So assuming you’ve already found an apartment, it’s up to you to make sure you’re not just huddling inside four walls in the cold, dark wasteland which is no utilities. The last thing you want is to walk into your new apartment and discover that the water’s not working, or your stove has no gas, etc. Most utilities can be transferred to your name or turned on remotely, and the landlord can generally even be present if you can't (that is if you have a good landlord, something you should be looking at when you are shopping for an apartment). So here are several tips for making sure your move-in is a smooth, warm, clean transition.
First, check with your landlord to see if they cover any utilities. For example, some will cover gas and trash, some cover none at all, and some cover all utilities.
Second, make a list of the utilities you need. Some apartments have gas heating and cooking, others have no gas and just electric. When I was shopping for an apartment, one of my big musts was that it had to have a gas stove (I hate cooking on electric—I always burn everything). However, if you want to simplify things, an electric stove is one less utility bill. Sometimes there’s a charge for trash pickup, other times it’s free. Also, check what companies service your area—if there are more than one, you have a pretty good chance at getting companies to compete against each other for a better price. If you've take a negotiations class, now is the perfect time to put those skills to work
Once you know what utilities you need, make a list. Call each company or start each utility online, checking for monthly prices, hidden fees, and deposits. If this is your first apartment and you haven’t built your credit yet (Click here for an article on how to build your credit) certain utility companies will require you pay a deposit, in case you lapse on your bill. Make sure you have sufficient power/wattage/usage for what you need. For example, if you’re using a set monthly payment plan for your gas/electricity/etc, be certain that it will be enough for you to cover your whole bill and that you won’t be left with a balloon payment at the end of the year. If you’re getting internet and cable, don’t go overboard for the best bells and whistles (save that money! a savings account early on is one of the best things you can do for yourself). However, make sure you’re getting the channels you need and sufficient internet speed so that you’re not waiting 20 minutes for the picture your Aunt Alice sent you to download. (PS Aunt Alice doesn’t exist; I made her up for your benefit).
Also when you leave your apartment, make sure all utilities are signed back over to the landlord so you don’t incur any future charges when you are no longer living there. Any bills that are billed quarterly can be forwarded to your new address (make sure both the company and your landlord has a forwarding address for you).
Good luck starting your utilities (whether now or in the future or in the far far future). Living in apartment is a great step at becoming independent but does come with a lot more responsibility. With just a few checks and balances, and watching out for a few things, your new apartment will become your home (or home away from home) sooner than you think.
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