How to Handle Rental Property Utility Disputes

A lot of work is associated with being a landlord, especially when it’s time to prepare for a new tenancy. Quite often, this leaves out important details, such as deciding who is responsible for the end of tenancy cleaning and property maintenance or who will handle the utility bills.

When it comes to that, there will often be disagreements unless it is specifically mentioned in the signed agreement.

Of course, taking all necessary steps to ensure that everything is agreed upon well in advance is crucial to the healthy relationship between landlord and tenants.

In cases when this is not possible, however, knowing how to handle a dispute correctly may save you thousands of pounds and even improve your communication and bond with the occupants of your property.

What to do when a tenant moves in?

To save yourself the trouble of having disputes and issues related to utility bills, you should set clear rules at the beginning of the lease.

Before you provide the lease agreement to the other party, make sure it explicitly states whose responsibility the utility bills are.

You should always include the contacts for your utility providers and give them to the new residents on a separate paper. As soon as they move in, you should contact your utility supplier and tell them who will use the premises and how long the lease term is.

On the first day, when the new tenants are ready to move in, take meter readings together, write them down in two separate lists, and sign them, each of you keeping one for themselves. Do the same at the end of the lease.

You should always have this information presented in writing and keep a copy of it, should you need it for legal purposes.

It will also be helpful for the tenants if they can re-read the lease agreement in writing at a more peaceful and convenient time. That’s because moving is also a stressful period, with a lot going on, and people can’t be expected to remember everything you’ve had a conversation with them about.

Can a tenant change utility supplier?

If the tenants pay the bills themselves, they have every right to look into different utility providers to find a cheaper alternative.

To avoid any misunderstandings or disputes, advise the tenants that, should they wish to change the provider, they have to inform you beforehand.

You may also add a clause explicitly mentioning that the contract’s duration with a new provider can not exceed the lease’s.

Who is responsible for the utility bills?

We have covered what to do at the beginning of the lease in order to avoid any confusion related to the utility bills. However, it is important to note that new tenants don’t necessarily have to be responsible for the payment.

If you want to ensure that there is no possibility of disputes related to utility bills, you can offer a bills-inclusive tenancy agreement as a landlord.

The sole responsibility for paying the bills will be yours, while the tenants would most likely pay a higher rent. This is an excellent option for multiple occupancy properties or short-duration tenancies.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the utility bills is a matter of agreement between the parties involved in the contract. It is vital to have everything in writing to avoid any disputes.

What to do if tenants stop paying utility bills?

Should this happen, you first need to send the occupants a written form of communication. With how busy our lives are, it is not uncommon for people to simply miss paying their bills. Reach out to your tenants via email and confirm if and when they intend to pay the bills.

If you do not hear back, or the answer is not what you expected, you can consider providing them with a written notice clearly stating the amount owed to date, the deadline for payment, and the consequences if that is not covered.

Consider consulting with a legal advisor before sending the notice.

If that does not work and the tenants still owe a significant amount, even after potential eviction, you will have to take legal action against them. Consult with a lawyer to find out what legal options you have available in your jurisdiction.

You may have the right to initiate based on the local laws, terms of the lease agreement, and any written and signed papers you have.

What to do if rental property utility disputes happen?

Just like with any other dispute, if it comes to that, make sure to carefully review the lease agreement to understand the responsibilities of each party. Check if there are any specific conditions or limitations for each party.

Once familiar with the contract, communicate the issues with the tenant. Initiate open and respectful communication and try to understand their point of view.

Use this opportunity to give them your perspective and understanding of the signed agreement. If both points of view differ, you may need to contact a mediator to resolve any misunderstanding.

If the dispute relates to the billing of the services, you may need to involve the utility company in the process. Provide them with the necessary documentation to investigate the issue on their end and request them to clarify any discrepancies.

What to do at the end of tenancy

Similar to when the tenancy first began, the end of the lease is a crucial moment when it comes to bills and payments.

Utilities are important for other tenants’ responsibilities at the end of their stay. For actions such as property repairs and maintenance and employing cleaning services, they need to ensure that there is running water and power.

As a result, it is the current residents’ responsibility to notify utility companies about the end of the lease in accordance with their plans.

It is a good idea to take meter readings at the end of the tenancy and compare them to their last bill.


To avoid property utility disputes, always ensure that everything is communicated in advance, any questions are answered adequately, and you have all agreements in writing.

In cases where a dispute is unavoidable, remember that you need to treat the tenants with respect and try to understand their points of view before making a decision.

If the matter is delicate, you may want to reach out to a mediator who can provide both sides with another perspective to resolve the disagreement.

Whenever an issue occurs, always ensure that you have everything in writing, as you may need it if you have to take legal action.

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