When it comes to utility bills each landlord has their own opinion as to what is easier, with some feeling that it’s simpler to deal with them themselves, while others believe it should be the tenants’ responsibility. Either way, if a payment is missed you or your tenant could find yourselves in a whole lot of trouble, and could even have a certain utility cut off from the property. Add to this the fact that utility bills are one of the biggest outgoings for tenants after rent and you will see why there is often a debate about them. So here we look at ways that you can help:
Make your decision and stick to it
When it comes to deciding who should be responsible for paying utility bills you need to sit down and make the decision before letting your property out. This way you will know what to expect, can adjust your tenancy agreement accordingly and contact utility companies to advise them of who they should get in touch with regarding payments. For some landlords it may be easier to pay certain utility bills themselves, especially if they specialise in short-term lettings and know that the bill will be a fixed rate.
For example, many student landlords pay the waste water bill on a property as it’s a one off payment per year that can be added on to your tenant’s initial rent payments. This will save you the hassle of making sure that each new set of tenants change the details with the company just for one payment. When it comes to gas and electricity however it’s often better for your tenants to pay the bills as it will cause fewer disputes over costs.
In order to get the best deals for your properties it is imperative that you compare the prices from providers at least once a year. Not only will this help your tenants when it comes to costs but it also avoids arguments about which provider you are using, especially if you can prove to them that they are the cheapest. Unless you have specified otherwise in your tenancy agreement, your tenant will be allowed to switch providers for the utilities that they pay for themselves, so if you want to prevent this it’s extremely important you make it clear in your tenancy agreements.
If you are responsible for paying the utility bills then it is your choice as to which provider you do your business with. However, if your tenant feels that you are not making enough effort to find a cheap provider they can contest your choice by contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau and asking them to step in. This is the last thing that any landlord wants, so make sure you talk to your tenants on a regular basis and assure them you are doing everything you can to save them money.
Maintain your Property
One of the easiest ways to keep utility costs down is to make sure that your property is well maintained and has all the energy-saving improvements available. For example, heat can escape from your property extremely quickly in the winter if your attic is not insulated properly.
If the structure of your property is inherently flawed (which is often the case for older properties) you may have to organise for work to be carried out in order to improve its energy efficiency. Don’t forget that by 2018 any properties that have an energy rating or F or G will no longer be allowed to be let out, so it’s important that you start improving your properties now. If you are struggling with the costs then you can apply for the government’s Green Deal which can improve your properties’ energy efficiency for minimal monthly costs.
Keeping the costs of utility bills down can help both your tenants and you, as it reduces the likelihood of them falling into rent arrears. While your rent guarantee insurance can help should this ever become a problem, prevention is always preferable! So if you haven’t checked your properties’ utility bills in a while make sure you do so today.