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How to Set Up Utilities Before a Move in California

In order to avoid being without electric, gas, water, or internet service in a new California home, movers are able to set up most of these services in advance.

Electric and gas can be set up well in advance – three weeks prior to your move is a good time frame. Water service can be set up in advance as well, although it’s usually provided by the landlord as part of the rent in California.

Be sure to establish who is responsible for which utilities in your rental agreement, and check with your landlord before attempting to change, transfer, or set up any utilities in the new location.

As for internet, keep in mind that you may have to wait for the previous tenant to cancel in order to establish new service. For this reason, it’s common to call and set up internet on-the-spot on your move-in day. However, you can still vet your options in advance to make service start as soon as possible.

Enter an address to view internet companies in your new area, ranked by speed and value.

Basic Utilities

Not all utility services are “mandatory” to have on the very first day of your move-in. Some stuff could be taken care of later. Electricity and water are certainly not among them.

If you are not sure about the items that should make your must-have utility list, the following list of things should get you going. However, before you note them down, ascertain the utilities you would be responsible for as per your lease agreement. Landlords usually cover certain utilities, such as trash and water.

Water and Sewer

You need your water and sewer services to work at least a day before your move-in. Water and sewerage are usually part of your rent. Confirm the same with your landlord, however. When inspecting water in the house, make sure you turn the faucet on and let it run for a few minutes to check for odd smells. Note that an “eggy” smell is often normal when water hasn’t been run for a long time.

Natural Gas

If you plan to use a gas stove for cooking, you will need natural gas. There are units with electrical heaters, but gas-powered stoves are more common. Hot water heaters, too, are usually heated with gas. To stop or start natural gas service, it usually takes a week. A transfer of service will also take at least a week. Therefore, plan accordingly.


You’ll need electricity for powering the lights, appliances, and your various gadgets and kitchen appliances. Based on a particular city or town, there will be different service providers. The energy in California is partially deregulated, which means you may choose your electricity company the way you select your service provider for cable, Internet, or mobile phone. Check with the city or your landlord to learn about firms serving your area.

Trash Collection

Call the primary service provider in your city or region to create your trash management account. Enquire about the kind of bins to be used for recycling and trash beside the day of the week that you must set the garbage out. Some regions could collectivize the costs of water and trash. If that’s the case, you need not create an account.

Internet, Cable, and Phone

Internet, cable, and telephone are utilities that you can typically purchase as a bundle. Internet and cable usually take slightly longer for setting up since additional equipment may be needed. For Wi-Fi Internet, the utility firm will provide you a router. You’ll require a cable box for cable TV.

Start planning on the setup at least two weeks prior to moving in so that everything is set when you finally arrive. In fact, some companies may directly communicate to their subscribers the significance of early bookings for a seamless service.

Security Systems

Security systems could comprise security cameras, an alarm system, and also updates on air quality so that you know when there’s carbon monoxide in the air. Alarms are added security tools. They go off if someone breaks into your house – whether you are at home or away.

Most cities in California or any other state for that matter offer local services – sewer, garbage pick-up, recycling, water services, etc. Hydro and gas or electricity services are typically furnished by the state. It’s, therefore, recommended you check the official site of California state to learn more. Visit this site for more information.

Finding and Contacting Utility Providers in California

Once you’ve compiled the list of utilities you need, your next step is to look for respective service providers. Certain cities, neighborhoods, landlords, property management companies, and apartment buildings could have their own utility provider requirements. Ask your landlord for recommendations on preferred providers.

It’s, in fact, advised you first reach out to your landlord before contacting respective providers since you’d then eliminate a considerable amount of guesswork and save time.

Some utility firms may only serve particular areas. If your existing service providers offer service in the area you’re moving to, make a note of their contact information since that would save you the time and effort you’ll otherwise have to expend on looking for fresh service providers in a new place.

Your lease agreement, your landlord, or the official website of California city may offer you information on the various utility companies. After you’ve zeroed down on the service providers, the next obvious step is getting in touch with them. You’ll have to correspond with different service providers for different utilities such as electricity, water, natural gas, etc.

Regardless of your requirements, contact the respective service providers on the phone. Head to their official websites for their contact numbers. While you’re at it, thoroughly scan the site for utility setup information. When on the call, make sure you provide them your existing (if required) and new home addresses, along with the date you would like the service to begin. Also, most utility companies would like you to make a payment (partial or full) at this point.

