Everything you need to know about switching utilities when moving house

Closing dates can (and do) change

No real estate deal is immune to roadblocks; in fact, 22% of recent real estate settlements were delayed, with buyer financing and issues arising from the inspection or appraisal being the most frequently cited problems. Knowing that your closing date could be a moving target, your utility transfer plans should remain flexible until the title clears and you’ve received the proceeds from the sale. If your closing date needs to be extended, call your utility companies right away and reschedule so that they’re in the loop. Otherwise, you could face late fees or find the water won’t turn on because no one is paying the utility bill during this gap period.

Source: (Moja Msanii / Unsplash)
Source: (Moja Msanii / Unsplash)

Gas providers

  • Usage charges – some gas suppliers have set usage rates for all gas consumption, while others may charge gas usage in ‘blocks’, which means costs change depending on how much gas is used.
  • Supply charges – gas supply rates are the fixed cost of supplying gas to a home – either via natural gas lines or the delivery of LPG cylinders.
  • Late fees and/or pay-on-time discounts.
  • Bill payment options.
  • Other fees such as exit fees and moving home fees.
  • Bulk discounts for using the same retailer for multiple services, e.g. – electricity and gas.
  • Length of contract.

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How To Set Up Utilities for a House

When moving, it is best to set up utilities individually. Start the process of moving utilities three weeks before the relocation day. This is because most utility providers require you to inform them ahead of time, especially if they need to set up the service manually. Below are ways to set up utilities in an apartment or before moving day.

Determine Who Your Providers Are

First, you need to create a list of utilities providers in the area you’re moving to. Chances are, the service company in your new location is different from the one you’ve been using. This is almost always the case where you are making a long-distance move. If you’re moving to a house you bought, check the city website for the details of the utility providers. If you’re renting or leasing, ask the landlord or property manager for a list of the home utilities to see if they use the same provider for water, natural gas, electricity, sewer, etc. Find out who your providers are three to four weeks before you move.

Contact Utility Companies

After identifying your utility provider, you need to contact them. Do this two weeks before you move. You may need to transfer your current house utilities to the one you’re moving to. If you cannot move the services, the next option is to cancel them. If you’re transferring household utilities, contact your provider to request the move to your new address. Inform them of your relocation date and when to turn off service and turn it on at your new home. When canceling, inform your provider of the exact date to turn off service and close your account. The third option is setting up utilities afresh. To do this, visit the company’s website you want to use. There should be info on how to set up utilities; if there isn’t, call them. The company will ask for the address where you want to set up utilities, the date you want the service to start, and the mode of payment. Some companies may conduct a credit check before setting up utilities for a new house. So, find out what the service provider requires before starting the application process.

Check That Utilities Have Been Turned Off on Moving Day

Before closing the door to your old home, go through your utilities list again, and ensure everything has been turned off. The preceding applies to services like electricity, wifi, gas, and water. You might also call the company to verify the cancellation or transfer of the service.

5. Have a handyperson, contractor or designer on call

Moving involves the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Things like aligning your framed artwork, centering the couch in the living room or getting the large rug set up in the master bedroom can drive you crazy.

While it may seem like a luxury, investing a few hundred dollars in hiring someone to help with these tasks will save time and potentially relieve you of a giant headache.

Moving into a new property

It is crucial that one of the first things you do when moving into your new home is to take electricity and gas meter readings on that day.

Again, it’s a good idea to take photographs of the meter so you can prove that the figures are correct when you moved in.

This also means that you will only pay for the electricity and gas that you use and not for the previous occupants.

You’ll need to know which energy company is supplying your new home and if you don’t arrange for a new supplier to take over, then you could be moved onto a deemed contract which tends to have higher rates.

If, for some reason, the person living in your new home or the estate agent does not know who the utility suppliers are, then it’s easy enough to find who the gas provider is by visiting the Find My Supplier website.

FAQs About Transferring Utilities When Moving

How much does it cost to switch utilities over?

Costs vary by utility companies and providers. Some companies do charge a transfer fee or reconnect fee. When calling to set up and/or transfer your utilities, we recommend asking if there are costs and fees for transferring utilities. If the utilities are completely shut off, then you’ll likely have to pay a fee for starting them back up again.

Does the title company transfer utilities?  

Outstanding utility balances from local governments (think: a water bill) may be found during a municipal lien search by the title company. This outstanding balance could create a lien on the property and delay the transfer of title. So, while it’s on the buyers and sellers to transfer utilities, the title company could flag an outstanding balance that delays the closing.

What are the average annual utility costs in the U.S.?

