Utilities include your gas, electric, water and sewer services. There are also other common services that the landlord may require you to pay for, such as garbage and recycling pickup. You will need to arrange for electric and gas services and may or may not need to arrange to pay for water and sewer. Internet and cable services are not considered utilities. You will have to arrange for them yourself.
Some Important Things to Consider About Utilities
Are utilities covered by the landlord?
Some utilities may be included in your rent. You will need to ask the landlord whether any utilities are included. Often, but not always, water and sewer are included in the rent.
Obtaining Utilities in Your Name
When you rent your own home, you will need to get utilities in your name.
If you have never had utilities in your name before, you will probably need to pay a deposit to the utility company. If you have DDA waiver services, transition services can help you pay this deposit.
Utilities in Your Name
If you have had utilities in your name before and owe money to the utility company, you will probably not be able to get them at your new home until you have paid off the bill you owe. You can contact the utility company to set up a repayment plan. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible if you are interested in renting a home. The more time you have to pay off your debt, the better.
Assistance with Utility Payments
You may be eligible for assistance with past due utility bills through the Maryland DHS Office of Home Energy Programs. The program will pay up to $2,000 in past due utility bills for qualifying households. For more information, go toApplying for Energy Assistance – Maryland Department of Human Services
Assistance with Utility Company Disputes
The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel provides assistance with utility company disputes. You can find more information here at the Maryland Office Of People’s Counsel website.
211 Maryland will help you navigate the maze of assistance programs. They will show you how to apply and common mistakes that you can avoid. 211 Maryland is also available 24/7/365 to answer questions and connect you with resources.
Maryland Energy Assistance
Getting energy assistance will not reduce other public assistance that you may receive, including but not limited to food stamps or Social Security benefits. The utility assistance does not have to be paid back.
There are a number of grants available for heat, electricity, past-due accounts and weatherization.
Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
MEAP, nationally-known as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), is a federally-funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills. LIHEAP can help you stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of health and safety problems (such as illness, fire, or eviction).
The Maryland LIHEAP program may be able to offer you one or more of the following types of assistance:
- Bill payment assistance.
- Energy crisis assistance.
- Weatherization and energy-related home repairs.
Saving on Utility Bills
It is important to be careful with utilities. It is easy to run up a big bill and get into financial trouble. The two services that are most likely to cause your utility bill to be higher include heat and air conditioning. If you are careful with these – keeping the heat set between 68 to 70 degrees in winter and the AC set to between 76 and 78 in summer – you will save a lot of money. In addition, it’s good to turn off lights in the room when you aren’t using them and turn your thermostat up in summer or down in winter when you will be away from your home, turn off the TV when you aren’t actively watching it and keeping windows closed when the heat or AC are on. For more tips on saving money on electric bills, go to www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/energy_savers.pdf.
Setting Up Utilities
You may need to arrange for electric, gas, water/sewer and internet/cable services at your new home. Below is a list of resources that can help you accomplish this.
Electric Providers in Maryland
Maryland residents are now able to choose who supplies their electricity. Customers of municipal electric systems and some rural cooperative systems are the exceptions – see “Areas not participating.” Your local utility, now called your electric company, will still deliver the electricity to your home, but you can choose another company to generate the electricity, if other companies are making an offer in your area.
To evaluate the price being offered by an electricity supplier, you will want to compare the supplier’s rate to the rate charged by your electric company and any other competitive suppliers that are offering electricity to your area. Electric companies in Maryland post their rates for residential customers on their web sites. See the list of electric company web sites in the column on the left. To find out about the rates offered by electricity suppliers in your area you will need to contact those suppliers directly.
POTOMAC ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY (PEPCO)
- Service Area: PEPCO provides electric and gas to Mongomery and Prince George’s Counties.
- How to start service: Fill out the form online or call 202.833.7500.
Deposit: In most cases, there is no deposit. However, if you have an outstanding PEPCO bill, previously disconnected service, delinquent payment history or caused interference with electric service, you will pay a deposit of $100 or twice the “normal” monthly bill amount, whichever amount is less. The deposit is returned when service is properly disconnected or after 12 months of successful payments, whichever happens first.
