Will my Gas and Electric meter be disconnected if I don't pay?

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With so many bills piling up to pay each month, it can be hard to keep track of them, especially if you are raising a family or going through money troubles. When your personal circumstances change, what options do you have with your energy bills? Read below the steps you can take to prevent having any issues with paying your bill late.


What happens if you are disconnected?

After 28 days non-payment of your bill, your supplier will contact you notifying you of the risk that your connection might be cut off. The probability of being disconnected through lack of payment is very rare, as your supplier will give you the chance to pay back the debt through a payment plan.

At any stage, you can negotiate an agreement with your supplier to pay back the debt, but if you have not, they can apply for a warrant from the court to enter your home and disconnect your meter.

You must attend the hearing and your supplier will warn you of the court date in advance.

If your meter is on the outside of the property, they do not need to arrange a court date, but they will still apply.

If the court grants the supply company with a warrant, they can disconnect your meter after giving you 7 days notice.

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If you have a smart meter, they do not need to get a warrant to access your home, they can do it remotely. Before they do this, they must have visited you at home to assess your personal circumstances and the effects that would be caused were you to be disconnected.

They must also have contacted you over the phone to discuss repaying your debt.

You will not be disconnected if you are eligible for the ‘Priority Services Register’ during the winter months, running from 1st October - 31st March. You are eligible for the Priority Services Register if you are:

  • In a vulnerable position
  • Disabled or chronically sick
  • Visually impaired or have additional communication needs
  • Treated for a long-term medical condition
  • Of a pensionable age

Also, a lot of suppliers have signed up to a ‘Safety Net Programme’, where they are not allowed to suddenly disconnect a vulnerable customer.

If you have previous debt with a supplier or you have recently gone bankrupt during your contract, they can not disconnect you.


How can utility companies help if you can’t pay your bill?

The first thing you should do, if you know you can’t pay your bill, is contact your utility company as soon as you can.

Your supplier can help you in a variety of ways, so make sure to contact them. Here is what they can do:

  • Talk you through your bill and come to an agreement on how to pay
  • They could switch you to a new plan or potentially onto a cheaper tariff
  • If you already owe money, it could be paid back by instalments on a pay as you go meter
  • Change from a quarterly bill to a monthly bill so you can manage your finances better or even a weekly cash card to make your payments more frequent
  • They can replace your current meter and install a pay as you go meter, so you can keep track of your money and pay for only what you use
  • Put you onto a scheme where you pay off what you can each week/month
  • If you qualify, you can apply for a percentage of your benefits to pay for one of your energy bills

Your utility company is always willing to help if you are finding it difficult to pay your energy bill, but if you do not contact them to let them know your circumstances, there could be consequences. Your energy company can:

  • Phone and write to you
  • Visit you at home (you will be charged for the call out)
  • Apply late charges to your bill
  • Charge an extra fee to establish connection
  • Ask for a reestablishment deposit to guarantee payment
  • Install a prepayment meter to pay off your debt one step at a time
  • Start court proceedings
  • Pass the account to a debt collecting agency
  • Share the information to credit agencies

Along with sending the information to external credit agencies, supply companies also share information on your credit score.

If you are late on payment, a point will be put on your file.

If you acquire multiple points on your file, your connection could be shut off. Saying this, an energy company will never shut off connection to a vulnerable person.

Get help! You can seek independent advice by calling the national debtline on 0808 808 4000 or citizen's advice bureau on 0344 411 1444.

You can also get help through a charitable service called Charis Grants.


How can the government help?

If you qualify, you can get help from the government in what is called ‘third party deductions’.

Here are some of the ways you can pay your debt or get help with your bill:

  • Universal credit
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income support
  • Pension credit

You can get parts of your bill and the debt you owe paid off at the same time with universal credit.

First you need to give the government all of your information, including how much you earn, customer reference number (for bills) and your national insurance number.

Find out more about what the government can do for you


Warm Home Discount

Alongside the government, energy companies have released a scheme to help you pay for your energy bills.

Offering help and support to to customers who are unable to pay due to illness or are in a vulnerable position.

Between 2011 and 2016, £1.45 billion was spent on helping pay energy bills for people in the UK.

If you are eligible, the Warm Home Discount can give you £140 off your energy bill. Anyone can apply for this government scheme, but you will only be eligible if you currently accept one of the following benefits:

Broader group

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal credit
  • A gross annual household income less than £16,190
  • Have parental responsibility for a child under the age of 5
  • Child tax credit
  • Disabled child premium or Element
  • Disability, Enhanced disability or severe disability premium.
  • Disability living allowance or Personal independence Payments (PIP)
  • Long term incapacity benefit
  • Pensioner premium, higher pensioner premium or enhanced pensioner premium.

You will need to provide all your personal information to receive the Broader Group ‘Warm Home Discount’, and continue to give your information each year to receive the discount annually.

You can qualify for the Core Group ‘Warm Home Discount’ if you receive one of the following:

Core group

  • Guarantee credit element of pension credit