When you’re renting a new apartment one of the first things that you should do after you put down your security deposit and sign your lease is start getting the utilities set up. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your utilities arranged because sometimes there are long waits to get appointments. Figuring out what utilities you are responsible for and what companies you should use can be confusing, especially if you’re moving to a new area that you’re not overly familiar with. We’ve put together this guide to help answer your questions and make the process of getting your utilities started less confusing no matter where you are moving.
What Are Utilities?
Utilities are the services that you need when you’re renting an apartment that aren’t included in the rent. Typically the utilities that a renter is responsible for include electric service, gas service, cable and Internet service, and sometimes trash service. Services like pest control and lawn and garden care are usually included in the rent of an apartment but not always.
Whenever you are looking at renting an apartment you should ask what utilities, if any, are included in the rent and what services you will need to set up yourself. Often large apartment complexes will already have a contract with a private company for landscaping and trash services and each tenant will pay a fee on top of their rent each month to pay for those services. But if you are renting a house, townhouse, or condo you may need to set up individual trash and landscaping service in your own name. Whether or not utilities are included in the rent and what utilities are included varies wildly from city to city and even from one apartment or leasing company to the next so you should always ask your landlord to be sure.
Most of the time tenants will be responsible for:
Although you may only need to open actual accounts for electricity, gas, and cable because for the rest you pay a fee to your leasing company or apartment complex.
Typically there won’t be a lot of choices when it comes to choosing a provider for your electricity. Many apartments will have one provider that they use and they will tell you when you sign your lease which provider is the preferred provider. However, if you need to find out which electric companies are operating in your area this is a great place to find the electric companies in each state. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_electric_companies)
Electric companies generally operate throughout a state, so if you are staying in the same state you may be able to simply transfer your existing electric service from one apartment or home to your new apartment. This switch is easy to do and you should not have to pay any additional deposits or fees. Although if you are behind on your electric bill you will have to bring your bill current before you can transfer your service.
If you are establishing new service you should get your account set up as soon as you can after signing your lease. Most of the time electric companies can establish service in as little as 24 hours but setting up your account earlier rather than later is always recommended. When you establish new service you will have to pay a deposit. The deposit amount is usually based on your credit. If you don’t have good credit you will need to pay anywhere from one to two months of estimated service costs as a deposit. If your credit is good you will be able to pay less of a deposit to get your service established.
Almost all electric providers will have some type of value billing or budget billing where you will pay the same amount each month so that you will have an easier time budgeting. However, you usually have to be a customer for a full year before you can enroll in this program. If you’re concerned about budgeting you should ask about their budget billing program to see if you qualify for that program.
Not all apartments will require you to set up a gas service account. Some apartments are fully electric and don’t use gas for heating and cooking. Although you might need gas if your apartment has a fireplace since most fireplaces are gas fireplaces. Be sure to ask when you are finalizing your move in arrangements if the apartment has any gas appliances or relies on gas for anything. If it does you will need to set up an account with the local gas company.
Setting up gas service is similar to setting up electric service. Although you may have more of a choice when it comes to gas service providers so check with your landlord to find out which gas company they recommend.
Cable and Internet service is usually provided by one of the big companies that operate throughout the country. You can choose from high end fiber optic service or regular cable service depending on where you are moving. In general fiber optic service is easier to find in cities or more densely populated areas. Getting high speed Internet and cable service in rural areas can be difficult. The most common cable and Internet providers throughout the country are:
- Dish Network
- Time Warner
- AT&T U-Verse
There are usually several options when it comes to cable and Internet service so if you have existing service with one company you can usually transfer that service to your new apartment. Always ask your landlord if there is a preferred provider though because sometimes you can get special deals if you choose the landlord’s preferred provider. In some places, usually rural areas, you may not have a choice of which cable company you use. Sometimes companies will pay a premium to be the only provider in a particular area. If you are moving to an area where there is just one cable provider you can choose satellite service over cable if you don’t like that particular company. Just check with your landlord first to make sure that satellite dishes are allowed and ask what the requirements for installing a satellite dish are.
Home Phone Service
Not too many people use anything other than their cell phones for phone service. If you do want to have a home phone line you can usually get a good deal on phone service by bundling phone, cable, and Internet service through the same cable provider. Even if you don’t want to use the phone service sometimes it’s cheaper to get the bundle that has all three services than it is to pay for the services separately. Look over the bundle packages for each cable provider carefully and compare the cost before you pick a package.
Trash, Water, Landscaping, And Sewer Services
Most of the time these will be either included in your rent or processed by your landlord and a fee will be added to your rent each month to cover these services. If you are renting a house, a duplex, or another type of home where you are responsible for these utilities ask your landlord who the preferred providers are so that you can get your own accounts set up with the best local providers.
