If you’researching for your first apartment of your own, you may be surprised at the many different ways of setting up and billing utilities. While you’researching for your Houston apartment, check apartment listings, ask the landlords or managers, or if you’re using Houston Apartment Insiders to help you search, ask us to explain how each apartment complex you’reconsidering handles utilities. The four common ways utilities are paid for in apartments are:

  • “All bills paid” or “all utilities included”: This means the apartment complex pays for all utilities, and this cost is reflected in the rent they charge you. In other words, the apartment complex sets up everything for you, and your monthly rent is all you’ll pay. This makes it easy for you to plan your expenses, but doesn’t allow you to choose your providers or to save money by saving water or energy.
  • Master-metered utilities: This description may be used for all utilities, or may be used to explain how one or more type of service (like electricity, heat, or water) is billed, while you set up your own service for other types of utilities. For master-metered utilities, the apartment complex receives one bill, then divides the cost among all of the apartments. Again, this means that you don’t have to set up those utilities yourself, but it also means that you don’t get to choose providers. If you live efficiently, saving water or energy, you may help to reduce the building’s overall cost, but you still don’t have direct control over your utility bill.
  • Sub-metered utilities: This plan still has the apartment complex choosing providers and setting up service for you, but your unit’s real usage will be monitored using a sub-meter, and you will be billed for exactly the amount of energy or water you use. This means you won’t be able to choose providers, but you will be able to lower your bills by following energy-saving tips or by conserving water.
  • Tenant is responsible for utilities: This may be the case for one or more of the services you’ll need for your Houston apartment. For example, your apartment complex may have sub-metered or master-metered gas or water, but state that each tenant is responsible for electricity, cable television, internet, and phone service. For any service you’re responsible for, you’ll have to choose a provider for those services that have multiple providers in the Houston area. The City of Houston provides water service, and natural gas service is provided by CenterPoint Energy, but there are multiple providers to choose from for electricity, internet access, television, and telephone service. This means you have all of the responsibility, but you also have all of the control. Choose the provider that’s right for you, and you can choose to lower your bills by living more efficiently, or let your bill go up a bit while you enjoy more electronic devices or run your air conditioner at full blast. The choice is yours!


As you can see, there’s an up side and a down side to each way of handling apartment utilities. This probably won’t be the deciding factor that makes you choose one apartment and let another one go, but it is one of many things to consider during your apartment search.