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Setting up gas and electricity in a rented house: common questions answered

Moving to a new home is one of life’s most stressful events but moving into rented accommodation can throw up all kinds of additional problems. Read on for everything you need to know about paying for energy in a rented house, and how you can find the best deal even when you’re not the owner. Read on for everything you need to know about paying for energy in a rented house, and how you can find the best deal for you even if you’re not the owner.

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In this guide you'll find information including:

  • Moving into a rented property: utilities and bills

  • What bills am I liable to pay when renting?

  • What are my basic energy rights as a renter?

  • How to set up bills when renting

  • Does the landlord electricity supply have to stay the same?

  • Can a tenant change the electricity meter?

  • What are my rights as a tenant on heating?

  • Will new tenant gas and electric bills be higher?

  • Can my landlord control my heating in the UK?

  • Are there different bills to pay when renting a flat instead of a house?

Moving into a rented property: utilities and bills

You should always make sure you know who’s paying for what when you move into a rented home – this should be clearly stated on your tenancy agreement. Make sure you read the contract carefully every time you switch rentals.

Essentially, if you’re responsible for the property’s bills, then it’s your duty to sign up with an energy supplier, choose a plan, and pay the utility bills. If – for whatever reason – you choose not to do this and don’t heat or light the property, you may be responsible for any damage that may follow, such as pipes freezing or walls becoming cold and damp.

What bills am I liable to pay when renting?

This depends on what has been agreed between you and your landlord. In addition to your basic rental fees, you’ll need to confirm what – if any – other costs are included in that price, or whether you must pay for utilities separately. Some landlords may agree to split the bill evenly with you, others may foot them entirely. Your tenancy agreement should clearly show a breakdown of bills and state who is responsible for each of the following:

  • Gas

  • Electricity

  • Water

  • Council tax

  • Agency fees

  • Insurance

  • Broadband

  • Landline (if any)

  • TV licence (if any) 

What are my basic tenant’s energy rights?

Consumer protection law states that if you – as a tenant – pay directly for your energy then it’s your right to change supplier. Ofgem discovered that fewer than one quarter of tenants who can switch have ever done so.

If your landlord directly pays your bill and then reclaims the money from you as the tenant, then they have the right to choose your supplier, and this should be clearly stated in your tenancy agreement, along with who is responsible for each and every bill linked to the property, such as council tax, internet, water and so on. 

If there’s no clear clause in your tenancy agreement, it might be worth asking your landlord if you can go ahead with a switch. Even if the contract says you cannot change suppliers, approaching your landlord with proof of the potential savings could persuade them otherwise, so there’s no harm in asking.

How to set up bills when renting

Setting up bills to pay when renting is no different to those in a home you own. Simply call the utility company and let them know you want to become their customer. In the case of gas and electricity you won’t even have to tell the old supplier, your new supplier will handle the switch. This doesn’t apply to water companies, as these are determined by where you live and cannot be changed – in these circumstances, you’ll need to find out who your current supplier is and tell them your name will now need to be on all paperwork.

The local council will need to be informed of your tenancy too – this isn’t just for the purposes of ensuring you pay the property’s council tax bill, but also to enable you to register to vote at that address. In the case of insurance, talk to your management company or landlord as there may be plans already in place; otherwise, you can apply for a new plan by getting in touch with suppliers.

Does the landlord electricity supply have to stay the same?

As mentioned above, if you’re responsible for paying the bills and if there is nothing written in your contract saying otherwise, then no, you do not have to stay with the same supplier as chosen by your landlord. But, if:

  • Your landlord’s name is on the energy account

  • The bills are included in your rental fee

  • The landlord pays for supply 

Then you do not have the right to switch.

Can a tenant change the electricity meter?

As the nation starts moving towards smart meters you might find you want to benefit from their many advantages, even as a tenant. Again, so long as you are the one responsible for paying the bills, you are within your rights to switch your meter, whether that’s from a prepaid meter (which are generally more expensive) to a standard or smart meter. Just bear in mind that when you move out, you may have to change the meter back to its original type. Even if you’re solely responsible for energy bills, you should still tell your landlord of your plans to change the meter as it may be considered altering the property which your contract forbids. 

What are my rights as a tenant on heating?

The rights concerning heating for tenants mean you must be given access to heating in every room you rent, as well as a boiler for hot water. More specifically, your rights on heating include:

  • Provision of water, gas, sanitation, and electricity 

  • Central heating or equipment for heating in every room

  • A boiler for heated water

  • Heating should be able to reach at least 18°C in sleeping rooms and 21°C in living areas when the outside temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius

  • Heating should be available 24-7

  • Landlords are responsible for repairs and replacements not caused by tenants 

  • Tenants must pay for any damage they have caused

  • If utilities should fail, it is unacceptable for landlords to make no effort to resolve the issue for several days

  • The tenant should let the landlord know of any heating or hot water failure by letter, two letters can be sent and then the tenant can approach the local council

  • As a last resort, you can arrange and pay for repairs yourself and then make a legal claim for the return of these fees

Will new tenant gas and electric bills be higher?

No, as a new tenant your gas and electric shouldn’t be any higher than the previous tenant. The exception being if your landlord has changed supplier recently for whatever reason and prices have gone up, or if their fixed price energy contract has lapsed and they are now on a higher rate. However, if you’re paying the bills and are on the search for a new supplier, then your status as a new tenant won’t affect the prices you are quoted.

Can my landlord control my heating in the UK?

This isn’t clear. As outlined in your above rights, your landlord cannot prevent you from having access to heating, or ban things like electric fan heaters in the event of central heating failing; however, they may action a ‘no fault’ eviction notice if they don’t find your use of fan heaters agreeable. Plus, while your landlord can meet the basic requirement of giving you heating there is no ruling saying they have to give you access to the controls. Health and Safety on heating for tenants maintains that tenants should have control of property temperatures, but this is no guarantee that this will be granted.

Are there different bills to pay when renting a flat instead of a house? 

You’re liable for the same bills renting a flat as with a house, but there may well be two additional charges to consider: ground rent and service charge. While these can sometimes apply to houses as well, they’re more commonly associated with leasehold flats. A service charge is an additional fee you must pay, usually annually, for the maintenance of your apartment block. 

In terms of a basic block of purpose-built maisonettes with street-level entry and no shared spaces, this fee can be less than £500 a year, but if your flat is a modern new build with a lift, communal gardens and a shared entryway, this can quickly climb to £1,000 or more. Ground rent can also range from ‘peppercorn’ fees that will barely make a dent in your bills, to much more sizeable figures. 

Other bills may also come into play: for example, if the management company or council (in the case of ex-council flats where there are still council tenants) decide that the block needs a new roof, this charge is passed onto the tenants.

Overall, assuming your flat is smaller than a house and you rein in your energy demands accordingly, you should enjoy cheaper energy bills, while council tax should be less too. Other bills – such as water, broadband, and so on – are likely to work out similar to what you’d pay in a house.

Last updated: 10 November 2020