Getting  Started

A few things you should keep in mind as you read this guide:

  1. Gas service is provided by the local gas utility in your area.  Electricity service can be provided by the local electricity utility for your area or through a private service provider called a “unit sub-metering provider”.  This guide focuses on utilities – if the apartment you are looking to rent is served by a unit sub-metering provider, you should contact that company to find out about its customer service policies.

  2. Electricity and gas utilities all have their own unique customer service policies.  Electricity utilities must meet certain minimum customer service standards set by the OEB for things like security deposits, bill payment and disconnection.  The customer service policies of the gas utilities are more likely to vary from one utility to another, and many gas utilities are currently updating their policies.  Always be sure to confirm your utility’s policies on anything that is important to you.


Know what you’re getting in for!

Before signing your lease, it is important to consider your energy usage and budget. Be sure to ask your landlord exactly which bills are extra to rent and which are included. You should also ask how the house or apartment is powered and heated (natural gas, electricity, or both?), and who provides service to the property.

There are basically two options:

  1. Your rent includes the cost of utilities, in which case your landlord handles the utility accounts.

  2. Some or all of the utilities are extra to rent, in which case you will need to open your own utility account(s). For gas service, you will need to set up an account with the local gas utility. For electricity service, the account will either be with the local electricity utility or with a unit sub-metering company, depending on who provides electricity service for the property.

Opening an Account

If you will be paying your own utilities in your new place, you will generally need to open an account with the local utility before moving in. You can ask your landlord who the local utility for your area is, or check our list of electricity utilities, and our list of natural gas utilities.

Even if you’re living with roommates, the account usually goes under one tenant’s name only. As the account holder, responsibility for paying the utility bills rests on your shoulders. Be sure that you and your roommates have a clear understanding of how you as a household will divvy up the bills and collect and make payment.   

It is best to call your local utility at least two weeks prior to moving in so they can have your account set up in time for move-in day.  

Here’s a list of the information you need to set up a new account with a utility:

1. Personal information; 2. Your phone number; 3. Your address; 4. Your move-in date
* (Yes, this is a good time to figure out your new postal code!) Canada Post postal code finder

When opening an account with a utility, you’ll have to pay an account start-up charge and you may also have to provide a security deposit.  There may be additional charges depending on your utility and connection. Be sure to ask your utility if any additional charges will apply.

  1. Account start up charge – Although this varies from utility to utility, there is generally a fee of up to $35 to open a new account (plus the cost of a credit check if applicable).

  2. Security deposit

For Electricity - If you have never had a utility account in your name before, you will likely have to provide a security deposit to the local electricity utility.  The amount of the security deposit will vary depending on the utility’s estimate of your monthly usage and on how often the utility bills you (monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly).  The security deposit can be anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 times your average estimated bill. 

Security deposits can be paid in cash or by cheque (the utility may also accept other forms of payment).  You also have the option of paying the deposit in equal payments over a period of at least 6 months. Be sure to speak with your utility if this option is preferable for you.

The security deposit will be returned to you, with interest, after you have demonstrated one full year of good payment history with the utility, or upon closing of the account (whichever occurs first).  You can demonstrate having a good payment history by having no more than one NSF payment or no more than one disconnection notice.  

If you are not closing your account at the time the security deposit is returned to you, it may be returned as credit on your account. If you are closing your account and owe any money to the utility, the distributor may deduct the money owing from the amount of the deposit that is returned to you. 

For Natural Gas - Some gas utilities require a security deposit, while others do not (but they may ask for a credit check).  Ask your gas utility about its security deposit policies (including how the deposit is calculated and when you can get it back).

Paying Your Bills

Energy bills are sent either on a quarterly, bi-monthly or monthly basis, depending on your utility.  Ask about your utility’s billing policy when you open your account.

  • Utilities typically allow bills to be paid in different ways (cheque, internet banking, pre-authorized payment, etc.).  Ask your utility about your payment options. 
  • As of October, 2011, all electricity utilities are required to make an equal monthly billing or equally monthly payment plan available to their residential customers.  Some gas utilities also offer these plans.   

Don’t be late in paying your utility bill!  If your payment is not received on time, you will probably have to pay late payment charges.  These can add up!
Payment of your electricity bill has to be received by the utility within 16 days after the bill was issued you (some utilities may allow more time).  Natural gas customers typically have approximately 2 weeks to pay their bills before late payment charges start to apply.

  • If at any time you cannot pay your bill, call your utility right away to discuss possible payment options.  
    • Late payment charges can increase your electricity bill by up to19.56% per year or 1.5% per month (late payment charges for gas utilities vary but can be comparable). Make your payments on time!


Don’t get cut off!

If payments are late or you have accumulated arrears, your utility has the right to cut off your electricity or gas service.

  • But before they can do this, they have to send you a disconnection notice.  After that, you have a short time to pay your arrears in full or to make repayment/alternative payment arrangements with your utility.  The amount of time that you have before being disconnected varies depending on the utility (electricity customers have a minimum of 10 days).  Repayment/alternative payment options also vary (electricity utilities are required to offer an arrears payment agreement). 

Reconnection fees are costly.

