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The term “Utilities” refers to basic electric and gas (meaning natural gas), water, steam, and cable television service to apartments and homes. A “utility” is a company, usually highly regulated by the government, that provides such services. Telephone service is also often considered a utility.

Utilities May be Included. If you rent an apartment, some or all of these services will be included in the rent, most probably steam and water, but sometimes natural gas and electricity. Some homes and apartments, of course, are all electric, using neither steam nor gas. If you own your own home, you’ll be responsible for contracting with the utility companies to have lines connected.

Paperwork. Utility companies will want basic information about you, your credit and your employment. They might demand a deposit to assure payment of bills, especially if you do not have an established credit rating or employment background. If you have lived in other residences in the United States and have paid your bills on time, you’ll already have good credit for utility purposes.

Customer Service. All utilities will have customer service telephone numbers you can use to get service started. The utility will give you a date their installer can come to your home to hook up the service. They will rarely consider your convenience, or give you an exact time of day. Make sure to be home for them in order to avoid delays.

Utility Bills. Once utility service is connected, pay your bills on time to avoid late charges and to maintain good credit. If you don’t have a checking account, many check cashing establishments will allow you to pay utility bills in cash at no extra charge. Paying slowly is not a bad idea with some bills (since you get to use the money in the meantime) but it is not a good idea with utilities.

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