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Pay the bills

Your accommodation costs more than just your weekly or monthly rent. The tenant also needs to pay for a variety of utility services, power, gas, council tax etcetera.

In 2014, the average annual dual bill (gas and electricity) reached £1,344 (information from OVO energy). This is equal to a month’s rent for a two bedroom flat in London.

We’ll go into detail about each bill below, but the point is utilities are considerable portion of your living expenses and you need to be on top of them for a good renting experience.

How bills are regarded in the tenancy agreement

If the tenant is responsible for the bills

You’re probably using a standard AST (assured shorthold tenancy) if you:

  • Rent from a private landlord
  • Occupy the property solely (or with family, children, partner)
  • Don’t use any additional services from your landlord (like cleaning, housekeeping, meals)
  • Don’t share any facilities with other tenants of the same landlord
  • Don’t share any facilities with the landlord

In this case, you’re likely to be solely responsible for paying all bills, utility services, council tax, etc. Your tenancy agreement should feature a clause similar to the one below:

“To arrange immediately with the relevant supply company for all accounts for water, gas, electricity, telephone and television licence (where applicable) at the Property to be addressed to the Tenant in their own name and to pay all charges for these”

If there isn’t make, sure to discuss with your landlord which utility bills you’re responsible for and how their payment is going to take place. Have them add a written agreement to the tenancy agreement including these responsibilities.

It’s likely that all utilities will since be listed in your name and you will have personal obligation to pay and manage them.

If the landlord is responsible for all or portion of the bills

A second option is to have some or all of your bills included as part of the rent. This is very useful for tenants, because they pay a static flat amount of money to a single person each month. It’s easy to predict a single expense than a bunch of them going to a bunch of different directions.

Typically, this type of arrangement is often available for HMO tenants. HMO tenants rent their own room, which they have exclusive access to. However, they also share common facilities with other tenants, like a kitchen, living room, bathroom, garden, etc.

Each tenant has their own tenancy agreement with the landlord, but due to the nature of the living arrangement, it’s a single household and bills are usually calculated as a whole.

Also, council tax is calculated for the whole property and thus it makes more sense for the landlord to deal with the utility companies and council, but include the price in each tenant’s rental payments.

If you’re renting an HMO and share your accommodation with other people, check your tenancy agreement to see exactly which bills and utilities are included in your rent and which are not, if any.

Frequently, you’ll see that broadband internet, television and TV license are excluded from the landlord’s responsibilities and are up to the tenants to deal with.

Make sure you check your tenancy agreement !

Council tax

Council tax paid for your local council, fire department and police department services. It’s based on the value of the property and is somewhere in the range of £1,000 to £3,000 per annum. It’s slightly different for every council, so go ahead and check yours for more information.

Use My Council Tax to find an estimate of your council tax.

Council tax is typically paid the the person or people who occupy the property. If you live in an HMO, your council tax is paid by the landlord, but it’s worth is generally calculated in the price.

There are a large number of conditions, where you can get a discount of your council tax.

A few examples:

  • If you rent a property alone, or with your children, but are the only adult, you get 25% discount.
  • If you’re disabled and live with your carer (who is not your spouse or child) you get 50% discount.
  • If you’re a full time student and live with other full time students, you all get 100% discount.
  • If you’re under 18, you don’t pay council tax at all.

There are many other conditions which might give you a discount, so go ahead and read our dedicated guide on Council Tax.

Gas and electricity

The first thing you do when you move into your rented property is to take the readings of all gas and electricity metres and make photographs to document them. Afterwards, you need to call your gas and electricity supplier and inform them you’ve entered in occupation of the


This is important, because if the previous tenant has accumulated debt with their energy supplier before leaving, you want to make sure none of it is your responsibility. Not going through this procedure will blur the line between you and the previous tenant, making it difficult to dispute any allegations.

Ideally, your landlord should have given you information about who supplies your gas and electricity. They have the responsibility to walk your through all meters in the house and show you where the central switches are in case of emergency.

If nobody brought the subject about energy suppliers, don’t worry. You can find information below.

Who supplies my gas ?

If you’ve just moved and have no idea who supplies your gas you can call “Meter Number Helpline” on 0870 608 1524

Who supplies my electricity ?

If your region is… …call this number to find your supplier
North Scotland 0345 026 2554
Central and South Scotland 0330 1010 300
North East England 0845 6013 268
North West England 0870 7510 093
Eastern England 0845 6015 467
Southern England 0845 0262 554
South West England, South Wales, West & East Midlands 0845 6015 972
South East England 0845 6015 467
London 0845 601 5467
Yorkshire 0845 070 7172
Merseyside, Cheschire, North Shropshire & North Wales 033 0101 0300

Types of metres

There are commonly two types of metres installed in rented properties:

Prepaid metres

There are popular with landlords, as they ensure no debt is accumulated and left by tenants. Prepaid metres work with cards or keys in which credit is added in advance. They work the same way prepaid mobile cards do. You pay – you use.

Credit metres

This is the most commonly used metre. The energy company allows you uncapped usage of the gas or electricity supply and send you a bill at the end of the month showing you how much you used and how much it costs.

Economy 7 metres are rarely installed in rented properties. You can find more information here if you have one in your rented property.

Changing your energy supplier or method of payment

So long as you are responsible for paying the utility bills in your property, you can freely change your supplier or method of payment. The landlord or letting agent cannot unreasonable deter you from doing it. However, depending on the tenancy agreement you’ve signed, you may be obliged to return the property to it’s default energy supplier and method of payment before you leave.

Any costs related to switching energy companies or changing the metres is, naturally, covered by you, unless you’ve made an arrangement with your landlord.

Gas and Electricity for HMOs and Lodgers

If you live in a shared accommodation, where communal areas are shared with all other tenants or with the landlord, it’s next to impossible to measure exactly how much is used by each tenant (or the tenant and landlord individually).

Because of this, HMO properties frequently divide the energy bills between all tenants, with one acting as the responsible person to measure and collect payment from the others. If this is the case, make sure that every tenant’s name is registered with the energy supplier. That way, if the worst happens and debt is accumulated, all tenants will be made responsible for the bill.

Another way to deal with energy bills in HMO is to have the landlord take care of all the bills and then either charge their tenants the according sum, or have it calculated in their rental payments altogether.

The last option is preferable, because you only need to care about a single payment to your landlord every month.

For lodgers, most commonly the landlord will take care of all the bills and charge you the agreed amount or percentage each month.

Note: If your landlord controls the bills and payments to your energy suppliers, they also decide which provider to use and what method of payment is implemented in the property.

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.

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