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The household bills you'll pay as a homeowner

Discover the household bills and maintenance costs you need to budget for when you buy your first home

In this article
Home insurance Flats: service charges and ground rent Utility bills and tax
TV, broadband and phone bills Maintenance and other homeowner costs

As a homeowner you'll be responsible for a number of household bills and expenses, which you might not have had to cover if you've been renting.

Here, we look at the costs of running a house or flat when you own it, including all the bills you'll need to budget for before taking the plunge into home ownership.

Home insurance

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your property. 

If you're buying a property with a mortgage, buildings insurance isn't an optional extra, but a must-have. Mortgage lenders require you to have a policy in place from the date you exchange contracts, in order to give you a home loan.

An exception is if you're buying a leasehold property, in which case insurance should usually be included in your service charge (which you can read about below.)

Contents insurance

Contents insurance covers the cost of replacing your belongings in your home if they're damaged, destroyed or stolen. It's not compulsory, but it's recommended.

You can buy contents cover with your buildings insurance policy (this is referred to as home insurance) but you can buy them separately if you like.


Flats: service charges and ground rent

If you're buying a leasehold flat, you'll have to factor in monthly or quarterly service charges and ground rent.

Service charges

Service charges cover the management and maintenance of the building's communal areas, and tend to cost between £100 and £200 a month (but this can vary.)

Most freeholders appoint managing agents to look after communal areas, so these fees may be combined into one payment.

Ground rent

Ground rent in England and Wales is traditionally a token fee paid to the freeholder, in exchange for renting the land the property sits on.

Make sure your property solicitor looks over the lease very carefully before you buy a leasehold property, as some can contain punitive clauses and spiralling ground rents.

Utility bills and tax

Gas and electricity

Your gas and electric bill covers the cost of powering your home and keeping it warm.

Most energy companies will offer several payment options - you can choose to pay monthly, every three months, or once a year.

When you’re viewing properties they’ll all have an energy performance certificate. This will help you see how energy-efficient the building is and give an indication of how much your bills might be.

Your energy bill should, in theory, rise with inflation but a number of suppliers increase charges at a much faster rate. After you've moved in, it’s important you keep an eye on how much your energy bill is costing you - and switch if you’re paying too much.


The average household water and sewerage bill is £415 in England and Wales for 2019-20, or £34.58 a month, according to Water UK.

But water rates vary and will depend on where you live, and the availability of water in your area.

The amount of water you actually use will only affect your bills if your home is fitted with a water meter - generally speaking, if you have less people living in the property compared to the number of bedrooms, it's worth looking into getting a meter fitted.

Unlike with gas and electricity, you can't switch water supplier as they're allocated depending on where you live.

Council tax

Council tax is collected by your local authority to pay for services in your community.

How much council tax you pay is usually determined by what the home was worth in 1991. Properties are classified in bands ranging from A (the lowest value) to H (the highest value.)

The seller or estate agent should be able to tell you which band your new home is in, or you can use the government website to look it up online. Once you know which band you're in, you can use our council tax calculator to see how much you'll pay.

If you think your property is in the wrong council tax band and you're paying too much tax, you can appeal against your banding. But beware that the council could decide to move your property into a more expensive band rather than a cheaper one, so you should only appeal after carefully researching what your neighbours are paying.

You can also apply for a 25% discount if you live alone, or if the property is empty.

TV, broadband and phone bills

TV, broadband and landline phone bills can take a significant chunk out of your budget. New customers will usually get better deals than existing customers, so it's worth shopping around and considering switching to find the best deal each year. 

In a survey of over 3,000 Which? members in October 2018, we found that nine in 10 who haggled on their TV and broadband bundle received a 20% discount on average.

TV licence

A TV licence legally allows you to watch or record live TV on any channel, either through your TV or a website.

It costs £154.50 a year for a colour TV, and £52 for a black and white TV. You can pay it all up front or in weekly, monthly or quarterly instalments.

You’ll need a TV licence if you use:

  • Freesat or Freeview
  • On-demand or catch-up programme services, such as BBC iPlayer
  • A pay-TV service, such as Sky or Virgin.

People aged 75 and above are currently entitled to a free TV licence, but from 1 June 2020 only those aged 75+ who receive Pension Credit will qualify.

Find out more: TV licence explained

Maintenance and other homeowner costs

    Home repairs and maintenance costs

    Whether it's a boiler breakdown or replacing your kitchen, you'll need to be able to finance the costs of repairing and maintaining your home. 

    These costs vary from one property to another and it can be worth setting some money aside each month so you're prepared if you're hit with unforeseen expenses. 

    Here are some of the most common types of maintenance you should factor into your budget:

    • Boiler servicing: it's worth getting your boiler serviced once a year - when you come to sell your home some buyers will ask about this.
    • Electrics: you should get your electrics safety-checked every five to 10 years.
    • Decoration: cosmetic changes, such as painting and decorating rooms.
    • Renovations: more major renovation work, such as replacing kitchens and bathrooms, might be done every 10-20 years. 

    Parking charges

    If you don't have a garage, driveway or free on-street parking, you might need to budget for a residential parking permit. 

    These parking permits don't always guarantee a parking space, but they do enable you to park in resident-only parking bays within a certain distance of your home. 

    The cost of these permits will vary depending on the area you're in.

    Mortgage repayments

    Nearly all first-time buyers need a mortgage to buy their home, and this will mean making monthly payments to your lender.

    Your payments will partly go towards repaying the loan, and partly to cover the interest. 

    The amount you pay each month will be determined by how much you've borrowed, what period you're paying the mortgage back over (the mortgage 'term'), the interest rate and whether you're also paying off any fees.

    If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your payments will be the same each month for the duration of the deal period (often two or five years). However, if you have a variable-rate deal such as a discount or tracker mortgage, the amount you pay from month to month could vary.

    Whichever type of mortgage you choose, make sure you look into remortgaging at the end of the introductory period to avoid being transferred onto a more expensive rate.

    Mortgage life insurance

    A life insurance plan can offer peace of mind that your loved ones won't be left out of pocket if you fall ill or die before repaying your mortgage.

    Our partner LifeSearch has over 20 years’ experience of helping consumers find the right life insurance policy. Arrange a call to discuss your options.