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
- Know simple ways to save money
- Understand what you’re paying
- Look out for submetering
- Understand your energy choices
- Contact the OCC
Setting up service
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.
- Electric Bill Made Easy
- Natural Gas Bill Made Easy
- A Guide to Your Water Bill and Service
- How to Avoid Utility-Related Scams and Fraud
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.
- Reselling of utility service (submetering) and proposed legislation
- Utility Service for Tenants (Submetering)
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.
- OCC Energy Choice Videos
- How to Make Wise Energy Choices
Contact the OCC
We are your utility advocate, and we are here to answer your questions. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 @OCC4Consumers.
We are currently assisting consumers with complaints about two types of utility service issues, submetering and Basic Local Exchange Service (BLES) landline telephone. If you have a complaint about a utility service that is resold to you by a middleman company (also known as submetering), we are currently directing customers to the Ohio Attorney General at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Consumers/File-A-Complaint.aspx or at 1-800-282-0515 (toll free in Ohio) or (614) 466-4986 (local).
You may also write us at:
Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel
65 East State Street, Suite 700
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
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.
|University of Akron
|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
|Off-Campus Outreach, Division of Student Affairs
|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
|Commuter Services and Off Campus Living
|Youngstown State University
|Housing and Residence Life
Other resources for renters
- Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio – COHHIO is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to ending homelessness and to promoting decent, safe, fair, affordable housing for all, with a focus on assisting low-income and special needs populations.
- Public Utilities Commission of Ohio – The PUCO accepts utility service complaints. They have information about establishing utility service, rate plans and how the PUCO works for you.
- Ohio Attorney General – For complaints about non-utility matters, or call 1-800-282-0515.
- Ohio Consumer Protection – A complete listing of Ohio resources and agencies for consumer protection, including links to submit complaints.
- Ohio Department of Insurance – Learn more about renters insurance.
- Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation – Find an attorney or self-help legal materials.
- Ohio Legal Help - Resources for Ohioans in need of legal assistance for a variety of reasons, including housing, families, debt, court appearances, public benefits, seniors, traffic, utilities, scams, ID theft and consumer fraud.
- Ohio Landlord/Tenant Law: Tenant Resources – Franklin County Law Library.
- ORC 5321 Landlord and tenants – The Ohio Revised Code chapter about landlord and tenant laws.
- ORC 5323 Residential Rental Property – The Ohio Revised Code chapter about renting laws.
- HUD in Ohio - Find complete listings of resources for renting in Ohio from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- HUD Complaints – File a housing complaint about a variety of issues at HUD’s online complaint form.
- HUD Rental Help: Ohio – Find resources if you need help paying rent.
- HUD Public Housing Agency Websites: Ohio – Find a housing agency in your area.
- HUD Tenant Rights, Laws and Protections: Ohio – Know your responsibilities as a tenant.
Ohio's Legal Aids
- Akron/Canton/Youngstown – Community Legal Aid
- Cleveland – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
- Cincinnati – Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati
- Columbus – Legal Aid Society of Columbus
- Dayton – Legal Aid of Western Ohio
- Southeast Ohio – Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
- Toledo – Toledo Legal Aid Society