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Energy costs in shared accommodation

It is important that all housemates pay their share of the energy bills on time, as the person named on the bill is ultimately responsible.

Charges for energy you didn't use

When you move into a new home there should be an existing energy supply.

The previous tenant or landlord should have told the supplier that they were leaving. They should have arranged to pay for any outstanding energy costs before you move in.

When you first move in, take a note of the meter readings. Take a photo if you can.

Contact the existing energy supplier and let them know you have moved in. Give them the meter reading to make sure you're not asked to pay for energy you didn't use.

Your energy supplier

You don't have to stay with the existing energy supplier when you move into a new home.

Use a price comparison website to check if another supplier is offering a cheaper deal. For example:

Find out more from Ofgem about switching energy supplier.

If you plan to change energy suppliers, you still need to pay the existing supplier for any energy you use. Changing suppliers can take a few weeks.

Responsibility for bills

In shared accommodation, it is a good idea to split the gas and electricity bills equally. It is cheaper to set up a direct debit to pay your bills.

It is sometimes easier to deal with the energy company if just one of the tenants is named on the utility contract. That person is responsible and liable to pay the whole bill until the end of the contract. The other tenants should pay their share to the tenant named on the bill.

Tell the supplier in writing if you are the only person named on your energy contract. Explain that you are acting on behalf of the other tenants and that you are all sharing the bills equally. This could help protect you in the event of a dispute.

Your energy supplier may allow you to set up an account that has all the tenants' names on the contract.

You are all liable to pay the bills until the contract ends if you are all named on the contract. This means that you are responsible for making sure the bills are covered completely, not just your share.

If a flatmate moves out, take a reading for that day and ask your supplier for for a bill so you can split the bill fairly.

Flatmate won't pay their share

If one of the tenants can't or won't pay their share of the energy bills, the other tenants will probably have to pay it.

Tell the energy supplier what is happening. They may give you more time to pay your bill while you resolve the issue.

Try to find out what the problem is. If one tenant can't afford to pay, discuss the options. To get your money back, you may have to take legal action against a tenant who does not pay.

Find out more from Gov.uk about taking someone to court.

Understanding your bills

You can choose whether you want to receive paper bills or check your bills online.

Your energy bill should tell you the:

  • period the bill refers to
  • the amount of fuel used or an estimated amount
  • total amount you owe
  • price per unit (for gas and electricity separately)

The most accurate bills are based on meter readings. If your bill is estimated, you could be paying too much or too little. You can ask your supplier to recalculate the bill based on a new meter reading if your bill was estimated.

Always check your bill carefully. Contact your supplier if you have any other queries.

Problems paying fuel bills

If you have problems with fuel bills or debt you can get face-to-face help from specialist Shelter advisers, funded by the British Gas Energy Trust, at several locations in England and Scotland. The initiative is part of a wider partnership between British Gas and Shelter to improve homes in the private rented sector, including help with the cost of energy-saving home improvements. You can also contact the Energy Saving Trust for information on similar services provided by other energy providers.

Last updated 01 Jan 2015 | © Shelter

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