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How to pay your bills when sharing a flat

If you're going to share an apartment, it's important to be clear about who is going to handle the bills. As a general rule, it is recommended that the contract holder be the person that is going to use the service.

More than 20% of Spaniards live in rented properties and many of them share a flat with others. This is an upward trend, which also enables certain expenses to be shared, such as utility bills.

Sharing a flat without clarifying these issues first, is sure to lead to arguments that can ruin the whole experience of living together. As soon as you meet, it is worth everyone involved (the landlord and the tenants) agreeing on the following issues.

 

What does the landlord have to pay?

The Law enables the landlord and tenants to agree on how to distribute a series of expenses. But it is essential to pay attention to the flat rental agreement, because the terms of this agreement are fully enforceable.

But if the agreement does not state anything (or if you are not sure what to include), the following is normal and fair:

  • Tenants pay utility expenses for the items used by them (electricity, gas, water…).
  • The owner tends to pay for insurance, Real Estate Tax and other taxes.

 

Changing the utility account name

It is also logical for the person enjoying a supply (electricity, gas…) to be the account holder thereof. Ideally, the holder of the electricity or gas contract should be one of the tenants.

On the one hand, because the account holder is responsible for the bills and for possible debts that may be generated. On the other hand, because the account holders shall have access to detailed consumption information enabling them to save and have a more efficient home.

“You must be the account holder in order to fully understand the bill.”

When you take on a rented flat, the utilities account will be in the landlord’s name or perhaps a previous tenant that has already left. In both cases the name of the account holder needs to be changed: it is a simple process and totally free of charge.

In a shared house, you must establish who will be the account holder. Ideally it should be someone with an interest in the subject and who will make the most of the amount of kWh of electricity used during each hour of each day, for example.

You could also choose to share responsibilities; one person could be the account holder for electricity and another for gas (however this will not enable you to benefit from the advantages of signing up for them together).

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How much does each tenant pay?

The amount of rent to be paid by each tenant can also be specified in the rental agreement. However, this is not very common; normally the total sum of the bill is divided between the number of tenants.

There are ways of breaking it down even further. There are consumption meters that tell you how much power each electrical appliance or device has used during every hour of the day. If expenses are going to be distributed in an inquisitorial manner, you can find out how much of the bill refers to a specific computer or a particular weekend in which one of the tenants was alone.

It is worth clearly stating what action is to be taken in any given situation. What would happen if one month a tenant decided not to pay their share? If the conflict worsens, it is advisable to call the landlord to mediate.

“Before starting the rental, you need to establish how the electricity and gas bills are going to be paid.”
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