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Can you switch energy supplier if you’re renting? | A guide

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Not sure if you’re allowed to switch energy suppliers because you rent your home? Well, don’t worry – we’re here to clear up the ins and outs of switching while renting. After all, we believe everyone deserves to get the best deal possible when it comes to green energy – and that includes you! 

The good news is that it’s a pretty straightforward matter; if you pay for the energy bills directly, you can switch to cleaner, greener energy whenever you like. Just like anyone who owns their home. It’s polite to let your landlord know you’ve switched (and some tenancy agreements require this), but they can’t actually stop you. This is your right under consumer protection laws. In fact, Ofgem has set out clear guidance on the issue – worth having if your landlord ever disagrees.

In this guide

What if your landlord pays your energy bills?
What if your tenancy agreement says that you can’t switch?
Renting for less than a year?
Can you switch energy supplier before you move in?
What information do you need to switch a rented property?
So you want to switch – how do you get started?

What if your landlord pays your energy bills?

If your landlord pays the energy company directly and then charges you (or incorporates the energy costs in your rent), it’s up to them to choose the supplier. But remember, even if they do pay the bills, they can only charge you for what you use (or your fair share if it’s a house-share) so do check you’re not being overcharged.  

If you think you’re paying too much, or you’d prefer a different supplier, it’s well worth checking out what deals are available and then approaching your landlord to ask if they’d mind switching. As the saying goes, “Don’t ask, don’t get”. They may well be perfectly happy to swap. Don’t forget to let them know that unlike other switching services, moving supplier through Big Clean Switch means they are protected by our customer service promise.

What if your tenancy agreement says that you can’t switch?

Sometimes, landlords will put a clause in the tenancy agreement that sets out their preferred energy supplier or restricts your ability to choose supplier. This is called a default supplier clause and, if you notice before you sign the agreement, it’s worth asking if you can change it. But if you’ve already signed, can you switch energy supplier if you’re renting?

And, to reiterate what we said earlier, even if this clause is included and you pay the energy bills directly, the landlord can’t actually stop you switching – it’s not enforceable in law. 

If you think your landlord’s being unreasonable or overcharging you, Citizens Advice can help.

Renting for less than a year?

Many of the most affordable green energy tariffs are fixed rate deals, which means the supplier can’t change the price you pay per unit of energy for a set period – usually 12 months. The downside to fixed rate deals is that suppliers will often apply an ‘exit fee‘ of as much as £80 (£40 for gas, £40 for electricity) if you leave the contract early.

If you know you’re going to be renting your property for less than a year – if you’re in a student house, for example, and only going to be renting to cover the academic year from October through to July – there are three things you should bear in mind:

  • Choose a tariff that gives you flexibility. Exit fees charged by suppliers are clearly indicated when you get your quote through Big Clean Switch, so if you don’t think you’ll be renting your property for more than 10.5 months (see final point), pick a tariff with a low exit fee, or no exit fee at all.
  • Some suppliers may allow you to carry over your energy account to a new property without incurring an exit fee. Bear in mind that this is unlikely to be on the same terms as your current tariff: fixed price tariffs reflect energy prices when you sign up and are specific to a given region of the country. If you move to a different home in a different location and when energy prices are higher (or lower) than previously, your supplier may insist that you sign up to their current fixed rate offers rather than holding the rates you were paying previously. It’s best to ask your preferred supplier what their policy is before signing up.
  • Remember that you can’t be charged an exit fee if you end your contract within the final 42 days of the deal.

TIP | You can easily work out which date is 42 days before your tariff end date by typing “42 days before X” (where X is your end date) into Google.

Use Google to work out when you can safely switch from your current provider

Can you switch energy supplier before you move in?

You can legally only switch energy supplier when you are officially the occupier of a property. If you’re renting, that means the date your lease begins. For that reason, our recommendation is that you wait until you’ve actually moved in before you submit a switch application.

