If you want to find an Estate Agent, use one that is National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)NAEA, Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)ARLA, Institution of Commercial And Business Agents (ICBA)ICBA and/or National Association of Valuers And Auctioneers (NAVA)NAVA industry approved and National Federation of Property Professionals Regulation (NFOPP)NFOPP regulated.
The above have since been combined into Property MarkPropertyMark. Use their FIND AN EXPERT web page to find a trusted Estate Agent.
If you want to know your legal rights as a tenant, Letlink WebsiteLetlink has some very useful information.
Alternatively, you could seek advice from Which? - Estate AgentsWhich?.
Their accommodation Save The Student Websiteviewing guide that lists 'things to be aware of before signing any tenancy agreement' and their Save The Student Websiteweekly newsletter are always worth a read; as is their website.
PayPoint WebsitePayPoint is a payment system that allows you to pay for your utility bills, concil tax, tv licence and road tax among other things by visiting a post office, petrol station or newsagent that displays the PayPoint Sign.
PayPoint is a very convenient way of making payments, especially as many utility companies and other companies give their customers pre-payment top-up cards/keys to pay for their services.
As a potential tenant of a rented estate agent property or private property, as opposed to owning your own home or being a secured council tenant, putting a utility bill in your name will only be possible if the estate agent or private landlord agrees. You could do it behind their back, without their permission and knowledge, but they would soon find out and end your tenancy immediately; perhaps with legal consequences. So ALWAYS ask their permission first.
Assuming you have the estate agent's or private landlord's permission, the first step to getting your name on a utility bill is proving you are (or will be) the tenant.
Utility companies do not accept a sub-tenant or lodger as being a tenant. They want to know who is (or who will be) in charge of paying the rent and more precisely whose name is (or will be) on the tenancy agreement. So, for starters, you will need your tenancy agreement, or at least a confirmation 'moving in' letter from the estate agent and/or private landlord, and your current valid passport; which may or may not be asked for by the utility company, but is best to have to hand.
The second step, which is optional, is to have your name put on the Electoral Register, as explained in Register To Vote Web PageRegister To Vote section of this website.
Having your name on the electoral register makes life much easier - It allows banks, credit companies, the local borough council and utility companies for example to verify you live at a given address, even without a tenancy agreement, and perform credit checks; which in turn can give more weight to any future applications/services you apply for, such as applying for a bank account or utility contract. This is especially true if you are a student.
Your next step should be to enquire from the estate agent and/or private landlord which gas, electricity, water and landline telephone companies currently supply the property you are going to rent, as you may want to switch to one or more cheaper utility companies.
The six major gas and electricity utility companies are: British Gas WebsiteBritish Gas - EDF WebsiteEDF - E-On WebsiteE-On - NPower WebsiteNPower - Scottish Power WebsiteScottish Power and SSE WebsiteSSE. Smaller gas and electricity utility companies include: Ecotricity WebsiteEcotricity - Good Energy WebsiteGood Energy and OVO Energy WebsiteOVO Energy. If you want to find out the best deals for the property you are going to rent, use a comparison website such as Energy Helpline WebsiteEnergy Helpline - Uswitch WebsiteUswitch - Compare The Market WebsiteCompare The Market or Confused WebsiteConfused.
With gas and electricity meters, do NOT rely on their labels. A gas meter may have the emergency number for British Gas on it for example, but may have since been overtaken by EDF for example. If the estate agent and/or private landlord is not sure which gas and electricity company/companies currently supply their property, perhaps because previous tenants changed utility companies without telling them, you can find out which gas and electricity company/companies currently supply their property by using the UK Power UK Power WebsiteLookup Tool.
If/when you need a new meter installed, you should receive a Supply Number (MPAN) for your electricity and a Meter Point Reference (MPR) number for your gas (pipeworks). Each property in England (UK) has these registration numbers, which you should be given or at least be aware of; especially if you want to set up a new contract.
If you move into a property whereby a previous tenant or owner owes a particular utility company some money, therefore a debt, you are NOT responsible for that debt - You only get billed from the date you move in until the day you move out and will NOT be held responsible for any debt in the account for any previous tenant or owner.
It is for the just said reason why it is so important to take date-stamped photographs and video recordings of the meter readings when you first move into a property and again when you leave it - Video record the current tv news while moving the video camera to the meter, to show a live video recording and to prove the meter has not been tampered with. Photograph and video record the whole meter, including seals.
Before signing up with any utility company, always check their Terms & Conditions. Some gas and electricity companies charge an Exit (Cancellation) Fee, of between £25 and £50 per utility, if you decide to cancel/leave a contract with them. And they might charge for installation of meters, cables and boiler repair. So always check with the estate agent, private landlord and/or with the gas utility company who pays when there is a boiler problem for example.
