Published on January 27th, 2016 | by FinanceLoophole1
Can’t Pay My Utility Bills
An increasing number of people are coming to us who have major problems paying off their utility bill debt. The largest debt problems we see are related to energy suppliers of gas and electric. That is not a great surprise given that these are normally the most expensive of the utility bills.
Many people who contact us are most concerned about how they will be able to afford to keep their home heated and the lights on. They are also concerned about the possibilities of debt collection agencies making them sell their homes or removing their house contents to pay off their outstanding utility bill debt.
The good news is that they will not be able to take your house to cover your debts as the credit agreement you have signed up to with your supplier is not secured against your property.
However, if you refuse or are unable to pay you are likely to be taken to court. This may result in a court order which may allow bailiffs to enter your house and remove goods to pay off the money you owe the utility company. If you do get into arrears with your utility bills it is important for you to get independent debt advice quickly, certainly well before any court action is undertaken, but it’s never too late to look for help so don’t despair. If you are having problems with your unpaid utility bills Bright Debt Solutions should be able help you – just fill in this form with your details and they will get back to you. They will work closely with you to set up an affordable repayment schedule and where possible, provide advice about debts which can be written off altogether.
What Happens If I Cannot Pay My Utility Bills?
This will vary depending on what service you can’t pay.
I Can’t Pay My Gas and Electric Bills
If you are struggling to pay your gas and electric bills, you need to contact your supplier in the first instance to discuss your options and how you can best pay what you owe them.
Your supplier is required to help you come to a solution. You should try to negotiate a deal with your supplier that works for both of you. If you are not willing or able to try to negotiate a solution to your gas and electric debt with your supplier, they are likely to threaten to disconnect your energy supply.
If you don’t come to an agreement with your supplier to pay off your debt, they can apply to a court for a warrant to enter your home to disconnect your supply. Your supplier must send a notice telling you they’re applying to the court. In some cases, where there is a smart meter fitted the utility company can disconnect your supply remotely. This does not require them to gain entry to the property from a court first, but does require them to contact you prior to disconnection.
It is quite rare to be disconnected as normally your supplier will usually offer to install a prepayment meter for you instead. This will normally make your energy supply more expensive, but should help you keep control of your bills more easily. The CAB offers advice on your rights for prepayment meters.
If you are receiving social security benefits, you might be able to repay your utility bill debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme. This can be a more convenient way to pay than having a prepayment meter fitted, which can end up costing you more money.
Things To Do If You Cannot Pay Your Utility Bills
There are things you can do to make your utility bills more affordable for you.
- Switch to a cheaper supplier
- Don’t leave appliances on standby – turn them off or unplug them
- Boil only the amount you need in a kettle – don’t fill it up each time
- Fix any dripping taps
- Fit a water meter if you don’t already have one
- Use only low energy light bulbs
- Pay bills by direct debit
The list above is just a few things you can do yourself. In many areas you can find additional help from energy conservation grants issued by local authorities and your energy supplier for such things as insulation and old boiler replacement.
Can I Switch Supplier If I am In Debt?
This will depend on how long you have owed the money to your existing supplier.
- You canswitch your supplier if you owed them money for 28 days or less. Your debt will be transferred to the new supplier. If you have a prepayment meter you need to also have a debt of less than £500 for the service, you want to switch.
- You cannotswitch your supplier if you owed them money for more than 28 days. You need to pay them back before you can switch. They cannot stop you from switching if it is your energy supplier’s fault that you are in debt – eg. they provided an incorrect estimated bill.
If You Don’t Pay Your Water Bill
It is important to know that water companies can’t, by law, disconnect or restrict your water supply to your home if you owe them money. If you don’t pay however, they could:
- reminder notices. The final notice will give you seven days to pay
- telephone you to ask for payment
- debt recovery agent can try to get the payment from you
- county court judgment (CCJ) can recover the money
- bailiffs could take goods to sell to pay the money you owe
If you are receiving benefits, you may get a third party deduction on a scheme called Waterdirect. This will directly deduct the money you owe to the water company directly from your benefits.
You can read more from the DWP about paying your bills while on benefits here.
What Is A Utility Bill?
A utility bill is a request for payment for a service provided to your home, such as telephone, electric, gas or water, which is normally supplied by pipe or cable. Utilities are services which are often seen as a necessity to operate a home. Utility bills are normally sent once a month, and are often paid by direct debit directly from a customer’s personal bank account.
Who Is Responsible For Paying Utility Bills?
This will always be the person who originally asked for the gas or electricity to be supplied. Some energy supply companies have in the past also demanded payment from anyone who also lives at the address where the gas or electricity was used – referring to these people as ‘beneficial users’. However, where this has been challenged in the courts, they have refused to allow companies to pursue the outstanding debt with the ‘beneficial users’. If you are in this situation, you may be able to stop a gas or electricity company trying to make you pay.