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How Your Credit Affects Utility Services

When you move into a new place, you will usually have to pay for utilities such as water, electricity, and gas, unless your new place already has these utilities included in your monthly rent. Think of applying for utilities as applying for credit because like other creditors, utility companies will ask you for your social security number in order to check your credit history and utility payment history. Just like applying for credit cards and a car loan, good credit will make it easier for you to be able to get services while having bad credit will make it more difficult.

Depending on your history, you may be required to pay a deposit or will be denied service altogether.

If this is your first time applying for a utility service or have poor payment history you may need to pay a deposit or get a letter of guarantee from someone who agrees to pay your bill if you don’t. It’s important to note that the company’s policy to request letters of guarantee of deposits must be the same for all customers. For example, if this applies to new customers, then ALL new customers must provide either the letter or deposit as well. If you are denied utility service, you have a right to know why you were not approved. The company must send you the specific reasons or advise you of your right to get those reasons within 30 days of their decision. You have 60 days of the company’s decision to submit in writing your request.

Lowering your utility bills

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states on their site that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that over half of your energy bills comes from cooling or heating your home. This can be especially true for very cold or very hot months, depending on where you live. If you live in Miami, you know how brutal it is to step foot aside during the Summer, no matter the time of day! However, there are some way that you can save money throughout the year:

  • Check your utility company’s website, bill inserts or brochures as they may offer tips on conserving electricity, water and gas.
  • You can find out about budget billing plans. Essentially what this plan does is allow you to pay a flat fee each month for services which can help you budget your monthly expenses. Eventually you will have to pay any amount you’ve incurred above your flat monthly fee, but it may help you keep your use at a minimum to avoid a really high charge down the road.
  • Contact your state’s consumer protection office as they may offer tips on conserving energy. To find your state’s consumer protection agency, visit the site below and select your state or territory:
  • Ever heard of an energy audit? This audit helps you find out where you are wasting energy and how efficiently your heating and cooling systems are working. You can find the DIY energy audit tool of the Department of Energy’s website here:

Problems paying your utility bills?

If you fall behind on paying your utilities, contact the utility company immediately to find out if a payment arrangement is an option. Many times, companies will continue your services if you pay a portion of the bill that’s overdue and catch up with all payments. A few things to keep in mind about making payment arrangements are:

  • The company may require that you still make future payments on time and in full while still paying off your past due balance.
  • Your services may be disconnected if you do not make payments as agreed and if in the future you need future arrangements, the company may not honor it.
  • Since you are not paying

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