Should owners of empty homes cut off their water and electricity supplies? (Part 1)

I am asking this question because this is the fourth rise on the electricity bill during the last couple of years; water bills are also taking the same trend. They have risen around 50%, plus similar increases in gas, phone and other taxes. So the controversy, to cut or not to cut home supplies have reawaken, especially among those with empty houses in rent, holidays homes, inherited residences that remain uninhabited most of the year etc. Most Expats wonder why, taxes (such as IBI), municipal taxes and others fixed payments, communal charges etc, have to pay monthly fees if services are never use, instead of paying when used.


I will detail how much it costs to maintain an empty home and if it is cost-effective to terminate the supplies and hire them again when needed.


Empty house = high expenses.


Obviously large cities such Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia are the cities with the highest number of empty homes. In fact there are more than 3.4 million empty properties in Spain, according to the Census of Population and Housing, the INE (National Institute of Statistics). Although many owners cannot find buyers for their homes or fail to rent them, others prefer to safeguard them unoccupied or just use them for short holiday periods. In this sense, the maintenance costs of a home, even if it remains closed, are often higher than those of any other financial asset. In fact, payments of electricity, gas, water and in some cases a phone line to be able to have wifi, could hit hard any familiar budget.


Minimum domestic bills which are not so minimum.

Although the most logical choice, when you have an uninhabited house, is to unsubscribe from all services and supplies because if the services are kept connected, minimum consumption charges must be paid to the supply companies. So, having an empty property means to confront with minimum domestic bills which now days they are not so minimum.


When one can anticipated that a building will be empty for less than year or so, it is better to keep paying the minimum charges rather than terminate contracts.


The reason behind it is that there are costs associated with re-connecting essential home supplies. It is not a free process. In addition to payment for the reinstatement of supplies there is something much worse. Yes you guessed it, the Spanish bureaucratic process of re-connecting services. You must provide a photocopy of identity card, photocopy of the document which certifies the right to occupy the property (deeds, lease, etc.), and an official electric bulletin from a certified electrician plus a Spanish bank account details etc.


All this involves a series of steps involving an expenditure of time and money. While, keeping the minimum cost of all basic supplies connected in an empty house can amount to about 450 Euros a year.


What supplies can you cut off in an uninhabited house?

1. Electricity:

With the last energy reform decree, the Ministry of Industry seeks to penalize second homes where power consumption is lower and empty houses that will pay more for the contracted power, although consumption is nil. Instead, the price rate of energy consumed is somewhat less. Even considering these data, we should not ignore the power supply charges for re-connecting. Although the apartment or house remains closed for a long period of time, to rehire, supply can be frustrating and expensive as the company supplier may dictate that your existing electric installation is outdated and the amount to be paid in concept of fixing and reconnect will shoot up accordingly.


Having hot water, heating and cooking using electricity only may help to save money because within one bill you have several household supplies (electricity, hot water, cooking and heating). If the house will be empty for a long time, you can change the electricity power contracted to the minimum allowed.


To contract out the same power you had before in the house, could cost about 55 Euros (this price may vary with each electrical company). Had you cancelled the contract completely, to register again, for a power of 3.5 kW the costs could be about 100 Euros, and for powers of 10 kW, the price is about 400 Euros.


2. Water:

To rehire water supplies, the amounts are about 12 Euros (VAT included) (this price may vary with each water company), the company supplier has to check the installation up to the water meter. Within 24 hours (on weekdays), you may have the supply reconnected (In theory). To do this, you must provide the following documents: photocopy of the NIE (ID) and a Spanish bank account number for direct debit receipts.


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