First, you should get information from your new apartment building or community as to those utilities you may not be able to choose — electricity, natural gas, and water and sewer being the most likely. Talk to your leasing office or landlord as to which utilities have limited options. The week before you move, start calling to get those bills switched to your name. With other utilities, you’ll be able to make a few choices.
The most traditional way to get phone service is to call up the local major phone company and sign up with them. But advances in technology and changes in the market have created many more choices for today’s apartment dwellers.
Many cable providers offer plans that bundle phone with cable and Internet. If you are planning on having cable and Internet, this can be a way to save money, but comparison shopping is always a great idea. Another option, if you plan to get Internet access at home, is to look into Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype or Vonage.
One question to consider with a new place is whether you need a land-line phone or can stick to a cell phone. Worried you won’t be able to reach 911 in an emergency from your cell phone? See the FCC’s information on 911 and wireless providers. If you want both a land-line and a cell phone, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all offer plans that allow you to combine your land-line and cell bills.
For more details, read our guide to Phone Service for Your New Apartment.
Gas, Electricity, and Water
Most likely you won’t have a choice of a provider for water. Before you sign a lease, find out whether you’re billed directly for water and sewer, or whether the landlord pays that bill and includes it in your rent.
Selecting a gas or electricity provider might be more complicated, depending on where you live. Some states have deregulated their electricity or natural-gas markets, leaving you with more choices as to your provider.
Your state’s Public Service Commission or Public Utilities Commission should have an explanation of how the electricity and gas markets are regulated and what providers are available. As with water, you may find upon moving into an apartment building that one provider serves the entire building. Either way, make sure you understand who is responsible for setting up service and paying the bill before you sign a lease, so as to minimize hassle later.
Before you can choose an Internet provider, you have to know what your options are. Though both cable modem and DSL are the most popular methods of getting internet, one might not be available in your location. Also, some apartment buildings and communities may limit what is available to you through exclusivity deals or building limitations. So add Internet to your list of utilities to ask your landlord about.
If the sky’s the limit as far as providers are concerned, get to know the pros and cons of the different kinds of Internet access before choosing a provider. (Read: Types of Internet Access: Which One to Get?)
Odds are you’ll get Internet service either through a cable modem or a phone line, although cell-phone companies are increasingly offering this service as well.
Before you go with a provider, you might want to research what kind of customer service they provide. Do a Google search with the name of the company and look for customer reviews. You can also search consumer Web sites, such as Consumerist to learn how the company treats customers. Between the two searches, you should get a decent idea of how often your potential provider drives angry customers to post online.
Cable and Satellite
Look over your TV habits and decide how many channels you want or need. If you watch a lot of movies, a rental-by-mail service such as Netflix or Blockbuster may be cheaper than on-demand movie channels via cable or satellite.
After you know how many channels you want and what options your apartment community will allow, get to know the differences between Satellite and Cable TV and what each service has to offer. (Read: Choosing Between Satellite and Cable TV)
If you choose to go with a satellite provider, see Satellite TV Guru, a blog with recommendations and comparisons of the primary competitors, as well as tips to help you save money.
Finally, when you sign up for your new providers, resist the temptation to have them bill a credit card or deduct from your checking account automatically — and while it’s not the best move environmentally, have them send paper bills, at least for the first few months. That way you’ll be more likely to read the bill, so you’re more likely to notice if the company has made an initial error on your account, or if your bills are higher than you’d like.
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Where do you get ideas on how to decorate your apartment?
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