Moving is stressful and bills are sometimes unnecessarily complicated. Here's everything you need to know to make sure you pay your utility company what you owe, and don't end up paying for stuff you didn't use.
What does it mean if I'm the 'liable party' for my house?
"The liable party" is the person legally responsible for paying utility bills at an address. This means if any money is owed, you're the person utility suppliers will come to. It's also your credit score that will be affected if the account goes into arrears.
Who's the liability situation in a house share?
The bills situation in a house share is a bit trickier. It's easy to nominate somebody who doesn't mind dealing with it, but that often means theirs in the only name on the bill. That means if there's a problem, or the account falls behind on payments, they're the person who gets into financial and even legal difficulties. This is why a lot of house shares choose to use a bills management service like One Utility Bill to split the bills and keep things simple.
How to keep things fair in your house share:
- Ask your utility company to add everybody's name to the bill.
- This means you're all liable for utility payments, meaning everybody has an incentive to keep on top of payments
- Split the bills with an easy bills package
- Services like ours deal with all the bills admin and split the payments so handling that side of things is a breeze.
What to do if you're not sure who's liable for utilities
There are bills here addressed to someone else:
If you've just moved in and there's post about outstanding debts, especially bills from utility suppliers, contact the supplier and let them know when you moved in. They'll make sure you're only liable for bills from your tenancy start date.
If you're a One Utility Bill customer, you can just take a pic of the bill and upload it to your dashboard and we'll sort it for you.
The previous tenant has debt on the energy account attached to my energy account - do I need to pay it?
Nope! You're all good. Your energy provider can only charge you for the time you actually live at your rental property. As long as you can prove when your tenancy started with a tenancy agreement, any unpaid bills should be taken off your account. They're not your responsibility.
These problems are most common with your energy company, but the same applies for any other bills. The water company can only bill you for the time you're in the property.
Why do bills get confused?
Energy bills are charged based on meter readings, which show how much energy you've used.If the last tenants didn't send a closing meter reading to the energy supplier, the account won't show their usage correctly. Often this means the account is in debt, too.
Between tenancies, a property is in a void period, where nobody is living there, and the landlord/property owner is responsible for all bills during that time.
You shouldn't be charged for the void period, or for debt from any previous tenants.
Without accurate meter readings, energy suppliers have no way to know who used the energy at the property.
This is why it's so important to send opening meter readings to your energy company ASAP after you move in. This means you can only be charged for what you use, and it makes it easier to sort out any problems with the energy at your property.
Here's how to do a meter reading, no matter which type of energy meter you have.
Here are the bills you're responsible for as a tenant:
For the average household, this is what you need to cover:
- Water (Except in Scotland, where this is covered in your council tax payment)
- Council tax (If you're a full-time student, you can apply to your local council tax authority for an exemption to pay)
Broadband is also usually your responsibility to arrange and set up.
What if my bills are included in my rent?
If your bills are included you just need to pay the agreed amount each month and everything will be sorted for you.
What if I move out before the end of my tenancy?
Your tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract, so you're responsible for paying the bills for the dates listed, even if circumstances change. Your utility suppliers still need payment for the dates, even if you're not at the property, and it would be you, not your landlord.
If you have evidence that you've been released from your contract early, you may be able to come to an arrangement with your suppliers, but some services like broadband could come with a cancellation fee if you end your contract with them early.
You only need to pay council tax for the months you actually live at an address, so you should always update your local council when you're due to move out so you only get billed for the months you need to pay.
My house has multiple occupants, who is responsible for bills?
The person who puts their name of the account is responsible, which is why it's important to get your housemates' names on the account ASAP. It's great to be the responsible, organised one, but if it leads you with bad credit or in financial difficulty, it can cause serious problems! If you have a bills package with One Utility Bill, everybody will be responsible for the bills, paying their share each month from their own account.
What happens if I don't pay a bill that's in my name?
The risks of unpaid utility bills can have a big impact, even if you only miss a month:
- One missed bill payment stays on your credit score for six years
- A low credit score makes it harder to get a loan or mortgage, credit card, a phone contract or even rent another property.
- Your landlord or utility supplier could also send the debt to a collection agency, which means the liable party could ultimately end up with a CCJ, which stays on your credit report much longer, and can cause even bigger problems with your future credit.