For most of you students out there, moving into a student house will be your first confrontation with gas, electricity and water bills, and you’re going to have to get to grips with them at some point. Paying your bills can be more than a little tedious, especially when living in a shared house, but it has to be done somehow and it’s best to strike whilst the iron’s hot. Here’s our Coursefindr guide to paying, keeping track of, and organising your house bills. You have to learn someday, right?
What Bills Do You Have To Pay?
Any house will have a fair few bills coming its way – these can include broadband, water, electricity, gas and other miscellaneous bills coming through the letterbox and they can be a real pain to keep track of. If you’re lucky your landlord will sign you up to an all-bills-paid contract, which is immensely useful and will save you a lot of time. If you have this option, go for it! Getting an entire house of students to pitch in for bills once a month is not a job many would envy, and if you get half a chance to let the landlord handle it, do so (as long as they’re not ripping you off). If this isn’t mentioned in your contract, it might be an idea to bring it up to the landlord and see what they say. It’s always worth a try.
If you’re not so lucky, the two main bills you’ll have to worry about (by far) are gas and electricity. It’s a good idea with both of these to do some research on the different providers and to try and get the best deal. Which leads us onto our next topic.
After moving into a house (or preferably before, but in our experience nobody’s that organised) spend an afternoon researching the different electricity and gas providers in your area and have a look at the deals they’re offering. Don’t be afraid to make a few phone calls and ask some questions – the more information on the different deals you can get the better. Remember that the first thing you’ll be looking for is (of course) value for money, but it’s also worth looking at the reviews of the different companies and seeing what their customer service is like. There won’t be much point in the cheapest gas bill ever if nobody has come round to fix the boiler in the last 5 weeks.
Make sure to ask your landlord about the different providers, too – they will have some working knowledge of the different companies and will know how it all works better than you from years of working with them. Though your landlord’s advice will be good, it’s important that you don’t just do whatever they say; if you’re paying for the bills then you get to choose who you’re paying them to.
It might also be worth visiting your university’s housing department and asking them about the best deals – it’s likely they’ll have a few leaflets lying around somewhere on the subject (these places always do) that might be helpful in making a decision.
Drawing Up A Contract
Before choosing a supplier, it’s always worth trying to get them to reduce their rates by playing the divorced child game (well, this company said they’d do it cheaper, can you do better than that?) and seeing where it gets you – whatever they say, the contracts a provider will be trying to sell you can be changed around. Rates can be reduced, and you will be able to pay for just a few months and not a full year. Don’t be rude to the sales people about it, but make sure they know that you know what you want – it’s their job to make you spend more money, and it should be your job to try to hang onto it.
Make sure there’s no hidden fees involved within the contract like a administration fee for the filing of the contract. If there is, see what you can do to get it waived, even if this sadly turns out to be not-so possible. Expect to pay a little extra the first time you change your providers.
Often some companies will offer package deals to have your electricity and gas in one bundle. This isn’t essential, but it can be very helpful when you’re sharing a house with a few people and don’t want to go through the process of making everybody cough up twice. Just keep it in mind, but don’t feel obligated to take the package if you can get something cheaper for each separately.
Another option well worth considering when living in a shared house is a fixed rate system – where you pay just a certain amount each month instead of paying for what you use. This can often be very helpful; for one thing students tend to use a fair amount of electricity and so it can work out cheaper and for another it will make your number-crunching that much easier each semester. You (and your housemates) will know how much you’ll have to spend each time the bill comes around.
If you’re setting up the contract and working everything out, make sure that it isn’t just your name on the paperwork as this will make you responsible for paying the entire house’s bill. Legally. So whether there’s a house fall-out or somebody can’t cough up the cash one month, you’ll be the one that the energy companies come after. Obviously, this is best avoided, and you should try to get a group-contract deal or something similar. If you tell the providers it’s for a student house they should do that automatically, but if they don’t make sure to ask – it’s just not worth the risk.
It’s well worth talking to your landlord about things like energy saving light bulbs and double-glazed windows. Admittedly, one will be a much easier topic to approach than the other but both will help you keep the energy prices down and would be helpful to invest in (or, even better, to get your landlord to invest in). Whatever you do, do your research first and make sure to check all the small print before you sign anything.