Alongside paying rent or a mortgage, when you are financially responsible for living in a property there are lots of different bills to pay

Teenage boy looking sadly at camera

The information on this page should help you navigate the different bills you need to set up and start paying in your new household, and where to find more information.

Find out more about typical household bills you need to pay as a renter or homeowner:

Council tax

Council Tax is paid to the local authority and it funds a range of local services, including rubbish collection, parks, libraries, transport, police and fire services. Where you live and the type of property you live in determine the Council Tax rate. Council Tax ‘bands’ range from A to H with the rates increasing along the alphabet. So, properties in band A pay less Council Tax than properties in band H. You can check your property’s Council Tax band through the government website. 

Full-time students are exempt from paying Council Tax if sharing a house with other full-time students, and people who live on their own have a 25% reduction. People with severe mental impairments are also exempt, as are live-in carers who look after someone who is not their partner, spouse or child. 

If you live in a larger property because someone in the home is disabled, you may be entitled to have your council tax reduced by one band. For example, if you have an extra bathroom downstairs because someone living in the house has a disability. Check if you qualify for a council tax discount through the government website.

You can also apply for Council Tax Benefit if you are on a low-income. This may mean that you receive a reduced Council Tax bill. If you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support, you may also get a reduced bill. 

Recently, as a result of campaigning by The Children’s Society, a larger number of councils across the UK have also exempted care leavers from needing to pay council tax. This means that if you are a young person leaving the care system and getting your first home, you may not need to pay council tax. Check to see if your council has exempted care leavers .

Council Tax is a really important bill to pay. If you miss a payment you may have to pay the whole year’s bill in one go, rather than monthly installments. Failure to pay your Council Tax bill can result in legal action, bailiffs taking your possessions, and even prison.

The Mix website has lots of information about Council Tax reductions and what to do if you are a student

Utility Bills

These include gas, electricity and water. The cost usually increases each year in line with inflation but some providers increase their prices at a faster rate and others freeze prices for a certain amount of time. Water payments work slightly differently and are explained below. 

It is worth checking to see if you are getting the best deal for your gas and electric through comparison sites like Uswitch and switching provider if you find a cheaper deal. Properties have different meters which determine how you pay, but it is possible to change these by contacting your landlord and/or energy company. For example, some meters require a pay-as-you-go, or prepayment system. If your property runs on a prepayment meter you need to top the money up by taking your gas and electricity card to a shop or topping it up online. If you do not have a prepayment meter you can choose to pay your bills in a variety of ways.

Your energy provider may send you a bill for the exact amount of energy you use which you can then pay online, by cheque or in some shops. You can often receive a discounted rate by paying by direct debit. Your energy provider will estimate how much gas and electricity you will use over a year and charge you a set amount each month. This spreads the cost over a year rather than bills increasing substantially over the winter. Your energy provider will adjust this amount if you use more or less energy than predicted. 

Your property’s energy performance certificate will let you know how energy efficient it is. The more energy efficient a property is the easier it is to reduce your energy consumption. For example, a flat with good wall insulation and double-glazing will need less energy to heat it than a large house with single glazing. Any property offered for sale needs an energy performance certificate and most landlords offering a property for rent also need to provide one. 

There are also lots of things you can do to reduce your energy bills. Turning lights off when leaving a room, only having the TV on when you are watching it, and putting jumpers on instead of immediately turning on the heating can all help reduce your bill. 

Water 

Unlike with gas and electricity you cannot choose your water provider. You can find your water provider by searching on their individual websites or on the Consumer Council for Water website. Some companies provide just water services and some provide water and sewage. Your property may have a water meter that will tell your provider exactly how much water you use, or there will be an assessed volume charge. Assessed volume charges are based on the size of your home. It can work out cheaper to have a meter, particularly if you take steps to save water. Before you move into a new property find out which company supplies the water and contact them to set up your payment system. Water suppliers cannot disconnect your water if you do not pay the bills but they can order bailiffs to remove your belongings or take you to court.

Telecoms bills

These include broadband, digital television and landline phones. 

Even if you use a mobile instead of a landline phone you still need to pay line rental to connect to the internet. Television and internet packages cost different amounts on top of this fee depending on the provider, number of channels offered and the internet speed. 

Comparison sites like Money Supermarket enable you to compare television and broadband packages and find the best deal for you.

TV licence

You need a TV licence to watch or record live TV on any channel or download or watch programmes on BBC iPlayer. This is the law whether you watch the programmes on a television, tablet, laptop, or any other device. The cost of a TV licence can be paid in one go or spread over a year by paying in monthly or quarterly instalments. For more information go to the TV Licensing website.

Insurance

If you buy insurance on your property (such as television, phones, cars) and it is lost, stolen or damaged you might be able to claim money to have it replaced or repaired. It is important to read the small print when taking out insurance and making a claim. For example, not all insurance covers accidental damage so make sure you get the cover you need.

If you own your own home, you will likely need both buildings and contents insurance. Most mortgage providers insist that you have buildings insurance. Buildings insurance covers the property from flood, fire, storms, vandalism and subsidence (when the ground under your house sinks). 

Contents insurance covers your belongings inside the property and you can ask to have items protected outside the home as well, such as mobile phones and bicycles. Usually, if you rent you only need contents insurance. Contents insurance covers your belongings from damage, theft or loss. Your contents insurance will cover the items that are yours and you would take with you if you moved, including any furniture that you own, clothes, jewellery and electronics. Most policies are currently ‘as new’ or ‘new for old’, meaning that if an item is damaged the insurance will pay for it to be repaired, and if it is stolen the company will pay the amount of money needed for it to be replaced. You can choose the amount of contents cover based on how much you think your items are worth all together. Make sure your policy is up-to-date: you may need to increase your cover if you have more expensive belongings later on.

In order to make a claim you usually need to pay an excess. The excess is the amount of money you pay to the insurance provider in order to make a claim. The amount of excess is decided when you take out your insurance policy. Generally, the higher the excess the lower the cost of the insurance. 

As with any financial service it is important to read the terms and conditions carefully before agreeing to an insurance policy.