A Guide to Apartment Utilities | Catholic Charities Diocese of Madison

A Guide to Apartment Utilities

Housing Tips

When considering an apartment it can be easy to look at the rent and budget from there, but your rent is only part of your cost. When meeting with a potential landlord be sure to discuss what utilities you will be expected to pay. Your landlord may even know approximately what their previous tenant paid a month.

If the utilities are not included in your rent, you will be responsible for reaching out to the utility company to turn on your utilities as well as their requirements for paying your monthly bill.

Utility Types

Water and Sewer

Water and sewer usage will be measured by a meter. Your water and sewer bill can either be billed to your individual apartment or to the apartment community. Apartment communities that are given the bill will split the total amount by the number of households on the property. Residents will then add the distributed amount to their next rent payment.


Like water, your electricity usage is measured using a meter. Heating and cooling units use more power than any other home appliance, including a water heater and washer/dryer, so be conscious of what temperature you’re setting your house to in the winter and summer.

Natural Gas

Not every house uses natural gas, so make sure to check if your new apartment will. Most natural gas companies measure a customer’s usage with the therm metric. You can view your annual usage trend on your gas bill and track which months have a heavier usage than others.


Your trash is generally included in your rent. You typically don’t get to choose the provider. Trash pickup companies are contracted by the apartment community and residents pay a monthly fee.


Check with your apartment management what internet providers are available in your area. Depending on the place, you may be quite limited in your options.

For your internet set up you will also need a modem and router. Providers will often rent these to you if you don’t have one. Just realize it will mean a bigger bill each month. You can also sometimes save on internet by bundling it with your phone and cable, but don’t assume a bundle means cheaper.

Always check your internet bill each month. Internet providers are notorious for mischarging customers.


Similar to internet, you’ll have to have someone come and set this up for you. The cable box and cord may come with an additional monthly fee.


Budgeting for your bills is similar to budgeting for your rent, the main difference being apartment utility bills often won’t be the same price each month. Being aware of what utilities you are using and how often you’re using them can give you a rough estimate to go off of. You can also ask other tenants, and even your landlord what the average monthly cost has been in the past.

By far the easiest way to budget is with a utilities included apartment. You don’t have to think about how much you’re running the AC, it’ll cost you the same as it did the month before, but this is not always an option.


You may find yourself blasting the AC to counteract those muggy Wisconsin summers, or hitting the heater as the frigid winter sets in. No matter the season, there always seems to be something pushing up those utility costs. A little mindfulness in your utility consumption can save you a lot down the road.


As warmth returns to Wisconsin, you’ll be switching form heating to cooling. On nice days instead of turning on the AC, try opening your windows and letting in a cross-breeze. Also, request to have your AC filters changed. According to the Department of Energy, frequently changing the filter can decrease energy consumption by 15 percent.


While the natural sunlight is nice for your home, it can also heat up your house considerably. Keeping your curtains drawn, or your blinds down can help reduce the heat coming in. Utilizing your ceiling fans will lower your home temperature by a couple of degrees, affording you the opportunity to turn off your thermostat temporarily and still stay cool.


Much like Spring, Fall is a time where cooling your house with a gentle breeze can help keep down costs, and air out your house before the long winter months. Also, be mindful of any gaps or leaky windows. Those can cost your big time over a winter.


Like we discussed in the summer section, opening blinds and curtains can help heat up the house, only now it’s a good thing! Also try ditching your tee-shirts, and put on a light sweater. We all want to be comfortable in our home, but setting the thermostat a bit lower will pay off in the long run.


Roommates are tricky. Beyond the mystery of your vanishing milk, having a roommate that does not contribute to the utilities or who doesn’t pay their fair share is infuriating. To avoid all that frustration have a roommate agreement in place. If it’s in writing, everyone in the household can know exactly what’s expected of them. Make it clear how you’ll split the utility costs. Is one person collecting the money? State exactly who that someone is in the roommate agreement. Have everyone sign it.

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