Debt help for addressing money owed to gas or electricity companies
Utility Debts overview
If you can’t pay any or all your utility bills you must speak with your providers. Unlike other forms of debt, utility companies are motivated to work with you as they only stop supply in extreme circumstances.
If you miss multiple repayments your supplier(s) can use a debt collection agency to recover the debt you owe and apply for a court order to enter your property and install a pre-payment metre.
Should this happen, your arrears will be added onto the pre-payment metre, and you would repay the debt at a set amount from your top-ups.
If you don’t top up during one week, the arrears would then be deducted from the following week (once you top up). As an example, if you had to repay £10 per week and made no repayments in week one, in week two you’d need to top up at least £20 just to cover the arrears.
Utility suppliers can and do cut off properties from supply, although this is only in the rarest of instances.
Debt help tips for tackling Utility Debts
With a utility bill to pay, you now have three options:
- Pay the bill in full
- Contact your supplier to spread out the cost of the arears over a set period of time
- Request that your supplier fits a pre-payment meter to help you both clear the arrears and avoid future arrears from accruing once more.
Where can I get help to pay my utility bill arrears?
If you currently receive benefits you can choose to repay what you owe through a scheme called third party deductions (also known as Fuel Direct). This would send a portion of your benefits directly to your utility supplier, based on an estimate of how much gas and/or electricity you use each week.
There are also schemes that are designed to help those who are on a low income or who receive specific benefits. Find out more via this guide from Step Change: support towards your gas and electricity bills.
Worried about debts that won't go away?
Why is my utility bill higher than expected?
If your utility bill is far higher than expected then you should run through some key checks before speaking with your supplier. Ask…
Is your metre reading reflecting the figures on the bill?
If your bill is estimated it may be that you can provide your accurate readings to receive an updated, lower bill.
Were the previous metre readings correct?
If past bills have been based on low estimates, your new bill, which is based on accurate readings, may include some ‘debt’ owed from the last month or quarter.
Have you provided a reading from the right metre?
Make sure that you’re providing the readings from the correct metre (e.g. either your electricity or gas).
Have you recently changed tariffs?
If your bills have jumped and you’ve not purchased a new appliance or switched from the warmer seasons to winter, then you may have been moved onto a different tariff. Utility suppliers are obliged to write to you to inform you of any change in tariff, however you may have missed the letter and/or email.
When did you last switch suppliers?
Consumers are famously reluctant to change utility suppliers, yet many could be overpaying by more than £300 per year.
Just be aware that your account must have no more than £500 owing before you’re allowed to switch.
After handling your utility bill arrears, you should take steps to ensure you don’t get into debt again. Start by looking at ways to drive down your energy usage.
IVAs – A potential debt solution for utility bill debt
In many cases utility bill debt racks up because the homeowner has other debts that they’re struggling to keep up with. If this sounds familiar, an Individual Voluntary Arrangement may be a debt solution worth researching.
IVAs are a type of debt settlement, which last for either 60 or 72 months. The monthly repayment amount is decided after analyzing your income and expenditure, which ensures that you can truly afford the ongoing payments.