Being a landlord comes with a host of responsibilities, and among the multitude of tasks that accompany managing a tenancy, utility bills might slip your mind.
However, overlooking utility bills can potentially lead to significant financial consequences, potentially leaving landlords liable for unpaid bills and reconnection fees.
At the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, we’re committed to helping you to have a happy, successful tenancy. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions on everything to do with utility bills.
The golden rule: refer to your tenancy agreement!
Unless you have opted for a bills-included tenancy commonly used in student lettings and HMOs, then typically, tenants are responsible for paying the utility bills.
However, if your tenant(s) fails to make payments, then landlords could find themselves accountable if the tenancy agreement doesn’t clearly assign responsibility to the tenant(s).
TDS Tip: Include a clause in your tenancy agreement that specifies responsibility for utility bills, covering gas, electricity, water, and council tax during the tenancy.
The moment a tenancy commences, the tenant(s) are responsible for paying the utility bills. To ensure accurate billing, its best practice to record a meter reading on the move-in day. With the excitement and stress of moving day, tenants may overlook this crucial step. Therefore, we recommend that the meter readings be included as part of the check in process and recorded on the inventory.
TDS Tip: Ensure an accurate meter reading is taken during the check-in process to avoid confusion.
Again, unless you have a bills-included tenancy, the tenant is responsible for the cost of the utility bills for the duration of the tenancy.
If they leave with payments outstanding on any utility accounts, the utility providers sometimes try to seek payment from the landlord. Providing the utility companies with the tenant’s forwarding address and final meter readings can steer them in the right direction.
TDS Tip: Notify utility providers at the tenancy’s end with a final meter reading and the tenant’s forwarding address.
If the property has no tenant, then the landlord becomes responsible for all utility bills.
You can lower the cost of the bills by ensuring the heating is not used often – although we don’t advise turning it off completely in winter or you may end up with frozen pipes. If your property is unfurnished, you can also contact your local authority and apply for a reduced council tax bill for up to six months while the property is empty. We recommend that when you call up the utility providers at the end of the tenancy, you have all bills transferred into your name.
TDS Tip: During void periods, ensure utility bills are in your name, and explore reduced council tax options for vacant, unfurnished properties.
Yes, tenants can switch utility suppliers to find better deals since they’re accountable for payment. If however, they switch to a prepaid meter without your written permission, they should return the property with the original type of meter when they leave.
If the landlord has to pay the utility company to reinstate the original type of meter, the cost of doing so may be deducted from the tenant’s deposit, providing the tenancy agreement allows for it.
TDS Tip: Allow tenant utility supplier changes, but ensure they restore the original meter type at tenancy end if switching to prepaid meters.
While these practices offer guidance for handling utility bills, unique circumstances might arise where they don’t apply. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to seek advice from utility providers, local authorities, or the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
For more information and resources on tenancy deposit protection, visit the Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s help centre.
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