Rent, bills and benefits

As well as rent, a house usually has bills for gas, electricity (plus wifi/internet), water and Council tax. Often in shared accommodation the rent includes all bills (your landlord must remain responsible for Council Tax where this is shared accommodation). With a joint tenancy or a self contained flat or house, all bills are usually your responsibility as the tenant(s). Ask the landlord exactly what the rent includes before you take the tenancy on.

If you are on benefits or a low wage, help may be available towards some or all of your rent (but not towards bills). This can be Housing Benefit or housing costs through Universal Credit. You do not need your landlord’s permission to claim and you do not have to tell them if you choose not to. See here for information on help with paying your rent, and here for information on Council Tax Support. Before taking on a new place make sure the rent is affordable.

If you are responsible for paying bills, try and make regular payments to even out the cost. Details of payment plans are usually on the back of the bill. If you have a problem paying a bill, contact the supplier. If you do get cut off, reconnecting can be expensive, and so can court costs. See ‘money problems’ too.

If you have a meter for gas, electricity or water take a reading when you move in and let the supplier know. Don’t use any payment card left by the last person; you’ll be paying into their account. When you move, give the company the last reading and an address to send the bill to, otherwise if you are moving elsewhere in the area they may not reconnect you.

Landlines can be expensive to install and run. If you feel you can’t manage with just a mobile phone, consider getting ‘incoming calls only’. BT also offer a low cost landline, BT Basic, for people on certain benefits.

Television – do you need a licence?

You need to be covered by a TV licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast including on computers, laptops and phones and also for BBC IPlayer. If you only use it for catch up such as ITV Player, you won’t need one. You will need your own licence if you are in self contained accommodation, and probably if you are in shared accommodation too. If you are a lodger or have a joint tenancy you may only need one for the whole household. More information from TV Licensing.

A one year colour licence is £147. Budget using direct debit, or with their payment card, which allows you to make payments through PayPoint This lets you pay weekly over 6 months for your first licence (e.g. £5.60pw) The following year you can pay fortnightly over 12 months (e.g. £5.60 per fortnight).