November 19, 2021

Renter's Guide to Utilities

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Consider this scenario: You've been looking for your first apartment and you've found it. It's in a fantastic position, with plenty of natural light, adequate counter space, attractive original finishes, and a reasonable price. Is that the case? It's easy to get caught up in the thrill of moving into your own house as a first-time tenant and neglect the less glamorous issues like utilities. Utilities like electricity and gas can significantly increase your monthly living expenditures, turning a fairly priced unit into something just out of reach.

To help you have a successful first apartment search, we've written down everything you need to know about paying for and setting up utilities before signing a lease.

What are utilities, exactly?
When you rent an apartment, you are often liable for the majority of the utilities. Electricity, heat, air conditioning, hot water, gas, garbage collection, cable, and internet are examples of utilities. Your lease determines which utilities you must pay for. Some states have restrictions for which services your landlord must pay, but you may expect to pay at the very least for internet, electricity, and cable.

What are the costs of utilities?

Your utility bills will be determined by how often you use them, as well as a variety of other criteria such as the size of your apartment, the number of people you live with, the age of the building, and where you live. If you live somewhere with mild summers, for example, you won't need to turn up the air conditioning. Similarly, utility bills can vary depending on the time of year. Ask your landlord for monthly averages and enter your information into this utility calculator to get a better idea of how much certain utilities will cost you.

When it comes to cable and internet, do your research to see which providers in your area offer the greatest packages or promotions based on your specific needs. You probably don't need to pay for lightning-fast service if you only use the internet for browsing. Keep in mind that some apartment buildings have agreements with specific service providers, so your selections may be limited.

Is my rent inclusive of utilities?
As previously stated, the utilities you will be responsible for are determined by your lease. What is included in your rent varies depending on where you live. Some major apartment complexes provide extensive utility and amenity packages, while others charge a la carte for these services. While most apartment postings include water, sewage, and trash, it's vital to read the descriptions carefully and follow up with landlords and property managers to double-check what's included and what isn't.

All utility bills will be sent individually, with one bill for gas and electricity, another for internet and cable, and yet another for water. To avoid late fees, keep track of all your expenses and remember to pay them on time each month.

What's the best way to set up utilities?

Your lease will outline your responsibilities once you've chosen a property, but you can ask your landlord if there are any special instructions or criteria for getting your utilities switched on. Water, for example, may have already been switched on by the time you move in. In most situations, you'll need to register an account with your local provider, confirm your address (and, if appropriate, your unit number), enter billing information, and set a start date. If you move, your natural gas or electricity provider will most likely be different, and you will need to open a new account with them.

When will I receive my utility bill?
Each utility company will have its own billing cycle with its own set of due dates. Depending on your plan or bundle, some providers will bill you every month, every other month, or provide you the option of being invoiced every several months.

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