As Britain deals with the biggest cost of living crisis in 60 years, many families and individuals face the reality of not being able to afford to pay their energy bills, leaving them understandably worried about the potential consequences.
With energy bills set to rise again in October, an anonymous campaign by Don’t Pay UK has gained momentum. The campaign is encouraging people not to pay their energy bills this winter in a bid to reduce the cost of bills. However, this can have serious consequences for customers.
With that being said, energy expert Myles Robinson from Boiler Central explains what happens if you can’t or don’t pay your energy bills and how to get help to cover rising energy costs.
What happens if you can’t pay your energy bills?
If you can’t afford to pay your energy bills, you should first contact your supplier and notify them that you want to pay off your debt through a payment plan. They should discuss with you ways to pay what you owe them and come to an agreement. When coming to an agreement, your supplier should consider what you can afford to pay based on your income, outgoings, and any other debts you have. They will also consider how much energy you are likely to use in the future by looking at your past usage.
Once all these factors have been taken into account, you will pay fixed instalments over a specified period of time, so you pay what you can afford. To ensure your energy bill is accurate, send your supplier readings from your gas and electricity meter.
You may also be able to pay off your debt through your benefits using the Fuel Direct Scheme. You’ll need to be receiving one of the following benefits to be eligible:
- Income Support
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
Alternatively, if you are already on benefits, you can ask to pay your energy bills directly from the benefits you receive. To do so, contact the Jobcentre.
What happens if you don’t pay your energy bills?
If you do not reach an agreement with your supplier or stick to the repayment plan you agreed to, your energy supplier may try and force you to have a prepayment meter installed. This means you will have to pay for your energy usage upfront and a weekly payment to cover any debts.
Failure to reach an agreement with your supplier may also result in them applying for a court warrant so they can visit your home and disconnect your energy supply. This can be done remotely if you have a smart meter, but your energy company must visit you to identify and assess your situation.
If you miss a payment, you’ll receive a reminder letter from your supplier. If they don’t receive any payment or contact from you, they may try to contact you to work out a repayment plan. In rare cases, if you do not pay your energy bill after 28 days, you may be threatened with your energy supply being disconnected. However, your supplier must first offer you the chance to pay off your debt through a repayment plan.
It is also worth noting that if you have reached the State Pension age, your supplier cannot disconnect you between 1 October and 31 March if either of the following applies:
- You live alone
- You only live with other people who have reached State Pension age or children under the age of 18
Will it affect your credit score?
Missing energy bills is not guaranteed to affect your credit score as they aren’t a loan. This said, doing so could make it harder to borrow money in the future. Some suppliers report missed payments to credit agencies, which may show up on your credit history.
Will it affect your rent or mortgage?
You are unlikely to be evicted from a rented property for missing energy bill payments unless they are included in your rent. If your bills are included in the rent, and you stop paying, your landlord may be able to evict you for being in rent arrears.
Missing energy bills should not affect your mortgage as the loan is agreed with your bank or building society directly. However, not paying your energy bills can make it harder to remortgage your home or take out a new mortgage in the future and therefore, it is inadvisable to do so.
Is there help available for paying energy bills?
Yes, there are several grants and schemes available to help support those who cannot afford their energy bills. This includes the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which provides every UK household with a £400 energy grant. Energy suppliers automatically add the discount over six months, starting from October 2022.
Can I save money on my energy bills?
You can save money on your energy bills by making your home as energy efficient as possible. If you have an old G rated boiler, replacing it with a new, more energy-efficient model can help cut your fuel bills. Or, you can simply reduce the heating in your home—turning down the heating by one degree can save you around £80 a year.
You can also reduce the energy usage in your home by switching off or unplugging appliances that have been left on standby. Or, you could wash your clothes at a lower temperature. Washing your clothes at 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees will still kill bacteria and save energy.