Utility bills are amongst the most important we are required to pay.
If we fall into arrears with these priority debts, the consequences could be the removal of a vital service from our homes or business.
I’m in arrears with one of my utility bills. What should I do?
The advice differs for each type of utility, but there’s a common thread running through them all: speak to your supplier and explain your situation. Most will want to help you work on a solution in order to recover the money you owe them.
What might suppliers do if I fall behind on repayments?
Electric and gas debts
If you fall behind on your electric or gas payments, your supplier is within their right to turn off the service to your property. Alternatively, they may seek a court order to enter your home to install a pre-pay meter. They may also use debt collection agencies.
Unlike electric and gas, your water supplier can’t cut off their service to you; water will continue to pour through your taps if you fall behind. They can, however, apply for court action against you in order to recover the payments. In some cases, this might result in them being granted access to your benefits from which they can draw the owed funds.
How do I negotiate with my utility supplier?
Making that phone call to discuss your situation is highly advisable. Be honest. Tell them that you want to clear the arrears but that your financial situation is preventing you from doing so quickly.
They’ll want to know how much you can afford to pay. So, before calling, work out a budget. List your income and expenditure. Go through the latter with a fine tooth comb and remove anything you’re spending money on which isn’t deemed essential. When comparing that expensive sandwich you buy for lunch every day with running water or working radiators there’s only ever one winner.
Share your budget with the supplier – this will help further your case and prove you are serious about repaying them.
The supplier will also take into account the amount of energy or water you’re likely to use in the future. Typically, this will be done with estimated readings, so be sure to provide them with proper meter readings to ensure they are working from accurate figures.