I’m guilty. Guilty of being a negligent douche-bag. This time.
Needless to say, I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did when it comes to transferring utility services (e.g. gas, electricity, water, internet etc.) over to a new tenant when they move in, so here’s my recommendation of how to manage the process, to ensure there aren’t any mishaps…
Whose responsibility is it to transfer utility bills for new tenancies, landlords or tenants?
If you’re a landlord that is responsible for paying the utility bills directly because, for example, they’re included with the rent, which is common with in HMOs, then obviously transferring utility services isn’t necessary. Nothing needs to be done when new tenants move in or out, because you’ll always be the account holder.
However, in most cases, especially in single-let circumstances, utility services are generally managed and paid by the tenant directly. So ultimately, it should be their responsibility to get in touch with all the relevant service suppliers and update their records, as soon as they move in, to register as the new account holder. However, it’s often not the most practical solution, and I’ll explain why shortly.
The utilities that typically need managing and transferring in a rental
- Water- you may need appropriate meter readings
- Gas & electricity- you’ll need appropriate meter readings
- Council Tax
- Telecommunication services (landline, broadband etc)
- TV services & subscriptions (e.g. Sky Digital)
IMPORTANT: don’t completely rely on tenants to manage transfers!
This is how I got caught out once, so a word of warning.
I strongly encourage all landlords to avoid parting with complete faith in their tenants when it comes to handling the administration of utility services.
I’ve trusted tenants in the past to administer the task, and to be honest, most of the times it has worked out fine. However, I did recently get caught out, and I suspect I wasn’t the first landlord and I certainly won’t be the last, to get caught out in a similar way! In hindsight, it’s apparent that it’s best practise not to rely on tenants to manage utility services entirely.
After any new tenants move in, I usually contact them a day or so after, to check everything is ok, and if they have any questions. The usual stuff. I also specifically ask if they have contacted all the utility suppliers to up date their records (I provide them with all the details of the current suppliers during move in day).
My tenant assured me he had made all the necessary arrangements and everything had been migrated to his name.
Long story short, the shit-for-brains lied to me, and I ended up getting lumbered with a council tax bill and a £150 gas and electricity bill under my name.
I don’t know if my tenant intentionally stitched me up or not. Fortunately, after providing proof to the local council and the energy supplier that the property was occupied by my tenant, the liability for the outstanding debt was transferred back over to my tenant. TAKE THAT, ASSHOLE!
It was all unnecessary hassle, and I can easily see how it could have easily blow up in my face. It’s better to eliminate these issues from the offset.
From this day forward, even if my new tenants assure me they have transferred all the services – I will refuse to believe them. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business!
I make sure I personally contact all the utility providers and double check that everything has been registered to the new tenants!
I advise all landlords to do the same. Don’t be a fool, don’t trust your tenants :)
When double-checking that all utility services have been registered with the new tenants, make sure you also double-check that the correct meter readings were provided.
What if there is a vacant period before my new tenants move in?
Common scenario, and it’s happened to me on many occasions. These are the steps I take, and I’m guessing its how most would presume it goes:
- On the day my old tenants are due to vacate, we take any necessary meter readings together. I also take pictures for proof.
- I transfer all utility services over to my name on the same day (or the following day).
- During the interim, I usually have to do some light maintenance e.g. painting, cleaning, touching up etc. This usually consumes electric and water.
- On the day the new tenants are due to move in, I take any necessary meter readings with them. Again, I take photos for proof.
- I provide the new tenants with details of the energy suppliers, but in this instance, I advise them that I will contact all the service providers and notify them that their are new occupants.
Can my tenant change utility service providers?
Generally speaking, and in most cases, yes, tenants are entitled to change utility service providers if they’re responsible for paying the bills directly. It’s quite common practise in order to achieve the best energy rates. In fact, since the introduction of energy auto-switch service providers (which help consumers automatically benefit from on the most competitive energy tariffs), it’s not unusual for tenants to change providers multiple times during a single tenancy.
Here’s a more detailed guide on tenants switching energy suppliers.
Obviously the logistics of switching utility service providers isn’t prone to the issue I got caught out by, because the tenant will need to manage this directly, so they’ll automatically provide their own details, so landlords won’t need to double-check.
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.