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One Utility Bill • 6 mins

The Easy Bills Guide for Private Rentals

Bills How to Private Rental
The Easy Bills Guide for Private Rentals

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.

Learn more in our ultimate guide to bills for private renters or find the answer to should I fix my energy?

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.

What'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.

Am I responsible for a bill that's not in my name?

Who's responsible for energy bills?

When it comes to shared energy bills, you still have to pay for gas and electricity that you've actually used, even if you haven't signed an agreement with an energy provider yet. If you decided to switch to another supplier, you'd need to pay for what you'd used with the previous supplier, usually on their standard variable tariff. 

The person whose name is on the bill is the liable party, so will be the personal legally responsible. This is why it's a good idea to get everybody's name on your energy bills, or split energy bills equally with a bills package.

Who's responsible for Council Tax?

Council Tax needs to be paid by anybody 18+ who's living in a property, whether you're a homeowner or a tenant. Your letting agent or landlord should have notified your local authority that there's been a change in tenancy, and who'll be living at your address. If you have an exemption to council tax for any reason it's your responsibility need to let the council know.

Who's responsible for paying the TV Licence Fee?

Responsibility for paying a TV licence in a shared property can get complicated.

  • If you live in shared accommodation where each person has a separate tenancy agreement, you'll need your own personal TV Licence to watch TV in your part of the property.
  • If you all share a tenancy agreement, you'll only need one for that address. As far as the TV Licence Fee is concerned only one needs to be paid, however the person whose name is on the bill is the only person responsible, so ideally you should get everybody's name on the bill, or split the cost of the TV licence with a bills package.

Who's responsible for paying a broadband bill?

Broadband is an odd utility service because while it's an essential for most people these days, it's not automatically "on" or available when you move in, you need to set up broadband and find a broadband deal yourself.

This means that whoever has their name on the bill is the personal responsible for paying it. Get everybody's name on the bill, or add broadband to a bills package to split the cost and responsibility. 

How to keep utility bills 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. Your share of the utilities comes out of your account in one easy monthly payment, plus you have the option of Unlimited Renewable Energy, for even less bill stress. Unlimited energy means all the energy you need to use with no worries about huge bills.

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. Dealing with bills admin is part of the service.

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)
  • Electricity and/or Gas depending on the energy supply at your address.
  • Council tax (If you're a full-time student, you can apply to your local council tax authority for an exemption, so you won't need to pay.)

Broadband is also usually your responsibility to arrange and set up, but it's not mandatory

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 who's responsible, 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 don't have a rolling broadband contract and end it 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 utility bills 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. 

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