The term “utilities” in the United States refers to the public services available to residences, usually including water, electricity and gas. Rental agreements will also specify who is responsible for the payment of these services; either the landlord or the tenant, or some combination. If you live in an apartment community, your rental agreement will not generally include payment of utilities. If you live in a shared home situation, whether a duplex, home, etc. you might have an agreement with the landlord to pay a set amount for utilities or the landlord might include payment of utilities in with the monthly rental payment. Make sure that your lease specifies exactly what the landlord expects in this regard.
Generally, if you are expected to pay for your own utilities, your unit should have its own meter to gage your usage of these services. The utility company uses that meter to charge you for the actual usage of electricity or water to your home. When you have your own meter, you will pay the utility company directly based on the bill they send you every month. Make sure you pay by the due date on the bill so that your services are not disconnected due to non-payment. You can usually set up to pay each month by check or online.
When you originally open an account with the utility company, you may need to pay a deposit, and sometimes they charge an additional fee to start your services. In the event your services have to be turned off, due to non-payment, the utility company will charge another connection fee to come turn them back on once you have paid the delinquent fees.
Sometimes a landlord will arrange to pay the utility bill for the tenant, or charge a flat rate to the tenant for utility usage. This usually occurs when only one meter goes to the house, or several occupants share the same meter service. If a rental listing reads “all utilities included,” you will not have to figure in an additional monthly cost to your rent, but otherwise you should assume you will pay the cost of utilities in addition to the rental amount listed.
Remember that the higher you set your thermostat (the device that determines what temperature your heater or air conditioner will maintain in the house) in the winter, or the lower you set it in the summer, the higher your utility bill will be. The same holds true for your water bill; the longer you stay in the shower or water your lawn, the higher your water bill will be.