Switching energy supplier as a tenant

Think you can't switch your energy supplier because you live in rented accommodation?

It is a common misconception that, unlike homeowners, tenants cannot switch energy providers and hunt for a better deal. If you are renting property, pay your own energy bills and think you can find a better deal elsewhere, you have full right to do so.

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Residential tenants in Ireland that pay their own gas and electricity bills are entitled to switch their electricity and gas supplier, just like any regular homeowner or property owner. If however you are a tenant with a landlord that takes care of the gas and electricity payments on your behalf, you still have the right to know your options and what you can be charged.

Tenants in Ireland might be reluctant to switch energy suppliers as many are unsure about their entitlements. This is disheartening, given that a thorough search of the market and switching to a different supplier can lead to annual savings of up to . If you are a tenant, and especially if you are renting a large property, you want to consider the options available to you.

This guide is here to help tenants in Ireland understand their options and be smart with their landlords - read this guide and don’t miss out.

Changing your gas & electricity supplier

If you are the one responsible for paying your energy bills, then you have the freedom to switch. You can even do so without formally letting your landlord know – it is best here to check your tenancy agreement, as it may stipulate that you must make any such actions known to the landlord. If there is nothing mentioned in the tenancy agreement then you are not obliged to inform your landlord. However it is always best if you do so anyway. Good tenants always inform their landlords!

Landlord energy bill management

In contrast, if your landlord pays the bills or does so on behalf of an agent, then you do not have the right to change gas and electricity suppliers. To be entitled to make a switch, it must be you who is in direct contact with the supplier.

However, if you have a lenient, understanding landlord (and especially if you know you can find a cheaper deal with a new supplier), then you can always ask them to change energy suppliers on your behalf. Bear in mind however that in this case the landlord is not obliged to do so.

Understanding landlord energy charges

The relationship between you and your energy bills is outlined in your tenancy agreement. Landlords can charge you for energy if it is outlined in the agreement, and in this case you do not have to pay anything directly to the supplier.

This is a common situation for Irish tenants who are renting a house or apartment and make payments for their energy use directly to their landlords.

How landlords calculate your energy use

There are two methods that landlords use to calculate your energy use and consequent energy bills. Your landlord should be using one of them:

  • Metered calculations: The first method makes use of gas and electricity metres to accurately record your energy usage. In this case you should be charged based on the amount of units you use.
  • Non-metered calculations: The second method is where the landlord uses their own method to calculate your energy usage, without using a metre. In this case, on request your landlord must be able to show how they make their calculations. If your landlord cannot or will not, you may be able to gain compensation.

Irrespective of whether there is a commercial agreement in place between the relevant energy supplier and your landlord, there will usually also be an additional domestic energy rate on top of your usage charges.

Thankfully, the amount that landlords are able to charge their tenants cannot exceed a maximum price, which is set by law and depends on how your energy use is measured. This prevents unscrupulous landlords from charging whatever they want for their occupants’ energy usage.

Handling unfair practices

If you are renting in a house or apartment and suspect that your landlord is overcharging you, the first step is to ask them how they’re are calculating the figures. If they refuse to comply, if there is a discrepancy between figures or if the matter cannot be resolved in general, there is help available. You should visit Citizens Information for further details.

What you are charged for

Occupants can only be charged for what they consume. If there are any charges relating to communal energy use (such as hallway lighting) or administration, these must be billed separately. Occupants should be aware that there are no price restrictions for any such additional charges.

Repairs and regulations

If you are renting accommodation, then central heating repairs are not your responsibility; they are the landlord’s. In addition, your landlord is also responsible for making sure that supplied appliances accord with the latest health and safety regulations.

Finding a cheaper energy supplier

If you want to find a cheaper energy supplier, the first step is to perform some calculations and make an energy comparison between what you are paying now and what you could be paying with a new supplier. There are various sources available on this website and other places online that let you compare prices between different suppliers.

What to do when moving home

If you are moving to a new location and you have previously paid your own bills, you must notify your energy supplier. Remember to check who your new supplier is, and whether you will be paying your landlord, or the supplier directly, once you move in.