It’s recommended that you get in touch with the service providers at least a couple of weeks before the day of relocation – three weeks prior is ideal – as gas, phone, cable, and electric companies have their lead times to work on disconnect/connect requests. If the job entails equipment installation of some kind, you must contact the respective service providers ideally a month before the day of your move-in.

If your current home has utilities set up already, you will have to transfer them to your new house or cancel them and set up utilities as fresh connections.

When scheduling disconnection and connection dates for electricity and gas, consider setting the disconnection date on the first or second day after you’ve vacated the property. This way, the HVAC and lights would still be functioning, lest you need to visit the house to pick up something you left behind.

If transferring utilities, the service provider for your existing and new house would be the same. Get in touch with existing utility providers to cancel the services. If you are setting up utilities from scratch, there will be no need to cancel anything.

Confirming Things

If you are renting, your landlord could need proof of the arrangements you have in place to set up utilities. Find out how early you should be providing this information to your landlord so that you could contact service providers accordingly.

For a seamless shift to your new home in California, you should have things all instituted at least a week before you step in. Do not leave everything to the end as there are chances you could miss out on something or make certain errors.

Also, when vacating your existing house, note down the final readings of your electric, water, and gas meters. Keep your report or bill’s copy so that you could present them as evidence if discrepancies are found later. Pay overdue bills (if any) and also collect any utility deposits or refunds.

Applying for Services

Utility companies have their own set of policies and processes for managing fresh service applications. If you are moving into California from another country, such as Canada, you may have to deposit money for the majority of the services, since the service providers will not be sure of your credit history. Though this may entail paying a higher fee at start, the deposit sum will be refunded to you once the firm learns more about your financial status.

If you are moving into California from another state, you’ll be subject to a credit check at the time of applying for the various services. If your credit rating is bad or it’s your very first home, and you’ve never registered for utility services before, you may have to pay a deposit as well. Based on the utility requirements of your property, your deposit amount will significantly vary.

Note some utility companies could offer incentives if you’re a first-time consumer. If the service provider doesn’t offer you one on its own, enquire if there are incentive programs in place. Also, negotiate with the company so that you could lower your monthly bills or partially or completely waive your security deposit.

Utility Providers in LA and San Francisco

If you are moving to Los Angeles or San Francisco, this list of utility providers for the two cities should come in handy.

For the city of Los Angeles, the following are the primary service providers for different utilities:

The following are your utility service providers for the city of San Francisco:

Getting Wi-Fi Connection on the Very First Day of Moving In

Since the Internet is an integral part of everyday life, you would want your Internet connection to be up and running as soon as you move into the new place. If your current Internet service provider (ISP) offers services in the area you are shifting to, you just have to let them know in advance so that the existing connection could be severed, and a fresh connection could be installed.

That said, do not expect the costs to be the same – even with the same provider. Like availability, Internet pricing also varies between areas. Also, if you are moving to a more remote region, your existing ISP may not be offering service to that zip code. If that’s the case, then you’ll have to look for another service provider. Learn and ascertain beforehand availability and pricing issues. When the options are few and far between, the costs could be higher.

If your existing ISP offers service in the new area you’re moving to, look for disparities in the monthly costs between the regions. If there are any variations or even if the prices are identical, it pays to look for other ISP options in the region in case you are open to the idea. After all, a good Internet connection is not just about the price. If you are absolutely comfortable with your existing ISP, then you may stick with the company.

If you don’t mind switching, do look around. Your existing service provider may claim their service to be the best or the most cost-effective in the area, but do not take their word for it. Carry out area-specific research so that you can be sure of the right Internet plans in your region for the optimal price.

Besides costs, you shall consider quite a few other things too when choosing an ISP, which include:

  • Equipment costs

  • Setup and installation fees

  • Data cap, and the costs of exceeding it

  • Contracts and premature cancellation fees

Also, find out if you could bundle your Internet along with your TV and/or phone plan. If you can, then you’ll end up saving some money on the arrangement every month. As far as Internet connection types go, your options would include fiber-optics, cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), and satellite Internet. These types determine your connection speed and also how much you shell out every month on the service.

Other Things to Consider

There are a few other important tasks that you must finish before getting a move on.

Scheduling Movers

Start looking for moving companies a few months prior to your imminent move. Make sure the firms are duly insured and licensed for the job. Check out the companies on sites such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) for reviews, ratings, and complaints.

