If you’re making a house sitting arrangement through a Listing Site, one of agreements you’ll need to reach is, who pays for utilities.
Here, when we talk about utilities, it’s any of the costs the home owner has to cover to maintain their home, and any additional charges the house sitter may incur whilst in residence. These costs fall into 3 groups:
- Standard Utilities (Electricity/Gas/Water usage)
- Recurring Service Charges (water, sewer, garbage, phone rental, cable TV rental, ISP rental, rates, condo association fees and property taxes)
- Phone Calls
1. Standard Utilities
Let’s look at Standard Utilities from both perspectives:
- Instead of paying high House Sitting Agency fees, you’re probably arranging a fee-free house sitter, so for shorter assignments you should cover the standard utilities
- For longer assignments, you may want to negotiate a utility contribution from your house sitter. This is especially relevant if the property is in a cold climate, in need of a lot of heat, or a warm climate, in need of air-conditioning
- If you’re asking the house sitter to complete extra tasks, or non-standard jobs, you should consider covering the utilities in return for these responsibilities
- You know what it takes to run your household, so use those costs to calculate the amount you want to charge
House Sitter Perspective:
- If the homeowner is asking for utility contributions, it’s important to factor in whether your assignment includes pet sitting. If so, some of the heating/ cooling costs will be for the pets’ comfort, and that should be factored into the negotiation.
- If the homeowner is asking for water usage contributions, but your duties include watering the garden, you could negotiate to pay a percentage of the water usage costs (i.e. those that are over-and-above a monthly average)
- Consider bartering tasks or chores in lieu of utility costs
2. Recurring Service Charges
The majority of these Service Charges would need to be paid whether the house sitter was in residence or not, therefore it’s customary for the home owner to cover these costs.
The exception to this guideline, is when the house sitting assignment is for an extended period, i.e. 6-12 months, and then the homeowner could consider allocating some of the recurring bills to the house sitter.
But again, this is dependent on the duties the house sitter is expected to perform, and especially if there is pet sitting involved. The cost pet boarding is expensive, so keeping pets in their own environment is a low cost option, and covering the household running costs is fair exchange for standard in-house pet sitting.
If a home owner has the option of discontinuing service (i.e. in the case of Cable TV or Internet Service) during the assignment, but it’s being left on at the request of the house sitter, then obviously that’s a cost that could be passed on for longer assignments.
3. Phone Calls
Even though the monthly telephone service (line rental etc.) charges should be covered by the home owner, the house sitter should be responsible for any calls they make from the home owners line.
Check any House Sitter site and the guidelines are more or less consistent with the ones I’ve included above. The most important thing to remember about utilities, is that they need to be negotiated as part of your verbal agreement, and included in the written house sitting agreement/contract.
As well as stipulating who is paying for what, be sure to clarify the payment conditions. e.g. Bills need to be paid in full via Paypal within 30 days of receiving the bill.