Renters guide to switching energy plans

If you’re living in a rental property or you are about to move into a new rental pad and aren’t sure if you can switch to that awesome cheap energy deal you just saw online, you’ve reached the right place. In this tell-all guide, the Mozo energy experts address some of the most common questions about switching electricity and gas plans for rented accommodation.    

Q1. Can I choose my energy provider if I live in a rented accommodation in Australia?

A1. It depends on where you live and if your rental agreement states you are responsible for paying the energy bills for the property. If you live in a state with a deregulated energy market such as Victoria, NSW, South Australia and South East Queensland you should be able to choose your preferred gas and electricity provider and plan from the range of energy providers that service your area. However, you should always read the rental agreement carefully in case there is a clause regarding energy services for the property. 

Q2. What if I don’t live in a deregulated market? 

A2. If you live in a regulated energy market, such as the Northern Territory or Western Australia you won’t have the option to pick from different electricity or gas providers. You’ll need to stick with the plan and prices that are offered by the state government.

Q3. Do I need to inform my landlord if I decide to switch my energy provider? 

A3. No. If you’re responsible for the energy bills then the energy contract will be between you and the electricity or gas supplier, not your landlord. You should be able to update, cancel or switch the plan as you wish. You could inform your landlord or property agent as a courtesy if you’re planning to switch from an existing supplier but they should not prevent you from choosing a provider of your choice. You can find out which energy providers are available in your area on Mozo here

Q4. What if I pay an all-inclusive rent that also accounts for my energy bills? 

A4. If your landlord pays the property’s energy bills, the energy contract will be between the landlord and the energy provider. In this case, it will be the landlord’s decision whether they want to switch to another plan or not.    

Q5. If I live in a rented apartment, does the entire building need to have the same energy provider?

A5. No. Many buildings will have a prefered or suggested energy provider but you should not be under any obligation to stick to any specified supplier. However, do make sure that the distributor has access to the building’s energy meter to take actual readings. If the distributor is not able to note the proper reading, your energy bill could be based on ‘estimated’ usage. 

This could mean you could pay more than you really need to. If access to the property is difficult, most energy providers will enable you to submit the meter readings online or over the phone. Also check out this high energy bill checklist to see potential reasons for a high energy bill including estimated readings. 

Q6. Are there energy plans that are only available if you are renting? 

A6. No, as a renter you will have the same choice of energy plans as someone who owns their home. You can choose any plan from any provider that services your area. Of course, there are a few extra considerations you should think about if you are renting. For instance, whether a fixed term contract is better or does the plan have any exit fees? 

The good news is that there are a range of flexible energy plans with no fixed terms or exit fees. These are especially suited to renters or people who move frequently. 

Q7. Can I switch to a smart meter from a traditional meter in a rented house? 

A7. The type of meter that is at the property is something that is determined by the state authorities or the energy distributor, not you the tenant. If there is a smart meter installed at the property you would be able to sign up for a plan that offers flexible off-peak pricing. Check out our smart meter guide if you want more information about the pros and cons of smart meters.   

Q8. What should I look for in a good electricity / gas plan? 

A8. As with any other shopping, to make sure you pick the best energy plan for you, you need to identify features and discounts that will actually be useful to you and distinguish those from clever marketing tactics of the energy provider. Here are some key considerations to help you find a good plan: 

Introductory offers: While some energy providers will have ‘sign up’ offers, for example, $50 off your first bill, it’s important for you to look for an energy plan that will result in lower energy bills over the whole year, not just your first bill.

Pay on time discount: Several energy retailers reward customers for paying on time by offering high regular discounts on every bill that is paid on schedule. If you’re always up to date with your payments, as a renter you can take advantage of this discount to save on your electricity and gas bills. 

Direct debit discount: This is an easy way to save money off your bill and avoid late payment fees. If you can maintain sufficient balance in your bank account when your electricity and gas bills and get your payment amount automatically deducted from your account you’ll get an extra discount. 