Electricity utilities typically charge:

  • $65 to reconnect during regular hours
  • $185 to reconnect after hours

Natural gas reconnection charges vary by utility.

It’s best to take all possible steps to avoid disconnection.  Contact your utility immediately upon receiving a disconnection notice.

Although it happens rarely, other reasons for disconnection include safety concerns, scheduled maintenance, or if your utility thinks your connection is having an adverse effect on the system.

Concerns & Complaints?

If you have questions or concerns about your energy service, contact your local utility first. If you feel that they have not addressed your concerns, you can call the OEB’s consumer relations centre at (1-877-632-2727) or fill in an online submission form.  Our public information officers are happy to help or to steer you in the right direction.


The OEB’s consumer website is filled with tools that can help you better understand
your electricity or natural gas bill.   See our online bill calculators:


Landlord/tenant issues

Generally, the OEB cannot help you with issues relating to your relationship or agreements with your landlord.  For these problems, you can seek the help of the Landlord and Tenant Board:
From within Toronto: 416-645-8080
Toll-free: 1-888-332-3234

  • Many university and college campuses have on-site legal services available that can help enrolled students with landlord-tenant disputes.  Services are usually free and can help you to understand your rights and responsibilities, and the appropriate processes to pursue.

Energy Contracts

Electricity retailers and natural gas marketers are private companies whose business is to sell gas or electricity to consumers.  If you enter into a contract with a retailer or marketer for your energy supply, you will pay the contract price for the energy you consume and not the price that is charged by your utility. You will still need an account with your utility, since it physically delivers the energy to you.  And you will still have to pay for other charges (like delivery charges) in addition to the contract price, just as you would if you were buying your supply from the utility.   To find out more, visit Your Electricity Bill and Your Natural Gas Bill.

Remember, you don’t have to enter into a contract with a retailer or marketer to get electricity or gas service – that service is always available to you from your utility. While the OEB licenses retailers and marketers and regulates their conduct, the OEB does not set their prices. These companies cannot promise you savings, and they are not allowed to pressure you into signing a contract.

A retailer or marketer must provide you with an OEB-approved Disclosure Statement that gives basic information about energy contracts in plain language. It must also provide a price comparison document so you can see the difference between the price your utility charges and the company’s contract offer.  You can also see what your energy bill would look like under a contract by using the OEB's online bill calculators:

Don’t sign anything without considering the offer carefully.  If you sign a contract but change your mind, you can cancel the contract within 10 days.  If you cancel after this 10 day period, you may have to pay a cancellation fee.

Click here for a list of active licensed retailers and marketers.

Conserving Energy

  • In the winter, turn the heat down at night/when out of the house/on warm or sunny days
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Shorten shower times
  • Turn off all lights and computers when not in use
  • Try to reduce drafts, such as under doors and around windows
  • Set your AC a few degrees higher (your roommates won’t even notice!)
    • Turn AC down or off when sleeping or out of the house
  • Better yet, put screens on windows to allow for a breeze in the summer if you’re not using an air conditioner
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Fire up the grill! BBQ instead of using the stove.

You can find more tips about energy conservation at the Ontario Power Authority Save On Energy website.

If you have roommates, set out energy conservation guidelines for your household.


Time-of-use Rates

Over 95% of Ontario households already have a smart meter to track when electricity is being used throughout the day, and soon they all will. Smart meters allow utilities to apply time-of-use or TOU pricing, where the price of electricity depends on when you use it. "Off-peak" prices (in green below) are the cheapest, "on-peak" prices (in red below) are the most expensive, and mid-peak prices (in yellow below) are in-between. 

TOU prices effective May 1, 2016 (Prices subject to change every 6 months.)

(when demand for electricity is lowest)
8.7 ¢/kWh
(when demand for electricity is moderate)
13.2 ¢/kWh
(when demand for electricity is highest)
18.0 ¢/kWh


Summer time-of-use hours beginning May 1 - Weekdays - Off-peak is from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Mid-peak is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m to 7 p.m. On-peak is from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

NOTE: Weekends and Holidays are off-peak during both the Winter and Summer periods.
  - view the Time-of-use Holiday Schedule

If you are paying for your own electricity, check with your local electricity utility to see whether your place is already being billed using TOU prices or when that is scheduled to happen.     

You can find out more about how to make TOU prices work for you by visiting the Independent Electricity System Operator’s interactive Smart Meter Lane.

Closing Your Account

It is best to notify your utility as soon as possible when you are certain that you will be moving out of the utility’s service area and closing your account.  This must be done at the latest one week before your move out date.

When calling your utility, you will need:

  1. name, address and telephone number
  2. utility account number (on your utility bills)
  3. the final date the meter should be read
  4. forwarding address for your final bill


Moving close by?

If you are moving to another address within your utility’s service territory, utilities recommend that you notify them at least two weeks prior to your move date.

When calling, you will need:

  1. name, address, telephone number
  2. utility account number (on your utility bills)
  3. new address and phone number
  4. the final date the meter should be read at your existing address and the initial date the meter should be read at your new address

Account set up charges will apply, but any security deposit will carry over to your new account according to the rules explained above.

For more information about your rights and responsibilities as an energy consumer, visit the OEB’s consumer protection page.