Utilities such as gas, electricity and water are daily essentials and often their cost isn’t something we give much thought.
However, falling into financial difficulty and debt with utility bills isn’t as difficult as you may think.
From price hikes by energy companies to lost bills or wildly inaccurate estimates there are a whole host of reasons why someone could struggle to repay their utility bills.
Regardless of the reason, it’s important not to ignore any problems that may arise surrounding this type of debt.
Hiding from the problem or pretending it isn’t happening won’t make the issue go away and it is important to have a proactive approach should you find yourself falling behind on payments.
How do people fall behind with utility bills?
As touched on above, there are many reasons why a person may fall behind on their utility bills. Here we examine some of the most common reasons why people struggle to keep up with payments.
- Price rises: Energy companies are known to up their prices regularly which can be a pain point for people already struggling with their finances. If prices rise by hundreds of pounds over the course of a few years, bills can quickly become too difficult to manage.
- Incorrect estimates: Problems can also arise when estimates are calculated incorrectly. This typically means people will be charged for higher usage and face a much higher bill as a result.
- Human error: Sometimes there’s no denying that we all make mistakes – it’s just human nature. Losing a bill might sound like a silly excuse for falling behind on payments but the reality is sometimes it happens.
- Company switch: Changing providers can come with a price tag attached and it isn’t unheard of for people to be faced with bills from missed payments from a previous provider if the system hasn’t been updated.
- Weather: Britain is known for having unpredictable weather and this can lead to higher utility bills – especially when hit with a cold snap or rainy and blustery days.
- Unexpected expenses: The beauty of life is that it isn’t predictable but that isn’t helpful when it comes to planning our finances. When unexpected expenses pop up these often-become top priority and can leave people without the funds to cover their bills.
How can I stay on top of utility bill debt?
If you find yourself struggling to repay utility bill debt, it’s important to be open and honest about your situation with your supplier.
By speaking to the utility companies, you can arrange to spread the cost of what you owe over a period of time. It will also allow you to discuss potentially having a pre-payment meter installed to prevent future debts building up.
You should also check if you are entitled to additional financial support to cover the cost of your utility bills. If you receive benefits you may be able to have payments made directly to the utility companies through the Fuel Direct scheme which will save you having to organise payment yourself.
This can be a good option if you face having your energy supply being cut off as it shows suppliers you are prepared to repay what you owe.
For further information about the Fuel Direct scheme, please speak to a member of staff at your local Jobcentre Plus.
How can I avoid utility bill debt?
Utility bills are a priority payment, however, that doesn’t mean that finding the cash to cover what you owe is easy – especially for those already living in financial hardship. However, there are steps you can take to avoid this type of debt.
- Check comparisons: Taking the time to compare prices from different companies might seem time-consuming but can save you money in the long run. It can be all too easy to stick with a supplier out of habit, but the reality is they might not offer the best deal. You could save hundreds of pounds a year by switching.
- Budget: Don’t forget to add utility bills into your monthly budget. Always make sure you have the money set aside to ensure you’re never caught short.
- Automated payments: Setting up automated payments with your supplier, on a date you know you will have money, is a sure-fire way to never miss a payment.
What should I do if I have utility bill debt?
If you are struggling to cover the cost of your utility bills isn’t something to be ashamed of. It happens to thousands of people across the country. However, it is vital that you don’t ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away.
If you find yourself unable to pay what you owe, speak to your utility company and arrange a payment plan to repay what you owe.
Honesty is always the best policy.
However, if you’re still struggling you should speak to a debt advice specialist to discuss the options available to you.
If you’re struggling with utility bill debt, talk to our resident debt expert TAD. Discover free and confidential advice tailored to your situation.