

Know exactly what you're paying for with this quick reference guide.

Meet fibre broadband AKA standard fibre broadband

  • Sometimes called fibre broadband or FTTC (fibre to the cabinet)

  • The fibre cable from the broadband network runs to a cabinet near your home (the green boxes you see in the street) and then connects to your home with copper cables.

  • The copper cables are older and unreliable, which is what makes this type of broadband slower than full-fibre broadband

  • Copper broadband cables are older technology which is being phased out, and full fibre broadband is becoming more common. 

Meet full-fibre broadband

  • Also called FTTP broadband: Fibre to the Premises.

  • The cables that connect to your home are 100% fibre, which means faster and more reliable broadband, with no old cables slowing it down.

  • This is becoming more and more common, and will be standard almost everywhere in a few years.

Meet ADSL broadband

  • ADSL = Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Catchy.

  • You don't usually find this type of broadband outside of rural areas.

  • ADSL uses only copper wires, so is much slower and less reliable than connections that use fibre broadband.

  • The wires connect to telephone lines, rather than directly to an independent broadband connection, making it even slower.  

Check out the broadband options you can get in a one utility bill package

TV license and TV packages for house shares

Do I need a TV licence for my house share?

There are a couple of reasons why you'll need a TV licence. If you and your flatmates want to:

  • Record or watch TV on any channel on any TV service (e.g. Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview).

  • Watch shows "live" on streaming services, things like ITVX, All 4, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video...etc.

  • Use BBC iPlayer

If you're not sure, there's a handy page where you can check if you need a TV license. Taking a few mins to check now could save you a fine later!

You can also add a TV license to a One Utility Bill package, so you just set it up once and never think about it again.


TV packages for your house share

A TV package is an optional extra, but it can work out a super cheap way to stay entertained, especially if you're splitting bills with your housemates

Lots of them also include streaming services like Netflix, so it can sometimes work out as a better deal than paying for all the services separately. 

  • You can get a decent TV package even if you have a tight budget

    • Even a really basic package includes loads of amazing TV that you can't get for free.

    • If you know you'll get the use from it, you can pay extra for loads of premium features like movie and sports channels.

  • Sports and movies can be a great shout if you're the place everyone gathers for a night in.

    • And it works out waaaaay cheaper than cinema trips or watching the match at the pub


Council tax for house shares

Council tax is a tricky one in a shared household. If you're splitting the bills with housemates council tax might be included in the rent, or it might be another monthly expense you need to share.  

  • If you and your housemates have a joint tenancy agreement, the council tax probably isn't included in the rent and you'll need to pay it yourself and split this bill between you.
  • If you all have individual tenancy agreements, the council tax is usually covered in the rent.

Make sure you double check with your letting agent or landlord - council tax bills can soon add up if you make late payments or fall into arrears. 

How to pay your bills in a house share

Paying bills in a house share can quickly become more complicated than it needs to be. If one organised housemate is lead tenant, it means figuring out what everybody owes and splitting each monthly payment - and hoping they pay on time every month.

Or there's setting up a joint bank account, which quickly gets complicated if somebody moves out, so it's only really a viable option for couples or friends who know they'll be living together for a good long while.

If you get it wrong, and fall into arrears or make late payments, your credit score can be affected making loans, mortgages and even rent and mobile contracts more difficult to get.

Your credit history can be affected for years if you miss a payment all together, so it's important to keep on top of it.

Ways to pay your bills in a house share

Direct debit payments

Here's a quick rundown of direct debits. Even if you have them set up, you might not be aware of the specifics of how they work:

  • Direct debits are an instruction to your bank to make regular payments for a product or service.
    • You need to be told in advance how much will be taken and how often before you agree to it.
  • Every direct debit is covered by the direct debit guarantee, which among other things guarantees that if the wrong payment is taken or is taken on the wrong date, you get a full refund.
  • It's more reliable than a card payment, because you won't miss a payment if your card expires or is cancelled.
  • You always have the option to cancel a direct debit at any time.

Card payments

These work in almost exactly the same way as a direct debit: you agree an amount to pay and how often you'll pay it.

But card payments often cause problems. 

Your payment won't go through if:

  • Your card expires
  • You cancel your card after loss or theft 

Missing a payment can affect your credit rating, and could mean that some services like broadband get cut off.

How to split the bills with your partner or housemates

Split the bills the old fashioned way

This method depends on one super organised housemate putting together a spreadsheet, or maybe a super-detailed note on a whiteboard.

This has to be updated manually when something changes, or somebody moves out.

It's definitely a workable solution, but if nobody is super organised, it's easy to miss payments or cause drama. 

Split the bills with your bank

Some banks allow you to split bills with an in-app feature. This solves the problem of chasing housemates for payments or worrying you've forgotten to pay someone back. 

  • You still need to set up with every supplier individually.

  • Your payments might still come out on different dates

Split the bills with a bills package

A bills package is the ideal option to include all of your bills and split them between housemates.

Most options allow you to build a package that includes:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Broadband
  • TV license and TV package

The bills you've picked are then bundled into one monthly payment, and split fairly between housemates.