Although boiler repair for example is normally an estate agent or private landlord obligation, who should have some sort of boiler protection plan in place with the gas utility company, you normally never know until something bad happens. Hence why it is very important to establish these Terms & Conditions before signing any tenancy agreement.
If the property you are going to rent is a council property, the council perform an annual Gas & Safety check of heating (radiators), boiler and gas appliances within the property for free; which the estate agent and/or private landlord should never charge you for. If they do try and charge you, call the council to complain.
As a student who only needs to rent a property from September to June, it may be worth paying the utility companies' cancellation fees rather than pay for any additional 'existing months owing'. Students can get great Utility Bills advice, and other student related advice, from the Save The Student WebsiteSave The Student website.
Assuming there is already a gas and electricity meter in the property you are, going to be, renting: You need to contact the respective utility companies (via e-mail, chat online or telephone) in order to set up a new contract as a new owner or new tenant of that property. The gas and electricity utility companies normally require the following information:
Although utility companies do not initially require bank details and your name be on the electoral register, they do perform credit checks and therefore do check to see if your name is on the electoral role and do check your credit score. Hence why it is wise to Register To Vote Web PageRegister To Vote and Open A Bank Account Web PageOpen A Bank Account before applying for a contract with each utility company. On a positive note: Even if you fail their checks, they can still give you a contract and send their bills by post; as opposed to direct debit and online payment.
Many gas and electricity utility companies give special offers (i.e. reduced prices) if you join one of their dual fuel plans (combined gas and electricity with the same utility company). However, it is not always the best option or cheapest option; hence why you need to shop around and use comparison websites such as Energy Helpline WebsiteEnergy Helpline - Uswitch WebsiteUswitch - Compare The Market WebsiteCompare The Market and Confused WebsiteConfused.
As an example: Your current electricity utility company (i.e. EDF) could be your cheapest electricity supplier and your current gas utility company (i.e. British Gas) could be your cheapest gas supplier whereby switching to a dual fuel plan with your current, or a different, utility company could inadvertently make your combined gas and electricity bills more expensive; usually because they use different, slightly more expensive, energy suppliers (distributors) from your current ones.
Gas and electricity utility companies normally offer two types of payment scheme (price plan). Fixed Rate and Variable Rate.
Fixed Rate, which is the common choice, is a payment scheme whereby you pay the same price per unit (i.e. per KWh / KiloWatt Hour), per month, per contract, regardless if the price of fuel goes up or down. Obviously, the downside of prices going down is that you will be over paying for fuel. This rarely happens though simply because many gas and electricity companies buy fuel in bulk, from the suppliers (distributors), that lasts years. Hence why they can offer you fixed rates in the first place; because they have already bought the fuel.
Even if prices go down, you have to consider cancellation fees and inconveniences versus switching to a so-called "better company". Utility companies are like supermarkets in that they keep their prices more or less the same as their competitors, with little gains to be had by the customer who decides to switch; leaving them asking "Was/is it really worth the hassle?". Many who switch often end up paying more in the long term because of higher cancellation fees and/or repair costs by the so-called "better company".
Variable Rate is a payment scheme whereby the price per unit (i.e. per KWh / KiloWatt Hour), per month, per contract, could go up or down. This is because utility companies buy the fuel on the open market, on a daily basis, a bit like stock market shares. On a good month you could save a lot more money over the fixed rate price per unit, but on a bad month could of paid double for each unit. It is this risk that makes many people play safe and choose a fixed rate price plan.
Good utility companies allow you to switch price plans each month or whenever there is a better price plan available. In fact, on a utility bill you often see your current price plan listed alongside an alternative "You could save x amount of money if you switch to this other price plan". This is another reason why you should always check the Terms & Conditions of each utility company before signing a contract with them.
The actual process of registering gas and electricity utility bills in your name (Step #5 only), using existing gas and electricity meters and supplies, is quite straight forward. Things can become complicated and time consuming when you require a new meter to be installed, for whatever reason(s); usually when you renovate/buy a new property.
For someone just moving to England (UK), looking to rent a property for 5 Years or more, it is worth putting the utility bills in your name purely for ID and Proof Of Address purposes.
The UK gas and electricity companies are now phasing in Smart Meter WebsiteSmart Meters (Digital/Online Account Meters), for FREE, as part of their Smart Meter WebsiteGovernment Obligation. So, at this time, if you do need a new meter installed, ask if you can have a smart meter installed straight away.