The downside to waiting is that, because there is a 14-day statutory cooling off period before your switch can go live, you’ll spend at least the first 14 days in your property (and usually more like 17-21 days) with whichever supplier the previous tenants used. Worse still, that supplier will place you on their ‘default’ tariff – usually their most expensive deal.

It is possible to time a switch application so that the amount of time you’ll spend on the old supplier’s default tariff is reduced (by submitting the application, say, 10 days before you’re due to move in), but if you’re looking at doing this, then bear the following in mind:

  • The supplier you choose will notify the current supplier for the property to know they’ve had a switch application. The current supplier will then contact the current occupants to confirm they’ve received a request to terminate their contract (and often encouraging them to stay). If the current occupants are unaware that you’ve submitted a switch application, they may be alarmed at this – and even cancel the switch. You should always confirm with the current occupants in writing that they understand and agree that:
    • you are submitting an application to switch the property to a new supplier
    • the application will be submitted no earlier than 14 days before you are due to move in, ensuring that the switch will only go live after your lease has started
    • they will not take any steps to cancel the switch application
  • If the start of your lease (and therefore your move in date) is delayed for any reason, you risk switching the property while the current tenants are still living there
  • You will still need to pay the previous tenants’ supplier for any energy you use before your switch takes effect. That’s another reason why you should always take meter readings the day you move into a property (and the day you move out) and send these to the current supplier
  • Some suppliers will allow you to adjust your supply start date after you’ve submitted an application, but this isn’t guaranteed, so if you’re unsure, check with your preferred supplier first

What information do you need to switch a rented property?

In order to submit a switch application for your new rented home, you’ll need to know a few details about the property:

  1. The current supplier
    The easiest way to find this out is to ask the landlord, agent, or if you are in touch with them directly, the current occupiers. If you’re still unsure, contact us.
  2. The name of the tariff
    The incumbent supplier will place you on their standard tariff when you move in, so this is relatively easy to answer, but bear in mind that some suppliers give their standard tariffs different names (i.e. it may not simply be called ‘Standard’). Eon’s is known as ‘EnergyPlan’ for example. If you’re unsure which tariff is the standard tariff, ask us.
  3. The type of meter
    If the property has prepayment meters (where the energy is paid for in advance, either online or by topping up a key or card in a local shop), or if it has ‘multi-rate’ meters that charge different amounts for electricity used during the day and at night (most commonly called ‘Economy 7’ meters), this will change the tariffs available to you. If you’re not sure, check with the landlord, agent, current occupiers, or ask us.
  4. Estimated annual energy consumption
    Your new supplier will use your estimated consumption to set how much you’ll pay per month (assuming the property isn’t on a prepayment meter). Because different households use different amounts of energy (even if they’re living in the same property), you’ll have to estimate this initially. Just click ‘Don’t know’ when you’re asked this question on our switch form, and then select either ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’. As a general rule of thumb, ‘low’ would be a well-insulated one or two bedroom flat; ‘medium’ would be a two bed terraced home; and ‘high’ would be a detached three or four bedroom home. Bear in mind that once your supplier knows more about how you’re using energy in your new home, they’re likely to have to adjust your direct debits up or down to more closely match how much you use.

So you want to switch – how do you get started?

Don’t be daunted – it’s super simple to switch, and who doesn’t like making a saving? If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to think about switching to a green energy supplier. Renewable energy is no longer the pricey option. Not only that but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to positively impact the world we live in.

All you need to get started is a recent energy bill. Next, compare prices online. There are lots of places to do this, like our free energy comparison service. Or, to make life even easier, you can just email your latest bill to mybill@bigcleanswitch.org and we’ll email you back with a quote. 

The best bit is that once you’ve chosen a supplier, they’ll sort everything else out for you. No hassle, no fee and no disruption to your service. So take it from us – it can be so simple to get cheaper, cleaner energy from the supplier of your choice, even when you’re renting!