When budgeting for a new apartment, it’s essential to consider your monthly expenses. While rent will be your largest expense, you shouldn’t forget about utility bills. Utilities for properties include garbage, electricity, gas, internet, cable, water and sewer, and security.
In general, rent will not include all of your utilities, and you should plan and budget accordingly. While your landlord might cover a few utility bills, such as sewer, garbage pickup, and water, tenants will almost certainly be on the hook for the majority of utilities. The most expensive utility bills like gas and electricity are typically the tenant's responsibility.
Here’s what you need to know about who pays for what.
- Trash collection
- Water (most of the time)
With most rental homes and apartments, your landlord will pay for trash collection. Water is also commonly included in your rent payments, meaning that your landlord will cover the water bill.
Sometimes, if you’re renting in a large residential apartment complex, your landlord may also pay for cable or internet through a specific provider.
If the landlord is renting out a furnished apartment or a short-term vacation rental, they may prefer to pay for all the utilities. Essentially, they’ll estimate the cost of utilities and price them into the monthly rent to ensure it covers them.
A common misconception among many renters is that landlords are required to pay for heat and hot water. The reality is that in many cities and states, there is a warranty of habitability that requires landlords to provide access to heat and hot water, but that doesn’t mean they’re required to pay the utility bills. In most cases, tenants will cover the heating bill, while either the tenant or the landlord may be responsible for the water bill.
- Water (sometimes)
When it comes to the utilities you’ll be responsible for, you can expect to pay for electric, gas, cable, and internet. Tenants are also responsible for paying for home security systems if they install them. As a tenant, it will be your responsibility to transfer or set up the utilities in your name so that you can make monthly payments.
In some cases, tenants will also be responsible for the water bill. If the lease stipulates that the tenant will cover water, the landlord will often keep the water in their name and bill the tenant separately. This is because it’s important to have water flowing through the pipes to prevent them from freezing during the winter.
Almost every aspect of a lease is negotiable, so you can certainly ask a landlord to cover specific utility bills. That being said, it’s usually a bad idea to try to negotiate utilities, especially electric. Landlords generally prefer to have fixed expenses that are predictable, so you will probably be better off trying to get a rent discount than to have your landlord pay for more utilities.
Suppose you’re not excited about the prospect of setting up all your utilities. In that case, you may be wondering if it’s worth having the landlord cover them, and simply adjusting the rent accordingly. While bundling apartment utilities into the rent may be convenient, it’s typically a bad idea. This is because most landlords will overestimate your utility usage, meaning you’ll end up paying for more than what you’ll likely end up using.
If you still prefer to bundle utilities into the rent, you should take a look at the average cost of utilities in your area. By doing this, you can get a better idea of how much of a rent adjustment is fair.
Paying your utility bills is relatively easy. The process starts right after you sign a lease, with getting utilities set up or switched over to your name. Your landlord will be able to provide you with the contact information for each utility company. Once you’ve set the utilities up, you’ll be able to pay online. Most companies will also offer autopay options, which can make your life even easier.
One important thing to remember is to contact the utility providers before you move to make sure you have access to electric, cable, and internet once you move in. In particular, cable and internet providers need to be booked in advance.
While living with roommates is a great way to save money, it creates some logistical headaches when handling bills, as you typically can’t put all the roommates on the utility bill. This means that the primary leaseholder will have more responsibility and be on the hook if one roommate decides not to pay.
The best way to split utilities with roommates is by splitting the costs evenly. Other approaches include splitting them based on each roommate’s income. Whatever you choose, be sure to include details in your roommate agreement. Additionally, if you’re worried about a roommate skipping out on some rent or utilities, you can always ask them to put down an additional security deposit for utility bills.
While your monthly rent might include some utilities, you will likely need to set up and pay other utility bills yourself. Utilities that are billed at a fixed rate are more likely to be included in your rent while those based on your consumption will typically be your responsibility. If you're not sure what utilities are included with your rent you can review your lease to see who is responsible for utilities.