Convenient bill cycles: If you’d rather pay your energy bills along with your rent cycle and not have the costs pile up over an entire quarter, you can look for a provider that offers flexible payment options in terms of fortnightly or monthly bills. Read more about bill smoothing in our detailed guide.      

No exit fees: If you’re renting, it’s a good idea to look at energy plans that have no exit fees or early termination fees otherwise you could end up paying additional money if you need to switch before the end of term. 

Renewable energy: Looking for environment-friendly alternatives to electricity produced from coal? Many retailers have renewable energy plans that give you the option to select a percentage of your electricity usage to be generated from renewable sources. Often these plans will be a little more expensive than the cheapest plan available but you’ll feel good knowing you’re doing your bit for the environment. 

Customer service: It’s hard to judge a provider in terms of customer service before you sign up! That’s why it’s a good idea to read energy provider reviews on Mozo from real customers who’ve dealt with this provider before.       

Q9. Is it cheaper to get both energy services from the same provider? 

A9. If the rental property has an electricity as well as gas account, signing up for both services with the same provider is a convenient option because you’ll just need to deal with one energy company instead of two. 

However, it’s not always the cheapest option. Even though many retailers offer special discounts on dual fuel packages, you could find an overall cheaper deal by sourcing gas and electricity from different providers. So if you’re after the cheapest plan, use Mozo’s comparison tool to compare both electricity as well as gas plans available in your suburb and then pick the best value deal for you.        

Q10. How can I save on my energy bill? 

A10. When you’re moving into a new rental property it can be difficult to estimate how much your bills are going to be. This is why it is a good idea to make sure you get a plan with no exit fees so that if you find your bills skyrocket you’re free to switch to a cheaper plan during the course of your tenancy without having to pay extra. 

Mozo also recommends getting into the habit of comparing plans every 6-12 months to see if you can find a better deal that could save you money. 

You can also lower your energy bill by reducing the amount of energy you use at home. As a renter you’ll have certain limitations because you won’t be able to make many changes to the physical property but there are a range of things you can do to lower your overall costs like using energy efficient lightbulbs, taking shorter showers etc. For more ideas check out these 20 free energy saving tips for your home that won’t need your landlord’s permission. 

Q11. How do I find the cheapest plan? 

A11. Finding the cheapest plan for your rented home is now easier than ever. All you need to do is tap in your postcode into Mozo’s free energy comparison tool, and you’ll instantly get a list of the best providers and plans in your area. If you want to further customise your results for a more accurate comparison, you can keep a previous bill handy and enter details like your total bill amount and usage from the last cycle.     

Q12. Can I sign up for a gas or electricity provider online? What kind of documentation will I need? 

A12. Yes, once you’ve signed your rental agreement and you know your move in date signing up for energy plans is an easy process as most energy providers let you sign up online. Generally, you’ll just need to provide contact details like your name, phone number, email and the address of your new rental accommodation as well as a valid personal identification document such as your driver’s license, Medicare card or passport. 

If you’re switching retailers, the new energy provider will inform your existing provider and make sure the transition takes place smoothly. You can read more detailed information in our guide to switching energy providers.         

Q13. How long does it take to move or switch energy services? 

A13. When you’re moving into a new rented place, you’ll need to give between 2-5 business days notice before you move into the property for your energy account to be activated. If you’re switching providers, generally the amount of time it takes to start receiving your bills from the new supplier depends on when your meter was last read. This can take anything from a few days to three months. 

Q14. Are there any fees for will I need to pay to set up an energy account? 

A14. When you sign up for a new energy account at a new rental property you will generally have to pay a connection fee for setting up the service to your home. This varies for different states and providers, but it’s usually around $50 and is added to your first bill.   

Q15. Will I need to be home when the energy service is connected? 

A15. No. When you sign up with an energy provider, they will manage the connection to your property on your behalf. You don’t need to be home for the service to be connected or switched.

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