Living in private rented accommodation can be daunting, especially when you're not used to budgeting and paying bills.
Although many housing contracts are inclusive of bills there are still plenty of students that have to deal with managing bills and energy providers.
Switch Energy Supplier
Switching your supplier can be a great way to save money but most students think they arently allowed to do it.
- You have the right to switch your supplier if you pay your energy supplier directly for your gas or electricity.
- You should check your tenancy agreement to see if the landlord has a ‘preferred supplier’. This won’t stop you from switching supplier, but you should tell your landlord if you do change supplier.
- You may have to return to the original supplier at the end of your tenancy.
Complain about your Energy Supplier
If you’re having a problem with your energy supply, try getting in touch with your supplier before you make a formal complaint. They might be able to resolve the problem informally.
Tell them what’s happening, and what you want them to do about it. They might be able to sort it out then and there.
You should note down the:
- date and time you get in touch
- person you speak to
- problem you talk about
Making a formal complaint
The first thing you should do is gather any supporting evidence. What you’ll need depends on your issue - for example you could:
- get together copies of unusual bills
- gather notes from phone calls you’ve had
- look for emails from your supplier about the problem
You’ll also need details of your complaint and your energy account number to hand. You can find this on a recent bill.
When you’re ready, you can complain to your supplier over the phone, or in writing by email or post.
Look online for your suppliers ‘complaints procedure’ - this should be listed on their website, and includes contact details for complaints.
Trouble Understanding your Bill or you Think it's Wrong
Both the Citizen's Advice and Ofgem have lots of information about how you can understand your bills.
Your energy bill usually reflects the amount of energy you’ve used. It’s normal for your bill to increase if, for example, you start:
- putting the heating on more often
- using a tumble dryer or electric heater
- living with more people
If your bill suddenly increases or decreases and you haven’t changed your usage, it’s worth looking into. If you’re charged for less than you’ve used, you’ll get an increased bill to make up for it later.
What you can check:
- Is your bill an estimate?
If you haven’t given a meter reading to your supplier recently, they might use your average energy usage over a period to calculate your bill.
You don’t need to pay the estimated bill. Contact your supplier to give an up-to-date meter reading, and ask them to send you a new bill.
- Check your meter reading
If your bill isn’t an estimate, it should include the meter reading your supplier used to work out how much you owe.
- Do you have a faulty meter?
Find out how to check if your meter is faulty, and how to get it fixed.
- Has your supplier changed its prices?
Youur supplier will usually let you know if their prices change, but it depends on your contract. If you’re on a fixed tariff, it shouldn’t change for the length of the agreement.
If you aren’t sure, get in touch with your supplier and ask them whether they’ve increased the price.
Can't Afford to pay Your Bill
If for some reason you are struggling to pay your energy bills, it is best to contact the supplier and discuss a way of paying them. The supplier is obliged to help you come up with a payment plan, though you should make sure you find a method that works for you and them.
Your supplier must take into account:
- how much you can afford to pay - give them details about your income and outgoings, debts and personal circumstances
- how much energy you’ll use in future - they’ll estimate this based on your past usage, but give them regular meter readings to make this more accurate.
Before you move:
- let your electricity and gas supplier know that you're moving - you should give at least 48 hours’ notice
- read your meters on the day you move out and give the readings to your supplier - keep a note of the readings and the dates you took them, in case you don't agree with your final bill
- give your supplier a forwarding address so they can send you the final bill - you’ll have 28 days to pay
- If your final bill says you're actually owed money (known as 'being in credit'), you should claim the money back.
If you’re on a fixed-term tariff, you might be charged to break the contract early (this is known as an ‘exit fee’). You can find this information on your energy bill. It may be cheaper to try to keep your existing supplier and move your tariff to the new property, but this isn’t always possible - check with your supplier.
After you move:
- contact the current supplier at your new property to tell them you've moved in
- read the meters on the day you move in and give the readings to the current supplier, to make sure you get an accurate first bill - you’re responsible for the bills on the day you take ownership or responsibility for the property, even if you don’t move in on that day
- pay your old supplier’s final bill when you get it
- You’ll automatically be put onto a standar and probably expensive tariff, so you should look for a better deal with the current supplier or a new one as soon as you move in.
(You can only change suppliers from the day you become responsible for the property. Switching will normally take about 21 days, so you’ll have to pay at least one bill with the current supplier.)
If moving house it's important to find out who your new supplier is.
Gas - Contact the Meter Point Administration Service to find out who your gas supplier is.
Meter Point Administration Service 0870 608 1524
Electricity - Contact your local electricity distribution company to find out who your electricity supplier is.