Selling and Donating Things

The lesser number of things you carry, the better. By not packing in everything, your moving costs would come down, and you’ll also save time and effort packing and unpacking items. There are different ways to part ways with your old furniture, outdated appliances, and other unnecessary stuff. Selling and donating them are two solid methods.

You can sell your goods through different online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay. If you would like to donate items, there are various organizations that would be more than willing to lap up your used goods. They would also pick up your items from your address for free.

Arrange a Parking Permit

If your new apartement is in a major city center and the sign on the street says “permit exempt” with a number, chances are you’ll need to get a parking permit.

The process and cost varies from city to city — just know that you may be able to get discounts or free parking permits if have a handicap sticker.

The best thing you can do is search “city name” + “parking permit” to find the right municipal phone number to call. If they do require that you use a parking permit, they will walk you through the process to obtain one.

The costs can vary dramatically between areas too and you may need to apply for more than one pass if you have multiple vehicles, if you expect to have visitors or if you have workers or service providers visiting on a regular basis.

This is worth doing 2–3 weeks in advance, because it may take a week or longer for the process to be complete.

During our research into this area we found several cities in California with no online application process and that means you pay need to push paper by hand or mail it in to get your permits arranged. The earlier you start, the more likely they will be ready for when you arrive.

Does The Current Resident Need To Cancel A Service Before You Get One Started?

In most instances they don’t need to cancel for you to arrange the service on a given date. The assumption will be that you are assuming all responsibility for bills, etc. from that date and that the previous person is no longer paying.

The utility company may or may not contact the previous service holder for confirmation in this respect. Don’t worry though, you can’t be held liable for any bills that are incurred prior to the point where you assume responsibility for the service.

However, if you can come to terms with the current resident and get them to issue notices of cessation of service to the various service providers, it can help make the paperwork just a little bit easier for everyone involved.

Note: Internet service is an exception. New internet service often requires the current tenant to cancel before you can confirm a new plan.

Does The Landlord Have To Approve Each Utility Service For A Rental Property?

You should always check your contract, whether you’re renting in California or anywhere else, as to what services (if any) that your landlord is responsible for. In our experience, the landlord will often choose to shoulder water (including sewerage) and garbage fees themselves. This will be because they don’t want the hassle of constantly changing the name on the bills.

If you can’t see anything on the contract, then you should ask your landlord just to be sure. Sometimes, they will just assume you knew that local custom was for them to handle water and garbage.

If you can’t see anything on the contract and you can’t get any information from your landlord, you should assume that you’re paying and that you need to arrange the services yourself. You won’t need your landlord’s permission for this because the service provider will bill you from move in date and cease billing the landlord at that point.

However, just because you don’t need something – it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for it. We’d recommend that you at least write and tell the landlord that you intend to apply for services and which services and give them a chance to provide some input. That’s just good manners and is likely to keep your relationship with your landlord in good repair.

You should know that if you landlord does have responsibility for a service and they stop paying, refuse to pay, etc. you can have the service forcibly transferred to your name without being held liable for any of the landlord’s arrears.

Conduct an Energy Audit

The last thing and perhaps the most important thing that you must do before fully shifting to your new home is conducting an energy audit of the place. Get a technician on board to do the test. The audit exercise would let you in on the need for any improvements in the house’s insulation, furnace, or ductwork. It essentially tells you about any air leaks or other possible integrity concerns the house may have.


Moving to California, like moving to any big state or city, can be quite tedious and expensive. Planning things beforehand or doing your research would help you save a lot of hassle, time, and, most importantly, money.

By the time you set foot in your new house, it should be fully functional. You can confirm your new house is all set up with necessary utilities, by:

  • switching on the light,

  • flushing the toilet,

  • turning the stove on,

  • connecting to the Internet, etc.

For verifying trash pick-up services, you’ll have to wait until collection day. Within a week of living in your new home, you should have completely learned about the space and its state of utilities. If certain utilities do not turn on, call the service provider right away. The provider should be more than willing to address issues and even expedite services if there are mistakes on their side.

Page Summary
  • Water utility is usually included as part of your rent in California, but confirm with your landlord as some buildings have non-standard metering setups.
  • Gas and Electric can be purchased from large public utilities as well as smaller private companies, since electric and gas is currently deregulated in California.
  • Internet service should be set up in advance, but in some cases the provider will not let you establish service until the current tenant cancels — therefore, prepare for a couple days offline using mobile if possible.

Jameson Zimmer
Broadband Market Analyst
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Last Update: June 30, 2022
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