According to EnergyStar.gov, the average annual energy bill for a single-family home is $2,060, with 29 percent going towards heating, 21 percent towards electronics, 13 percent towards cooling, 13 percent towards water heating, 12 percent towards appliances and 12 percent towards lighting. Of course, utility bills vary depending on many factors, including household size, number of residents, location, climate and resident habits.

Does the buyer or seller transfer utilities?

Typically, the seller will pay for utilities until the day of the closing. Once homeownership is transferred, utilities are transferred as well, and the buyer is responsible for paying the home’s utility bills after that. The seller and the buyer (and their real estate agents) should work together to figure out when the new owners will move the utility services over to their name. The goal should be to keep the utilities running the whole time without a break in service. Sellers should provide utility companies with a forwarding address to receive final utility bills.

Can I have electricity in two houses when moving?

Yes, many people own multiple homes that require electricity and other utilities. If you own more than one home, you can have utility services at both houses in the same name – just different addresses.

How do I transfer utilities when renting?

Take a look at your lease to see which utilities you are responsible for. Landlords will typically cover some of the utilities – but not always. We recommend asking your landlord for the preferred utility service companies to use. To set up utilities in the same city, call your provider several weeks before the move to transfer service from one place to another on your moving date. To set up utilities with a new provider, give the company a call and/or check the company’s website for sign-up information.

I forgot to transfer my utilities. What should I do?

Moving is a busy time, so it’s not surprising that some people simply forget to transfer a home’s utilities. If the utilities are shut off completely, you’ll need to call the service providers to schedule a reconnect/start date. Keep in mind you may have to pay costly installation and start-up fees. To avoid this, we recommend calling utility companies several weeks in advance to transfer utilities over to your name. Certain utility companies, such as cable and security companies, are often booked weeks in advance. Be sure to book your appointment as soon as possible.

When To Stop Utilities When Selling A House

In Missouri, the seller is responsible for the utilities all the way through the day of closing.  As an example, if your closing is set for October 10th, you are going to want the utilities transferred to the buyer as of the 11th.  If the buyer has a great real estate agent, they are going to call and transfer the service to the 11th of October and there will be no interruption in service.

The Worst Case Scenario With Transferring Utilities

For some reason, home sellers and home buyers really mess up the transfer of utilities.  Sometimes, the seller has them turned off weeks in advance of the close.  That is the worst thing imaginable, especially if it’s really hot or really cold outside.  Just think of letting a house sit with no gas heating during December.  It would only take a couple of hours before the water pipes burst.  Now the perfectly good home is filled with water!  This is not something you want to deal with as a buyer.  It’s also not something you want to do as a seller, no matter how rough the negotiations went.

Buying A House When Utilities Are Turned Off

If you are in the unfortunate situation where the seller has turned off the utilities before you’ve been able to transfer them, it’s going to be an issue.  For one, many of the utility companies are going to have to physically come to the home to turn them back on. That means wait times that can last days.  Worse, if the seller has removed something as simple as a refrigerator with an ice maker, that line could still be open.  When you get the water turned on, you might find quite a mess in the kitchen.  Not a great situation.

2. Set up the utilities

Some people assume the utilities will work once they walk in. While many utility companies have grace periods (the days between when the seller cancels service and the new owner calls), you can’t always assume this will be the case. If you have an out-of-town seller, they may have canceled services the day they knew all contingencies were removed. In this instance, the grace period likely lapsed, and you may be stuck dealing with the electric company, waiting for an appointment or just being without power when you really want to start painting, fixing or cleaning.

The best plan is to call the utility companies and get service set up well before closing. If they haven’t received cancellation notice from the seller, let the seller know to take care of that.

Home Inspection

Most buyers want to do their due diligence, which includes a home inspection. A home inspector can’t check receptacles, test water pressure, or ensure that a gas stove is working properly without utilities. It will be hard to convince a buyer to make a purchase without having the home inspected.

Many purchase contracts provide for a final walk-through. The buyer verifies that the home is in the same condition as it was when they first viewed it. They can't really do that if the utilities have been turned off.

How Much Is Electricity for an Apartment?

Electricity is crucial in a home, so it’s little wonder many people ask how to set up electricity for an apartment and how much it costs. The typical American uses 41% of their home energy on heating and cooling and 35% on electronics. Your electric bill depends on the number of people in your home, the state you live in, and the size of your house. For example, if you live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, you might pay $94 on average. In California, the monthly electricity bill is about $116. You can save on electricity bills by turning off your appliances when you’re out of the house and if they are not in use.

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