When you move into an apartment, you know what the rent will cost you. The utility bills can be more difficult to figure. Depending on where you are moving, and the terms of your lease, there are different possibilities of what utilities you'll have to pay separately, and which will be included in your rent. If you have a roommate, you also have to decide how your apartment utilities will be divided, and in whose name the bill will come.
What's Included in the Lease?
Utility costs are one more reason to read your lease carefully. In most apartments, utilities such as water and garbage collection are incorporated into the rent. Heat, or natural gas, is also often included, although some landlords ask the renter to take on this cost as well. Electricity is almost always the responsibility of the renters, as are the somewhat optional utilities such as cable TV, phone service, and Internet access. It's important to look closely at all these things. A place that has a slightly higher rent, but includes more utilities may be more affordable than an apartment that leaves too much responsibility for the utilities and hikes up monthly living expenses.
When renting an apartment, roommates can take on many different dynamics. They could be family members, good friends, acquaintances from work or another area in someone's life, or near strangers. But regardless of the relationship going in, it is important to set up clear guidelines when it comes to apartment utilities or any other bills where everyone benefits. This means no matter how close you think you are, a handshake and a smile is not enough.
Any agreements you make should be in writing. Having this record will be beneficial for everyone, whether everything goes well or not, because it demonstrates that both roommates have taken their due responsibility. Deciding whose name will be on the bill can be difficult. Some roommates like to keep everything in one person's name, and all roommates pay that person their share of the bills. Some roommates may pick the person with the best credit because they will not be charged extra deposit fees.
No matter who takes on the bills, trust becomes an issue for all concerned. The person who writes the check to the roommate needs to make sure that he is in fact going to take the money and pay the bill. The person who has their name on the bill needs to collect money from the roommate each month, and if the roommate doesn't have it, they may need to cover the other portion in order to protect their credit.
When Things Go Wrong
When it comes to shared bills, the unfortunate fact is that one person can get behind, which means either the other roommate has to shell out extra money, or sit in the dark. While anyone can have a bad month, if it becomes habitual, it may be grounds for eviction, or cause to go to small claims court. If it gets there summons should be sent through certified mail, rather than passed across the kitchen table over breakfast, so that the situation is taken seriously.