How to avoid paying a previous occupant’s bills

Nov 8, 2022 | Bills, Moving Guides

There are lots of nasty surprises you might find in your new home – ugly furniture, full bins, or worst of all – the previous occupant’s bills.

Whether it’s an overdue Council Tax payment or debt on a pre-paid electricity meter, you should never pay for someone else’s utilities. We’ve laid out our best advice for what to do when you first move in. Make sure the only bills you’re paying are your own!

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Open your utility accounts the right way

When you first move into a property, one of the first things to do is inform all of the existing suppliers of the change of occupancy. This will usually include the local council, water, and energy suppliers at minimum. All of your new suppliers need to know the dates of your move and when your legal responsibility began. Your suppliers will usually also need opening meter readings for energy, and sometimes water.

These opening meter readings will show how much energy had been used at the address before your move. If you don’t submit meter readings, your supplier will estimate your opening reads. These will be based on the last readings from the previous occupant. These could be months old, and won’t account for energy used while the house was unoccupied.

Informing your suppliers as soon as you move means that, even if your new house owes bills, you won’t be charged for the payments due before your move.


I’ve received a previous occupant’s bills

If a bill or letter arrives addressed to the last residents at your address, you have two options. Firstly, you can try and forward the bill to the previous occupants. They may have left you a forwarding address for posting, or you can try reaching out via your landlord.

Otherwise, you can return the bill to the utility company directly. Cross through the address and write ‘Not known at this address or ‘No longer lives here’, then drop the bill at a postbox. Don’t open any bills or letters not addressed to you.

Provided you’ve informed suppliers of your move, you’re sent the previous occupant’s bills when there’s no forwarding address available. You can safely disregard these, and you won’t be required to pay their closing bill.


The previous occupants left a negative balance on my meter 

If you have a pre-payment gas or electric meter, you might arrive at the property to find debt on the meter. If this happens, give your new supplier a call as soon as possible. They’ll either be able to reset the balance (if it’s a smart meter) or send you a new top-up key that will reset the meter when you first use it. In the meantime, you can top up the meter in small increments. Depending on the supplier, this process can take anything from an hour to a few days. If you know there will be a negative balance before you move, you can reach out to your energy supplier in advance.


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