You will need to decide how to manage the heating and electricity costs for your property. The options open to you depend on the type of property you are letting. If the property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you must make sure that the fire alarms and escape lighting are not conntected to a prepay meter.
In recent years, a number of new electricity providers have entered into the market in Northern Ireland. This means that you have a greater choice of supplier. You may prefer to install a prepay electricity meter in the property. Keypads are ideal for rented properties as tenants must pay for their utilities upfront and the chances of tenants leaving unpaid bills or having to pay to have utilities reconnected are greatly reduced. It is not possible to fit a prepay meter to all electrical installations. The fire safety measures in a HMO property, like alarms and emergency lighting, can't be connected to a prepay meter.
If you have a meter, it is a good idea to make note of the reference number in case your tenants lose the card.
If you are converting a house for letting, you may want to update the heating system. Most rental properties have gas, oil or Economy7 heating. Tenants can be reluctant to rent properties with electric heating as it is very expensive to run. Your tenant may be able to apply for a grant from the Warm Homes scheme to install a new heating system, if the tenant is in receipt of certain benefits. You will have to give assurances that you will not increase the rent once Warm Homes has carried out improvements to the property.
If your property has an oil heating system, make sure your tenants know how to check the oil tank. Allowing the tank to run dry can damage your heating system and this can be very costly to repair. Some landlords put a clause in tenancy agreements requiring that tenants ensure there is oil left in the tank when they vacate the property. You can only do this if you have provided the same level of oil to tenants when they moved in, otherwise it would be seen as an unfair term.
If your property is part of a terrace, consider how oil deliveries will get to the tank. Bringing the hose through the property may cause damage to carpets or flooring and oil companies will not be held liable for this damage. If you are worried about this you could leave a tarpaulin or dust sheets in the property for your tenants to use or make sure that tenants ask the oil company to bring an extra long hose.
If your property has gas heating, you are legally required to have the boiler and any gas appliances inspected every year by a registered engineer. You must keep the gas safety record for at least two years and keep proof of all gas-related works carried out.
If you have gas appliances or gas heating in your property, you should consider purchasing carbon monoxide monitors for the property to protect your tenants.
Changing energy suppliers
OFGEM, the energy supplier has issued guidance to say that tenants should have the freedom to select their own energy supplier. You can put a clause in your tenancy agreement asking that tenants inform you before doing this, but you shouldn't unreasonably refuse the tenant's request to switch suppliers.
Television, phone and internet
When tenants move in they may wish to have access to a landline telephone, cable or satellite television and the internet. Tenants will usually manage the installation of these services themselves and have a variety of service providers to choose from. Tenants will only be able to install a landline and wireless internet if the property is cabled for these services.
Usually, tenancy agreements will prevent tenants from installing any satellite services without first seeking your consent. If you allow tenants to install a satellite dish, put this consent in writing and make sure you keep a copy. If you want the dish removed at the end of the tenancy, make sure you inform the tenants of this condition in writing.
Your tenants may not have settled all their utility bills by the time they move out. Try to get forwarding addresses for your tenants so you can send any bills on. If utility providers continue to send bills to former tenants, you should write to the company informing them that the previous tenants have moved and enclosing proof if you have it.