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Amy Van Es | Interrobang | Culture | May 26th, 2014

There are two arrangements that you can have in regards to using utilities in your apartment. The first is all-inclusive, which means that you pay rent (which will be a little higher than apartments that aren't all-inclusive), and the landlord/owner will pay the utilities for you.

It's beneficial to have an all-inclusive first apartment because it's one less thing to worry about when you're learning to budget and live on your own. It seems daunting to set it up yourself and pay another bill each month, which is what the other arrangement is. In the latter option, you are required to maintain your utility bills and keep in good standing with the companies that provide the services, but your rent will be cheaper as a result.

There are many types of utilities, with the most common necessities being hydro, heat and water, and then optional services such as Internet, home phone and cable. Essentially, utilities are services that are provided directly to your apartment so that it is equipped to suit your needs.

Bailey Schnalzbaur, a third-year Human Resources student, recounted her experience with setting up and maintaining a relationship with London Hydro, an electricity provider.

The problem
“I used to do all inclusive, but we talked about it and thought we wouldn't use it that much. It made sense,” she said of moving into an apartment where she was to pay for hydro. “We thought it wouldn't be a big deal.”

But a couple problems arose when she began to get settled into her new apartment and responsibility.

Because each utility is provided by a different company, the process of setting each up is unique.

“The landlord gave you the paper and setting it up was your job. You had to photocopy photo ID and everything, send it to them, and there was a $245 set up fee,” she said.

Most landlords assume you know about the set-up fee if you're a seasoned renter, but it comes as a surprise to many who are venturing out on their own for the first time.

“You get it refunded when you move. So you pay the $245 dollars to London Hydro, they keep it, and then when you move and don't have to pay hydro anymore, they give it back to you.”

She was also surprised when she received her first bill.

“It didn't make sense. I was told it was going to be $50 in the summer, $100 at the most in the winter. But we hardly even had it on — it was off when we were sleeping, when we weren't home it was off, and we had $200 bills. When I asked the girl next door who lived by herself, she had the same bill.”

Schnalzbaur attributes the problem to the building, not the service provider. This is a fairly common problem with utilities. Although you may get a rough estimate about how much it's going to be, you're never really sure until you get your first bill.

The amount you pay depends on many factors: where you live, how much you use, the condition of your building, what time of the day you use your electricity at, so it's very difficult to predict how much it's going to cost.

The solution
There are a few preventative measures one can take to avoid an unrealistic bill.

“Try and see if [you] can find and ask an actual tenant how much their bill is, not the people working there,” she said. This will give you a more accurate gauge.

It's also a good idea to visit the company's website. Many of them have very helpful information on how to determine the amount you'll pay.

“They kept making us pay it. And eventually we just decided to sublet our apartment and move. It was just becoming too expensive and not beneficial at all,” said Schnalzbaur.

When moving out, “they either put the money [you deposited] towards your last bill or they send you the full refund.” If you have an outstanding balance, you need to pay it in full before you set up hydro at a new place. Even if your new apartment is all-inclusive, it should be paid as soon as possible otherwise London Hydro may take further measures to get the remaining fee.

Overall, paying utilities usually isn't a huge deal aside from the fact that it's a separate bill that you need to remember to pay! Most tenants, if diligent with paying bills, don't have a problem. The best precaution that can be taken is do research and inform yourself about what you're getting involved in.
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