This Is When You Should Call to Set Up Utilities When Moving

published Aug 16, 2018
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The scene: You move into a new apartment and discover it will take days before you can get your wifi up and running. Perhaps worse, you have to take a vacation day to wait around for the internet provider to show up during a liberal time window. It’s a true modern day horror story; go ahead and name your new network Silence of the LAN to commemorate it. Of course, this could be even worse if you forgot to get your electricity up and running before move-in day.

It doesn’t have to go down this way, though. If you’re making a move, here’s some tips to help make sure you’re fully powered, and connected, when you move in to your new digs.

First, ask your landlord about utility services and billing.

The Tenants Union of Washington State recommends looking at your leasing agreement to determine what utilities you’ll be responsible for paying, and whether those services need to be in your name. Some good follow-up questions to ask before you sign the lease: Is my unit on an individual or master meter? Are there any outstanding balances on the utility accounts? What’s the contact information for utility providers?

This information will vary from building to building since landlord-tenant law varies by state (you can find information for your states here) and many are vague when it comes to utility regulation. A very common scenario is that a landlord will roll the important utilities like electricity and water into their name or the property management company’s name in between tenants to avoid frozen pipes and power from shutting off. All you will have to do is call the utility company and switch the bill into your name when you move in. Another common scenario: Your landlord will make you to set up your electricity before moving in and show documentation to get the keys to your new apartment.

Need to set it up yourself? Here’s when you should call.

If you’re setting up internet and television, it’s a good idea to call at least three weeks in advance to make an appointment with the provider, suggests Logan Abbott, president of, an online comparison engine that helps people save money on services and utilities. Sound extreme? Consider this: Providers usually are booked well in advance, and can’t get to your new home or apartment for two or three weeks, Abbott says, especially during peak moving season. Calling a few weeks in advance means you get the best shot at picking out a prime time for your provider to come out to your new home. “I recommend scheduling the appointment on the same day you move in,” he says.

As for electricity, call to have your utilities set up at least five business days prior to getting the keys, suggests Cari Place, a customer relations specialist at Portland General Electric. This process is super easy if you’ll be using the same utility company and are transferring service from one address to the next, since they’ll have all your information on file. A pro tip from Place? Make sure you’ve got your new address written down correctly; people often give a wrong address or an address with missing information when they’re moving into apartments, condos, or complexes that have associated unit numbers.

When it comes to trash and recycling services, check with your homeowner’s association or landlord to see if it’s included in your dues or rent. Also ask what you need to set up the services. Again, calling two to three weeks in advance to get set up can be helpful, especially if you need waste management to deliver you bins and to make sure you’re address has been added to the pick-up route.

If you’re required to pay for your own water service, visit your town or city’s website public works for instructions two to three weeks in advance of your move.

Pro tip: Call earlier during busy moving months.

No surprises here: Summer is the most popular time to move because families want to be settled in before the school year starts and, besides, who wants to lug couches up icy steps in the winter?

What we’re getting at: We know you might be tempted to procrastinate, especially during a busy move, but it really is a good idea to get those calls made to the utility companies two to three weeks in advance during the peak move season. June is the busiest month to move, with 11 percent of all moves happening then, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Next up is August, with 10 percent of moves happening during the month.