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A Simple Guide to Utilities for Students

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 You’ve moved into your first student house, away from the supervision of parents and halls. Finally, you’re free to live as you wish—subject to the approval of your landlord and housemates. But with great freedom (to decorate your room with fairy lights, to stay up until 5 am playing video games, to take luxurious 45-minute showers, to make pizza for breakfast) comes great responsibility: to arrange for the utilities that fuel those activities, and pay the bills on time.A Simple Guide to Utilities for Students

Luckily, arranging your gas and electricity tariff and paying your water bills aren’t as daunting as they seem. It’s entry-level adulting, easier than negotiating a tenancy and remembering to bring your passport when you head to the airport. And if you compare energy deals, you’re sure to find a tariff that won’t break your student budget.

  • Electricity and Gas

When you move into your student home, it will still be supplied by the previous occupants’ energy company so you’ll be able to charge your laptop and make dinner immediately. However, you’ll probably want to change supplier, because as a new occupant, you’ll have been placed on a pricy default tariff by the supplier. If you’re paying for the energy bills, you have the right as a tenant to change the supplier. However, if your landlord has arranged for the energy and is charging you for it in your rent, you generally won’t be able to switch without their involvement and consent. Check the terms of your tenancy agreement to see if this is the case.

Regardless, you’ll want to contact your suppliers when you move in and provide them with meter readings, so you don’t end up charged for any previous tenants’ energy use. To determine the electricity supplier of a property, contact the local electricity distribution company and ask for the meter point administration service (MPAS). To find out the gas supplier, call the meter number helpline on 0870 608 1524.

You can’t switch the fuel provider until you move into a property and the process takes 21 days so you’ll face a final bill from this old supplier. But savvy shopping can ensure that your next bill from your provider is cheaper. Use an energy comparison site to gather as many quotes as possible. You’ll need the property’s postcode and an estimate of the amount of energy you expect to use—an online calculator can help you with the maths, as you won’t have a previous bill to consult.

Consider using a fixed-rate tariff, which locks you into a price for the term of a contract—you’ll want it to be a year—and is the cheapest way to buy energy. If you’re environmentally conscious you might want to select a tariff from a green energy company that obtains all of its power from renewable resources such as wind, solar, and biofuel. You can also save money by setting up a direct debit to pay the bills.

You don’t have to notify the old supplier when you switch; your new provider will take care of that for you.

  • Water

Water is water, and there will be only one game in town: the regional supplier. The house should already be connected when you move so everyone will be able to take showers. You’ll need to contact the supplier to set up an account and provide a meter reading, if you have one.

You can opt for either a standard tariff, in which you’ll be charged a flat rate, monthly or yearly, for the water you use. Or you’ll have a water meter and will be charged per unit. A metered tariff can work out to be more expensive in crowded student houses, where everyone is competing for the shower.

  •  Split Bills

Generally, you can only have one housemate named on each utility bill. You’ll also want to set up a direct debit to the supplier from their account, to rack up the savings you earn for doing so and to ensure the bills are always paid on time. A favourite way to handle bill splitting in student households is to assign a bill—fuel, water, and broadband—to a housemate and determine how much you owe each other each month. A bill splitting app like Splitwise can help you with the maths and ensure you’re making each other whole, not merely swapping the same £10 back and forth.

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