Potomac Edison provides electricity to parts of Montgomery, Howard, Frederick and Carroll Counties.
How to start service: Request new service online or call 888.544.4877.
Deposit: PotomacEdison checks your credit score to determine whether or not a security deposit is required. Interest from the deposit is credited back to you on each month’s bill. The deposit amount is returned after 12 consecutive months of payments (if ten or more payments were paid on-time).
BALTIMORE GAS & ELECTRIC (BGE)
Service Area: BGE serves Baltimore City, along with parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Contact BGE to see if your new address is included in this territory. To have power on when you arrive, contact BGE at least three business days before the move-in date.
How to start service: Fill out the form online or call 800.685.0123.
Deposit: New customers will likely pay a security deposit that equals 16.67% of the estimated annual charges for service, which is paid back to the customer after a full year of successful payments.
Water and Sewer
Renting – Many landlords include water and sewer in the rent. If your landlord does not include this, you should ask them which company to contact to have service turned on in your name.
When you purchase a home in the state of Maryland, the title company facilitates the transfer of service for water service in most cases. If your new residence has an inside meter, note the seven-digit water meter reading and have it available at the closing.
Cable and Internet
The cable and Internet service in your community may be limited to one or two providers. It is also sometimes limited due to agreements the landlord has made for emergency alarm systems which are operated through the internet provider. It’s best to ask the landlord which options are available to you in your new home.
As with many media companies, you save money if you purchase both cable and internet services from Verizon although many bundled packages require long-term contracts. However, ordering either standalone cable or internet is possible. If your home does not currently have FiOS, check the availability in your area.
How to start service: Order packages online or call 877.225.9137.
Deposit: Many current promotions eliminate the deposit and set-up fees. There may be equipment rental fees added to your bill, though.
Like Verizon, Xfinity offers the best rates for long-term contracts that include both cable and Internet. However, you can order either cable or internet as a separate service.
How to start service: Order your package(s) online, chat with a representative on their website, visit an Xfinity store, or call 800.934.6489.
Deposit: There are typically activation and/or installation fees that range from $50-90, depending on what work needs to be completed. There may also be equipment rental fees added to your bill.
RCN is a media company that serves the American northeast, including the DMV. Many plans have 12-month pricing, although you do not always need to sign a contract to use RCN as a provider. You can save money by bundling cable and internet services.
How to start service: Order online or call 800.746.4726.
If you are moving to Somerset County, Spectrum Internet and Cable is an option for you.
How to start service: Shop the offers online or call 866.892.4249.
Deposit: A soft credit check is completed for each new customer, which will determine the amount paid in the first month’s bill and installation fees.
Landlords often prohibit installation of satellite TV equipment for your apartment. If your landlord allows satellite TV, the following information can be helpful. The best satellite packages typically involve 12- or 24-month contracts and often have promotional elements that expire after a certain amount of time. Many people still choose to use satellite TV for live and streaming television.
How to start service: Call 877.660.0107.
Deposit: Deposits may be required for equipment.
How to start service: Order online or call 855.587.0782.
Deposit: One-time fees may be required for the equipment you use.
Assistance with Paying for Internet and Mobile Phone Service
The Maryland Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide a subsidy of up to $15 per month toward a low-income household’s internet service cost. This is in addition to the Federal ACP program, which provides $45 toward internet service each month. To obtain the Maryland Emergency Broadband benefit, you must be enrolled in the federal ACP program.
If you rent, your personal belongings will not be protected against loss or damage unless you have a renters insurance policy. Your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants. However, this coverage does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap) or to others who are injured at your property (e.g., a trip and fall over toys or furniture). Since we never know what will happen, it’s always highly recommended that you get renter’s insurance. The cost of renter’s insurance is low – typically between $15-30 each month.
Renter’s insurance provides you with four kinds of benefits:
- loss or damage to household contents or personal possessions;
- additional living expenses in the event of a covered loss that makes your home, apartment or condominium uninhabitable;
- liability coverage for injuries to others and/or their property while they are on your property; and
- medical payments to others.
For more information on renter’s insurance and how to compare policies, go to HomeownersAndRentersInsurance