When it comes to setting up utilities, the general rule of thumb is to start the process three weeks before you move, though some utility setups offer more allowance than others. To be on the safe side, give your utility providers as much notice as you can, especially if they need to send someone out to set up service manually.
Here is how to set up utilities for a new apartment in 5 easy steps:
1. Determine who your utility providers are (3-4 weeks before you move)
You may find that utility providers for your new apartment are different from the providers for your previous unit. Certain apartment buildings, landlord/management companies, neighborhoods, and cities have different provider requirements. You might want to ask your landlord/property manager about preferred providers. In such cases, these providers have an established partnership with a given apartment community and frequently offer discounted rates and plans for exclusive servicing rights to the units.
In most cases, you’ll have one provider option for utilities like water, natural gas, trash pick-up, electricity, and several options for internet and cable. With utilities that come with the opportunity to choose from providers, try researching companies that serve your area. Online research is an effective way of finding great plans, rates, and coverage. While one provider may offer a more affordable deal, another provider may have more coverage in your area. You can find internet providers in your area here.
2. Determine your move-in date (3 weeks before moving)
Now that you’ve established who your service providers will be, the next step is to determine your move-in date so that your utilities are activated by the time your lease begins. If any utilities are included in the rent, such as water, that utility will already be ready for use on move-in day.
3. Contact utility companies (2 weeks before the move)
Upon determining your utility providers and establishing your move-in date, you’ll want to start getting in touch with utility companies. If you have utilities set up in your current unit, you have the option to either transfer your existing utilities or cancel them and set up new ones. If the apartment you’re moving into is your first home, you’ll need to set up new ones.
4. If you need to transfer your utilities
Transferring of utilities applies if the provider for a particular utility won’t change between your current home and your new one. In this case, you’ll need to contact the provider and inform them that the service should be transferred to a new location. You’ll need to give details such as your new address, as well as the exact date you need utilities shut off in your old home and turned on in the new one.
- If you need to cancel your utilities
You’ll need to cancel utilities if you’re going to have to change providers. You’ll need to reach out to the utility provider you need to cancel and inform them that you need to shut down the service. They’ll ask for the address you’re shutting down the service and the exact date you need the account closed.
- If you need to set up new service
To set up utilities at your new place, check out the website of your new home. The website should have information on setting up utilities, but if not, contact them directly. They’ll need to know the address that you intend to set up utilities, as well as the date that you need service to be up and running. Most utility companies also require customers to provide payment information at this time, either through a checking account and routing number or a credit card. Some companies may also require a security depository and/or a credit check. Find out exactly what you need to provide before you start the application process so that you have everything ready to go.
Keep in mind that your landlord may require you to prove that you have arranged for your utilities to be set up. Inquire about how far in advance you will need to relay this information to contact your providers earlier if need be.
5. Check that utilities have been turned on/off (moving day)
There’s always the chance that you made a mistake when canceling, transferring, or setting up your utilities. For that reason, consider verifying that everything went through as planned – especially if you don’t want to deal with a bill for utilities that you thought were shut off.
You also need to confirm that utilities in your new apartment were turned on. Make sure you can flush the toilet, flip on a light, connect to the internet, and turn on the stove. For services like trash pick-up, you have no choice but to wait to verify until collection day, but you should have confirmation that you’re correctly set up before the end of the week. If any of your utilities are turned off when they’re supposed to be on, call the provider as soon as possible. If the issue is due to a mistake on their part, they can usually get a utility set up right away for you.
If you canceled utilities, double-check your account information to ensure that they were shut off on the date that was agreed upon. If that information is not available online, call the company in charge to verify.
Types of apartment utilities
Some apartment communities offer utilities such as water and trash as an amenity, which means that you don’t have to pay for them separately. On the other hand, other communities don’t pay for any of the essential apartment utilities, allowing you to pick your providers and plans based on essential criteria, such as price and length of the contract.
To find out what’s covered by your landlord and what’s covered by you, take a look at your lease, and if you need clarification, don’t hesitate to alert the landlord/property manager for clarification.
Once you’ve established which apartment utilities you need to set up, you can start the process. Here is a list of all the utilities you’ll need in your apartment:
- Trash and recycling
- Internet, cable, and phone
- Security system
- Natural gas
How to set up…
Getting set up with electricity shouldn’t take too long. You can sign up for an energy plan over the phone or online and have your service up and running in as little as one day if need be. That said, it’s highly recommended to set up utilities at least one week in advance to be on the safe side.
If you relocate to a deregulated energy state, you have the option to choose your electricity provider the same way you select your provider for cable, internet, or mobile phone. Some of the largest electricity providers across the United States include:
- DTE Energy
- Pacific Gas & Electric
- Consumers Energy
- Consolidated Edison and Commonwealth Edison (ComEd)
- Public Service Electricity & Gas
If appliances (water heater, furnace, and stove) in your new apartment run on natural gas, you’ll need a natural gas provider to supply it. You can purchase a gas plan online, but a technician may need to come to your unit if it’s not already on. Just as with deregulated electricity, you can choose your natural gas supplier if you relocate to a state with deregulated natural gas. This allows you to look for the most affordable rates and switch to a renewable gas plan.
