Services in and for the home
Water is supplied to all homes in the UK. The charge for this is
called the water rates. When you move in to a new home (bought or
rented), you should receive a letter telling you the name of the
company responsible for supplying your water. The water rates may be
paid in one payment (a lump sum) or in instalments, usually monthly. If
you receive Housing Benefit, you should check to see if this covers the
water rates. The cost of the water usually depends on the size of your
property, but some homes have a water meter which tells you exactly how
much water you have used. In Northern Ireland water is currently (2006)
included in the domestic rates, although this may change in future.
Electricity and gas
All properties in the UK have electricity supplied at 240 volts.
Most homes also have gas. When you move into a new home or leave an old
one, you should make a note of the electricity and gas meter readings.
If you have an urgent problem with your gas, electricity or water
supply, you can ring a 24-hour helpline. This can be found on your
bill, in the Yellow Pages or in the phone book.
Gas and electricity suppliers
It is possible to choose between different gas and electricity
suppliers. These have different prices and different terms and
conditions. Get advice before you sign a contract with a new supplier.
To find out which company supplies your gas, telephone Transco on 0870
To find out which company supplies your electricity, telephone Energywatch on 0845 906 0708 or visit: www.energywatch.org.uk . Energywatch can also give you advice on changing your supplier of electricity or gas.
Most homes already have a telephone line (called a land line). If
you need a new line, telephone BT on 150 442, or contact a cable
company. Many companies offer land line, mobile telephone and broadband
internet services. You can get advice about prices or about changing
your company from Ofcom at www.ofcom.org.uk .
You can call from public payphones using cash, pre-paid phonecards or
credit or debit cards. Calls made from hotels and hostels are usually
more expensive Dial 999 or 112 for emergency calls for police, fire or
ambulance service. These calls are free. Do not use these numbers if it
is not a real emergency; you can always find the local numbers for
these services in the phone book.
Information on how to pay for water, gas, electricity and the
telephone is found on the back of each bill. If you have a bank account
you can pay your bills by standing order or direct debit. Most
companies operate a budget scheme which allows you to pay a fixed sum
every month. If you do not pay a bill, the service can be cut off. To
get a service reconnected, you have to pay another charge.
Refuse is also called waste, or rubbish. The local authority
collects the waste regularly, usually on the same day of each week.
Waste must be put outside in a particular place to get collected. In
some parts of the country the waste is put into plastic bags, in others
it is put into bins with wheels. In many places you must recycle your
rubbish, separating paper, glass, metal or plastic from the other
rubbish. Large objects which you want to throwaway, such as a bed, a
wardrobe or a fridge, need to be collected separately. Contact the
local authority to arrange this. If you have a business, such as a
factory or a shop, you must make special arrangements with the local
authority for your waste to be collected. It is a criminal offence to
dump rubbish anywhere.
Local government services, such as education, police, roads, refuse
collection and libraries, are paid for partly by grants from the
government and partly by Council Tax. In Northern Ireland there is a
system of domestic rates instead of the Council Tax. The amount of
Council Tax you pay depends on the size and value of your house or flat
(dwelling). You must register to pay Council Tax when you move into a
new property, either as the owner or the tenant You can pay the tax in
one payment, in two instalments, or in ten instalments (from April to
If only one person lives in the flat or house, you get a 25%
reduction on your Council Tax. (This does not apply in Northern
Ireland). You may also get a reduction if someone in the property has a
disability. People on a low income or who receive benefits such as
Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance can get Council Tax Benefit.
You can get advice on this from the local authority or the Citizens
Buildings and household insurance
If you buy a home with a mortgage, you must insure the building
against fire, theft and accidental damage. The landlord should arrange
insurance for rented buildings. It is also wise to insure your
possessions against theft or damage. There are many companies that
If you live in rented accommodation, you will have a tenancy
agreement. This explains all the conditions of your tenancy. It will
probably include information on what to do if you have problems with
your housing. Occasionally, there may be problems with your neighbours.
If you do have problems with your neighbours, they can usually be
solved by speaking to them first. If you cannot solve the problem,
speak to your landlord, local authority or housing association. Keep a
record of the problems in case you have to show exactly what the
problems are and when they started. Neighbours who cause a very serious
nuisance may be taken to court and can be evicted from their home.
There are several mediation organisations which help neighbours to
solve their disputes without having to go to court. Mediators talk to
both sides and try to find a solution acceptable to both. You can get
details of mediation organisations from the local authority, Citizens
Advice, and Mediation UK on 0117 904 6661 or visit: www.mediationuk.co.uk .