When To Set Up Utilities
Although most utility companies don’t need a lot of lead time to get your service started you should set up your utilities as soon as you know the date that you are moving to your new apartment. Some landlords will require you to show proof that you have set up utility service before they will give you the keys to your new apartment. Most of the time electric service and gas service can be started without a technician having to come to the apartment. You will need to schedule an installation appointment for cable service though. Those appointment tend to fill up quickly, especially if you are moving during busy times of the year, so the earlier you make the appointment the better your chances are of getting an appointment the day you move in or the day after.
How To Set Up Utilities
These days most utility companies allow you to set up your account, pay your deposit, and schedule any necessary appointments online or through a mobile app. You can still call customer service and do it that way if you want to, but using the online option is the option that most people choose. When you set up your accounts make note of the payment methods that the utility company accepts as well as the locations of any local payment centers in case you want to make a payment in person instead of online with a checking account or credit card.
Security systems are not something that every apartment will offer but you can usually install a security system designed to be movable for renters if you want. Be sure to ask the landlord if this is allowed if you will need to do any additional wiring or make any changes to the structure of the apartment. While security systems are not necessary in most apartments you may be able to get a discount on your renter’s insurance if you have one. If you want to have a security system ask the landlord if there is a preferred provider in the area that they recommend.
Major Metropolitan Areas
As a national service, VerticalRent provides service to renters in all 50 states. Many of our renters have requested information on their local electric, gas, water, trash/sewer, and even cable/internet service providers. Although we can't cover every corner of the United States, we can help you figure out what electric company provides service in the new area you're moving to, along with a snapshot of 54 major metropolitan areas in terms of:
Scroll down to the metropolitan area that you're living now, or intend to move to and click-through to the specific article we've created that details the available service providers. You're Landlord or Property Manager should provide you with this type of information in your welcome packet, but if they didn't -- these little helpful guides will get you moving in the right direction:
1. Albuquerque (detailed guide coming soon!)
2. Ann Arbor (detailed guide coming soon!)
3. Atlanta (detailed guide coming soon!)
4. Austin (detailed guide coming soon!)
5. Baltimore (detailed guide coming soon!)
6. Baton Rouge (detailed guide coming soon!)
7. Boston (detailed guide coming soon!)
8. Buffalo (detailed guide coming soon!)
9. Charlotte (detailed guide coming soon!)
10. Chicago (detailed guide coming soon!)
11. Cincinatti (detailed guide coming soon!)
12. Colorado Springs (detailed guide coming soon!)
13. Columbia (detailed guide coming soon!)
14. Columbus (detailed guide coming soon!)
15. Dallas (detailed guide coming soon!)
16. Detroit (detailed guide coming soon!)
17. El Paso (detailed guide coming soon!)
18. Fort Collins (detailed guide coming soon!)
19. Forth Worth (detailed guide coming soon!)
20. Denver (detailed guide coming soon!)
21. Honolulu (detailed guide coming soon!)
22. Houston (detailed guide coming soon!)
23. Indianapolis (detailed guide coming soon!)
24. Jacksonville (detailed guide coming soon!)
25. Kansas City (detailed guide coming soon!)
26. Las Vegas (detailed guide coming soon!)
27. Los Angeles (detailed guide coming soon!)
28. Memphis (detailed guide coming soon!)
29. Miami (detailed guide coming soon!)
30. Milwaukee (detailed guide coming soon!)
31. Minneapolis (detailed guide coming soon!)
32. New Orleans (detailed guide coming soon!)
33. New York City (detailed guide coming soon!)
34. Norfolk (detailed guide coming soon!)
35. Oklahoma City (detailed guide coming soon!)
36. Omaha (detailed guide coming soon!)
37. Orlando (detailed guide coming soon!)
38. Philadelphia (detailed guide coming soon!)
39. Phoenix (detailed guide coming soon!)
40. Pittsburgh (detailed guide coming soon!)
41. Portland (detailed guide coming soon!)
42. Providence (detailed guide coming soon!)
43. Provo (detailed guide coming soon!)
44. Raleigh (detailed guide coming soon!)
45. Richmond (detailed guide coming soon!)
46. San Francisco (detailed guide coming soon!)
47. Sacramento (detailed guide coming soon!)
48. San Antonio (detailed guide coming soon!)
49. San Diego (detailed guide coming soon!)
50. Seattle (detailed guide coming soon!)
51. Tallahassee (detailed guide coming soon!)
52. Tampa (detailed guide coming soon!)
53. Tucson (detailed guide coming soon!)
54. Virginia Beach (detailed guide coming soon!)
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.