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Switching providers as a tenant

Your guide to switching energy tariffs if you’re renting

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of November 8, 2021.

If you don’t own your home, there are often a lot of rules you have to follow that homeowners don’t. Do you know the rules about your energy supply? There are a lot of myths and contradictions out there about switching providers as a tenant, so we’ve got all the answers to your questions.

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Can I switch energy providers as a tenant?

As a tenant, you are usually able to compare and switch energy providers to make sure you’re on the best deal. However, in some instances, it might be done differently than if you owned your home.

For example, if your landlord pays your energy bills to the provider and includes the charge in your rent, then you can’t switch providers. You might be able to ask your landlord to switch for you but they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

However, if you pay all of your bills directly to the companies, you can switch as much as you like! Your landlord can’t stop you from switching providers or deny any reasonable requests unless it’s stated in your tenancy agreement.

How to switch if your landlord pays the energy provider

Some tenants have all their bills included in their rent with their landlord taking care of switching and paying the different bills.

Unfortunately, if this is the case, you can’t switch providers. While many landlords are understanding and might agree to change your provider if you ask, they don’t have to and have full control over who supplies your energy.

You might think that your landlord is refusing to switch to make more money but, legally, they can only charge you for:

  • The units of energy you’ve used
  • Your share of the standing charge
  • The VAT owed

If there’s a ‘Green Deal’ finance on your property, your landlord might charge you extra. In the ‘Green Deal’, your landlord has borrowed money from the supplier to make your home more energy-efficient and this has to be paid back in your energy bills. Your landlord will tell you if this is the case.

How to switch if you pay the energy provider

If you pay your energy provider directly, you can switch just as a homeowner would. Consumer Protection law says that you must be able to choose your energy supplier if it is your responsibility to pay the bills.

If you can switch energy providers, make sure you compare deals regularly. According to Ofgem, 77% of people living in rented accommodation say they’ve never switched energy providers. It’s estimated that they could save an average of £200 just by switching providers.

The switching process is extremely easy, all you have to do is compare deals to find the best for you. Contact your new supplier for a quote and switch, and they’ll do all the legwork for you. Alternatively, you can give us a call on… or read our switching guide for more help.

How switching works

It’s worth noting that it may say in your tenancy agreement that your landlord has a ‘preferred supplier’, however, this doesn’t stop you from switching. It may just mean that you have to switch back at the end of your tenancy and let your landlord know.

Can I change my meter if I’m renting?

You might be able to, however, it’s best to check with your landlord before you do anything. There may be a clause in your tenancy agreement or, if your meter is in a communal area, they might not want you doing work there.

Changing to and from a prepayment meter

Some energy providers might want to install a prepayment meter if you’re behind on your gas or electricity bill, or you might find it easier to manage your payments. According to Citizen’s Advice, your landlord can’t stop you from installing a prepayment meter. You don’t even need to ask their permission.

Many landlords have prepayment meters installed already to avoid issues with tenants falling behind on their payments. If your supplier allows it, you should be able to have it removed and changed to a standard meter. It’s a good idea to ask your landlord’s permission for this, however, they should allow it. You might also need to have it changed back at the end of your tenancy.

More about prepayment meters

Upgrading to a smart meter

If you pay the bills directly to your energy supplier, you shouldn’t need permission to have a smart meter installed. However, it’s still a good idea to let them know. If you pay your energy bills to your landlord, it’s their responsibility and decision to install or uninstall a smart meter.

Automatic meter readings!

Did you know that with a smart meter you’ll never have to submit a meter reading again! 100% accurate bills, all the time. Give us a call to find out more about automatic meter readings.

Smart meters are a popular choice across the country as they come with a huge number of benefits, including:

  • Automatic meter readings
  • Seeing your energy usage in real-time
  • Understanding where your energy is going
  • Helping you save on your gas and electricity bills
  • There is a wide range of cheaper tariffs
  • 100% accurate bills all the time
  • You can top up your smart prepayment meter from the comfort of your own home with an app or online account
Find out more about smart meters

Getting a smart meter removed

At the end of your tenancy, you might need to have your meter reverted back to a standard meter. There are two ways providers do this:

  • Put your smart meter into ‘dumb mode’ where they don’t change the meter, but it loses its smart features
  • Remove the smart meter and replace it with a new standard one

If you’re removing your smart meter because you’re moving out, you’ll have to make sure that they remove the meter as they’ll likely want to just put it in ‘dumb mode’. This is because completely removing and changing it is more expensive and inconvenient for them. However, not removing it could result in you losing your deposit.

Removing a smart meter is free with most providers, however, some might charge an added fee. They might revoke the fee if you threaten to switch providers.

Can students switch energy providers?

If you live in halls or other university-provided accommodation, you won’t be able to switch providers. Your energy bills will be included in your rent so it’s up to the university to sort out your provider and tariff. They’ll likely have the same provider for all of their accommodation as they can often get special tariffs that cover all of the properties.

However, if you’re a student renting privately, you might be able to switch, depending on your situation. If you pay your energy bills directly to your supplier, you’re free to switch as and when you please. However, if your energy bills are included in your rent, you’ll have to talk to your landlord if you want to switch.

If you live with housemates and split the bills between you, you’ll also be able to switch. You should sit down with your housemates and compare deals together or agree on your provider and tariff before you try switching. Even if they pay the bills to you and you pay the provider directly, it’s best to make sure everyone’s happy with the switch and how much they’ll need to pay (if it changes).

Top tips for switching energy providers as a tenant

Switching as a tenant can seem confusing, but it’s not as bad as you think. Here are some of our top tips when it comes to switching your energy provider in rented accommodation:

  • Keep your landlord in the know – While you don’t always need permission to make changes to your energy supply, it’s always good to keep your landlord updated with any changes to keep the peace.
  • Check your tenancy agreement for any energy clauses – Know what you can and can’t do when it comes to switching and if you need to make any changes when you leave.
  • Don’t pay more than you should – If your landlord pays your energy bills, make sure you’re not being overcharged. You can only be charged for the energy you use, not anything used in communal areas.
  • Upgrade to a smart meter – If you can, consider having a smart meter installed. They’re great for helping you understand and cut down your energy usage.
  • Compare suppliers regularly – Different tariffs suit different people depending on their budget and how they use their energy. Your energy usage may be different than the previous tenants’ so your tariff might need changing.
  • Don’t forget to switch – Many tenants don’t know that they can switch providers and are paying more than they should be because of it.

If you need some more help...

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This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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