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Utility Guide to Renting

Before signing the lease for your new apartment, understand what your utilities will be like before writing your name on the dotted line. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, your residential utility consumer advocate, has resources to help you understand utility service, how to read your bill, speak to door-to-door solicitors, respond to marketing offers, and even save you money.

Setting up service
Refer to your rental agreement to learn who is responsible for setting up utility service. Is utility service the landlord’s responsibility or yours?

If you are responsible for establishing the utility service, your utility will want to ensure your financial responsibility and may run a credit check. If you do not have a sufficient credit history, or if you have had your utility service disconnected for nonpayment, you may be required to pay a deposit for setting up new service.

Once you have reviewed the lease and determined who is responsible for the utility services, you should familiarize yourself with common utility issues and read our tips for renters.

Know simple ways to save money
There are simple, low-cost ways every renter can save money. A common energy-wasting culprit is standby power, also known as “vampire power,” and according to ENERGY STAR the average U.S. household spends $100 on devices using vampire power. Many common household electronics, like microwaves, televisions and phone chargers, are using power while they are plugged in but not in use. The average home has 25 electronic devices, and their combined vampire power usage can be surprising. Our fact sheets have information about the power used by devices in standby mode and other smart tips to save you energy and money.

Understand what you’re paying
Read your bill every month, and understand the charges. Some Ohio utility consumers have reported their natural gas or electric supplier was switched illegally or “slammed” by energy marketers. Unauthorized charges are sometimes “crammed” onto long, confusing bills. If you don’t understand the charges or recognize companies on your bill, you may be paying for services you didn’t authorize.

If you have a question about your bill, refer to our fact sheets for an explanation of common billing charges. If your billing questions still aren’t answered, call your utility company.

Pay your bill as soon as possible to avoid late fees or missing a payment. For the convenience of online or over-the-phone payments, a consumer may be charged a fee each time a payment is made. Before using these methods to pay your bill, check if any charges apply for the service.

Look out for submetering
Some Ohio residents in new apartments or condominiums are not receiving bills from their utility company. Instead, they are receiving bills from a third-party, submetering company. Submetering companies place a meter in each unit in a housing complex and record each unit’s usage individually. However, some submetering companies have overcharged consumers up to 40 percent.

Before signing the lease, check for utility-related information. If your service is submetered or you suspect it may be submetered, research the utility company with the Better Business Bureau, talk to your landlord and speak with current residents to ensure you are being charged correctly.

Laws protecting consumers from excessive overcharging are being considered. Until such laws are in place, you must be cautious.

Understand your energy choices
Ohioans have an energy choice to make: who will supply my electricity and natural gas? It is very common for energy marketers to solicit renters by phone, by mail or door-to-door. However, you are under no obligation to select an energy marketer; there is no guarantee you will save money by switching to an energy marketer. Don’t feel pressured by solicitors to switch suppliers. It is also strongly recommended that you do not show your utility bills or give out account numbers to solicitors. Understand your energy choices with our fact sheets.

Contact the OCC
We are your utility advocate, and we are here to answer your questions. Send your questions to occ@occ.ohio.gov. We also have an online contact form you can use to ask questions. We have information on more utility topics on our list of publications. Follow us on Twitter for fact sheets and other resources @OhioUtilityUser.

Complaints
Given resource limits, we are currently assisting consumers with complaints about two types of utility service issues. If you have a complaint about a utility service that is resold to you by a middleman company (also known as submetering). And please contact us if you have a complaint about basic wireline phone service.

You may contact us online, call the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) at 1-877-742-5622, locally at (614) 466-9467 or e-mail your inquiry to occ@occ.ohio.gov.

You may also write us at:

Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel
65 East State Street, 7th Floor 
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4213

If you have an issue with your utility service not listed above, please contact the PUCO know via their online complaint form. Complaints and questions may also be made over the phone at 1-800-686-7826, or write to the PUCO at:

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio 
ATTN: IAD
180 E. Broad St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3793

For complaints about non-utility matters, contact the Ohio Attorney General at 1-800-282-0515.

Contact Your School
There are resources to help students who are moving off-campus, commuting or graduating. Visit your college or university’s website for information about housing and events. This list is only a sample of housing offices from Ohio colleges and universities. For more information, contact your higher education institution.

Institution Office
University of Akron Off-Campus Living
Bowling Green State University Off-Campus Student Services
Case Western Reserve University Division of Student Affairs
University of Cincinnati Division of Student Affairs, Office of the Provost
Cleveland State University Department of Student Life
University of Dayton Office of Student Development
John Carroll University Office of Residence Life
Kent State University Commuter and Off-Campus Student Organization
Miami University Off-Campus Outreach, Division of Student Affairs
Ohio University Division of Student Affairs
The Ohio State University Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services
University of Toledo Commuter Student Services
Wright State University Student Support Services
Xavier University Commuter Services and Off Campus Living
Youngstown State University Housing and Residence Life

 

Other resources for renters