Most homes in the United Kingdom will already have a gas, water, electric and telephone supplier, and you will usually automatically take over these accounts if you’re a new tenant. You must check the meter readings on the day you move into the new home and ensure that the services are transferred into your own name.

Types of utility bills in the UK

Household utility bills typically cover various essential services and expenses. These bills will vary based on factors such as location, household size and usage patterns.

Household utility bills in the UK include:

Gas and electricity: These bills cover the cost of gas and electricity consumption. Gas and electricity suppliers are privatised in the UK, and as a tenant or homeowner, you can choose between different providers and easily swap them if you are out of contract. The seven largest energy suppliers are British Gas, Octopus, E.On, OVO, EDF, Scottish Power and Ecotricity, and they will allow you to select between both fixed and variable rates.

Many expats arriving in the United Kingdom will get help to set up utility providers from an agent or relocation company. If you’re not lucky enough to have this arranged for you, you can use companies like Please Connect Me to help manage utility set-ups at your new home.

Oil: Many rural properties are not connected to the gas network and have oil rather than gas boilers. The oil tank will need topping up every month or two. There are hundreds of companies that supply heating oil (kerosene), and you can use companies like Boiler Juice to compare prices.

Water: Most of the water companies in the UK are privatised, although they are generally the only supplier within their area, so there is no option to choose a different supplier. Water bills include charges for both water usage and sewage services, and the cost will vary depending on the region and the amount of water consumed. Some rural properties are not on the mains sewerage system and will have a septic tank or sewerage treatment plant that must be emptied and serviced regularly. 

The deregulation of the English water market has introduced greater competition, especially for business customers, now allowing them to choose their water provider. New entrants like Business Stream, Water Plus and Wave have significantly impacted consumer choices and competition.

Council tax: This is a local tax collected by local authorities to fund services such as waste collection, street cleaning and local schools. The amount depends on the property’s valuation and the local council tax band.

TV licence: You must pay a TV licence fee if you watch or record live TV or use the BBC iPlayer. The fee contributes to funding the BBC.

Internet and phone: Charges for broadband internet and landline or mobile phone services are common household expenses. These bills may include fixed monthly charges as well as additional usage fees. When selecting a broadband supplier, consider speed, reliability, customer service and contract terms. Check for installation charges, equipment costs and potential cancellation fees. The UK’s largest telephone and broadband suppliers include BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk.

Home insurance: While not strictly a utility bill, home insurance is an essential expense to protect against potential damages, theft, or other unforeseen events. The landlord usually covers building insurance.

Other services: Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be charged additional fees for services like home security systems, satellite or cable TV subscriptions and maintenance contracts.

Taking meter readings in the UK

All properties will have meters for their gas, electric and water supplies. The gas and electric meters will typically be within the property, although apartment buildings will often have them in the common areas. The water meter will typically be outside the property, on the street.

You may be asked to submit gas and electricity meter readings via the supplier’s website. A supplier representative will manually check these every few months, although many properties now have smart meters, which can be checked remotely by the company, providing accurate and real-time data on energy usage.

The letting agent or estate agents should take meter readings before the start of a tenancy or before a property is purchased, but you need to check the readings when moving in.

Paying utility bills in the UK

Most utility companies and councils send quarterly bills by post, which can be paid via a bank transfer or credit card online or over the phone. Direct Debit is the most common form of payment, automatically withdrawing money from the customer's bank account each month, similar to ACH Debits in the USA.

Price comparison websites

It’s critical to regularly review energy contracts and compare contracts between the different providers, and there are several price comparison websites that make this job easier. These comparison sites include:

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