You must decide how to manage utility bills for your property. You can
- install prepay meters
- make the tenants responsible for payment of these bills
- include the cost of utilities in the rent.
Make sure your tenancy agreement clearly explains how utilities are paid for.
Prepay meters are popular with landlords. You cannot connect emergency fire and lighting measures for a HMO 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.
Making tenants responsible for bills
Your tenancy agreement can make the tenants responsible for utility bills.
Take a meter reading when the tenants move in. Send this to the tenants in case they have a dispute with the company over billing. Take another meter reading when the tenants move out.
You will be responsible for utility bills for any period between tenancies.
Including utilities in the rent
Some landlords like to include a charge for utilities in the rent. This can cause problems.
There are rules about how much a landlord can charge to "resell" electricity or gas in this way. This means
- you have to monitor your tenants' usage in order to charge fairly, and
- you may have to vary your rent if the unit price changes.
Changing energy suppliers
Tenants have the right to choose their own electricity supplier. You cannot insist that they use a specific provider.
Television, phone and internet
Your tenants will probably expect the property to have
- a TV aerial or satellite or cable connection
- an internet connection, and
- a landline connection.
As long as the connections are in place, you can ask the tenants to set up their own accounts.
If tenants ask for extra connections (e.g. a satellite dish), reply in writing, setting out
- your reasons for refusal if you decide to say no,
- any conditions attached to your permission if you decide to say yes.
Dealing with unpaid utility bills
Always take meter readings at the end of a tenancy. Your tenants may not have settled all their utility bills by the time they move out. Make sure you have a forwarding address for all tenants.
Give a copy of the tenancy agreement to any utility providers with outstanding bills. This will show that the tenants, and not you, were responsible for the debt.