Utilities and Water Rates on Empty Properties

Clearway
Utilities and Water Rates on Empty Properties
Utilities and Water Rates on Empty Properties

With ever-increasing energy prices, it’s essential for landlords, commercial owners and investors to keep up to speed with the costs of paying for utilities for their empty properties. As the vacant property experts, the Clearway team has compiled this short guide to recap everything you need to know, with a few pointers about avoiding unnecessary expenses.

There are countless reasons you might end up with an empty building on your hands:

  • Owning a rental premise that is between tenants.
  • Buying a new property in need of renovation.
  • Purchasing a buy-to-sell home intended for resale.
  • Inheriting a property you don’t yet have a plan for.

Dealing with Electricity and Gas Bills for a Vacant Property

First, we’ll look at gas and electricity, because they’re the utilities that are likely to put you most out of pocket.

Not sure whether to disconnect your power supply altogether? A lot depends on how long you expect the property to be vacant.

If you’re in the middle of a void period and are actively looking for a new tenant or have a home on the market, switching everything off is rarely a wise choice.

Most of the risk applies to stagnant water (we’ll explain that shortly) but turning off the other utilities could also be a mistake:

  • Contractors and tradespeople will need the power to use tools.
  • Viewings are negatively affected if you have insufficient lighting.
  • Most providers will charge a disconnection fee.
  • In the winter, pipes are susceptible to freezing and bursting without heating.
  • You’ll need to go onto a waiting list to be reconnected – with a second reconnection charge.
  • Leaving utilities disconnected can attract squatters and vandals.
  • The risk of dampness, rot and mould rises exponentially without any heat.

However, if you’re unsure of your plans, it may well be worth switching everything off, avoiding a standing charge, and mitigating any potential fire risks associated with a live gas and electricity supply running to an empty building.

You may also need to consult your insurance company who may have stipulations for a utility drain down if the property is to remain empty.

Vacant Property

What Does Gas and Electricity Cost if the Property is Empty?

Rates vary across the UK, but we’ve looked through some of the biggest suppliers to give you a rough indication of what you might expect to pay.

A standing charge is based on a daily rate, and it’s a cost you’ll be billed for even if you use zero energy.

The charges depend on whether you pay via direct debit, cash or cheque or have a prepayment meter installed.

You’ll also find that prices differ between regions – for example, EDF Energy charges a daily electricity fee of 57.79p for a cash customer in the South West, but 37.25p in London on the same account.

Supplier Electricity standing charge (per day) Gas standing charge (per day)
British Gas £0.45 – £0.51 £0.27 – £0.37
EDF Energy £0.37 – £0.58 £0.27 – £0.37
Scottish Power £0.23 – £0.28 £0.26 – £0.35
EON (Economy 7) £0.36 – £0.54 £0.26 – £0.31
SSE £0.42 – £0.57 £0.27 – £0.37

Although the cost per day is relatively small, it quickly adds up.

A standard residential house could incur around £180 a year on the lowest possible tariffs and substantially more for a residential block or larger commercial premises.

Do I Need to Pay Water Bills for a Vacant Property?

It isn’t always easy to know whether to leave the water connected to an empty site.

On the one hand, you don’t want to pay charges for a service you aren’t using. Leaving water sitting in pipes and toilets can cause a huge health risk (including exposure to Legionnaires disease) and invite infestations and rot.

On the flip side you will need to pay for disconnection, and pay again when you want the water supply reinstated.

There are often waiting lists too for a reconnection service, and you will not be able to begin a new tenancy or carry out repair works if there is no running water at the property.

What Does the Water Supply Cost if the Property is Empty?

Like electricity and gas suppliers, water companies bill based on a standing charge and how much water you have used.

Standing charges are usually annual rather than daily, and we’ve looked at a handful of the biggest UK suppliers to give you an idea of what that might look like:

Supplier Water supply standing charge (per year)
Southern Water £71.24+
Portsmouth Water £108.40+
United Utilities £131.70+
SES Water £35.63 – £178.20
Scottish Water £171.36+
Yorkshire Water £120.95+

These rates are estimates – some water companies include every fixed charge within their standing charge rates, such as surface water drainage.

Others will publish one annual standing charge, but with multiple additions broken down into fees, including a cost for each meter reading.

Should I Disconnect the Utilities and Water From a Vacant Property?

Our general advice is to leave your utilities running at a minimal level if you don’t expect the property to be vacant for long term.

Clearway’s vacant property services include utility drain downs, vacant property cleaning and clearance, as well as regular property inspections to keep your vacant premises well maintained and ready to sell or let. Our vacant property security services include empty property alarms, concrete barriers and steel screens and doors, so you have complete peace of mind that your vacant property is safe and secure in your absence.

There are also several steps you can take to safeguard against unnecessary charges:

  • Take meter readings for each and every utility on the last day of the tenancy.
  • Install water, gas and electricity meters (most utility suppliers will provide these).
  • Ensure the account is switched into your name with up to date billing details.
  • Turn off all plug sockets, appliances and taps.

The best solution is to hire a contractor to isolate your supply, drain down the water and ensure that you aren’t leaving a vacant property exposed to leaks, power surges, fire hazards and burst pipes.

Investing in vacant property alarms, periodic appraisals and draining down your pipework is a worthwhile investment and will mean you can substantially reduce the costs of maintaining an empty building while mitigating the most severe risks.

If you need further advice about utilities and water rates on empty properties, how to manage those expenses, or preserving the condition of a vacant unit, please get in touch with the expert team at Clearway – we secure, monitor and protect.

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