Internet, cable, and telephone
Many renters opt to bundle these utilities to benefit from the extra savings. Internet and cable installation may take longer to set up than a landline since a technician may need to come to your home to set up the Wifi router and cable box and run cable lines. Make sure you schedule these services at least two weeks in advance. Some of the largest internet, cable and telephone providers across the nation include:
- Dish Network
- Time Warner Cable
- Charter Communications
A security system in your apartment will help you worry less about safety in your home, and it can even lower the cost of your renter’s insurance. If your unit already has a security system in place, you may need to pay for it if you choose to use it. If you don’t have one but feel like you need it, you’ll have to purchase the product and the service. Schedule your security system installation at least one week before your move-in date.
Whether the trash service fee is included in the rent or as a separate fee, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to handle the service setup if you do have to set it up with the county or city, schedule trash pick-up one week before moving in.
You can set up an account for water and sewage online at the county or city government website if it’s not already included in your rent. You’ll be informed when your service and meter tracking starts and when you can expect to receive your first bill. Schedule this service two weeks before you move in.
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Are utilities always included in the rent?
Every apartment in the United States uses utilities. While some units may not utilize every utility type (for example, many rental units don’t use natural gas), everyone uses water, electricity, and sewer services. Most people have some form of garbage collection.
Internet, cable, and phone can also be included in the rent in some apartment communities. While these are technically not categorized as “utilities” by some people, it’s not unheard of for them to be included in apartments where the rest of the utilities are paid by the landlord.
Most rental units require tenants to pay for at least some utilities, but there are some exceptions. When it comes to utilities, there are typically four main categories a specific apartment can fall into:
- No utilities included
Although it’s uncommon for a renter to pay all the utility costs, it isn’t unheard of. In most rental units, certain expenses, like trash collection, are directly charged to the landlord on a single utility bill, making them incredibly hard to divide among the tenants.
- Some utilities included
This is the most prevalent arrangement for apartment living, as some utilities (water/sewer and garbage, typically) aren’t always practical to divide among many tenants. That said, apartment buildings often have distinct water and electricity meters for each unit. Many of them also include water, as it is typically one of the more affordable utilities and is often easier to add to a tenant’s rent instead of having separate water meters installed.
- Utilities included with limits
Some units have utilities included, but only up to a specified limit. For example, a landlord can consist of the water bill in the rent, but only up to a $50 monthly cap. Setting a cap for included utilities gives the tenants the benefit of paid utilities and protects the landlord if tenants turn out to be wasteful or careless with how they use utilities.
- All utilities included
This arrangement is sometimes known as “all bills paid.” Some units come with all utility costs included, meaning that you pay a flat rate for the rent as the tenant, and it falls on the landlord to pay all the basic utility costs. This arrangement is most common in apartments sharing utilities – for example, when there’s one electric meter for a four-unit apartment building – but it isn’t unheard of in larger apartment communities. All utility costs are also commonly included in student-occupied apartment units, where roommates living in each unit are on individual leases.
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What are the pros of renting a unit where utilities are included?
The most straightforward upside of renting an apartment where all utilities are included in the simplicity that it offers. You won’t have to deal with the dread that comes with having to pay utility bills. Your rent and monthly utility bills are typically paid at different times of the month. As a result, it can take a bit of organization on your part to stay on top of due dates; otherwise, you risk incurring late fees. You never have to worry about inadvertently forgetting to pay a bill.
If you have roommates, having utility costs included in your rent eliminates the hassle that comes with splitting up the price. There are also no arguments over who used more hot water that month.
Another pro of including the utilities in your monthly rent is that you won’t have to deal with paperwork. Setting up your utilities is far from easy – you’ll need to schedule turning on your service, fill out paperwork, undergo a credit check, and take time off to allow technicians to come to help set things up in your apartment. When you have all your utilities in the rent, all you need to do is move in and pay your rent promptly.
With utilities included, variable costs aren’t a cause of worry. You don’t worry about a fluctuating budget or having to set aside extra money during inclement weather when your electricity bill is more likely to spike. Furthermore, you can avoid connection fees upon moving into an apartment with utilities included because many electric companies charge a one-time payment to set up a service.
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What are the cons of renting a unit where utilities are not included?
Despite all the pros of utilities included in your rent, there are some downsides to be aware of. Some of the potential issues to keep in mind include:
- Utility-included apartments are often more expensive
Units with an all-bills-paid arrangement are often more costly when compared to similar units where tenants pay their utilities. A common misconception is that if you live in an apartment with utilities included, electricity, water, and other utilities are technically “free.” The truth of the matter is that landlords/property managers factor the expected cost of utilities into the rent, and if you use a below-average amount of water or electricity, or your don’t need add-ons like cable TV that may come with a unit, you could end up paying for utilities that you aren’t using.
- No way of knowing if you’re paying a fair amount
When your apartment utilities are tacked on your rent, it’s hard to tell if you’re paying a fair amount. Your landlord is in charge of how much you’re paying, and you have no choice but to trust that you’re paying a reasonable price for utilities.
- These types of units are harder to find
Rental units with utilities included can be harder to find. They are most common in older homes that have been divided into smaller apartments, college rentals, and accessory units located adjacent to a primary residence.
- Little to no control over your utilities
If you are naturally chilly all the time or tend to run hot, it may be frustrating to have no control over your utilities. You may find that the heat isn’t set to your preferences or that the water isn’t as hot as you like.
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Getting your utilities set up, transferred, or switched can be an effortless process as long as you plan and have the correct information. Just don’t forget to confirm that they’re turned off at your old place and that they’re turned on at your new unit.