Nobody knows to move 'cept my baby

A number of companies and organisations these days offer services to move your accounts when you move house. Finally waking up to the fact that a huge number of people are mobile from year to year, and are effectively disenfranchised by the mainstream, owner-oriented methods of transferring utilities, council tax liabilities etc. from one address to another, they’ve set up procedures intended to make your move as smooth as possible.

My advice? Stay well away from them all. Don’t plan in advance: it still isn’t worth it (apart from a tiny exception below). They will get confused, lose your details, be incapable of coping with any kind of contractual overlap between your old and new house: the lot.

Here’s a list of the failures we’ve had trying to plan in advance for our house move this time:

  • Gas and electricity: forget about it. They don’t care. Instead, when you get into the new house, ring Transco and the Meter Point Administration service of your local electricity provider and confirm who’s providing you with fuel. If you ring any company (but especially a certain one) then they’ll swear blind that they’re your current provider and you’ll end up with mad duplicate bills and all sorts of horrors. When you’re ready to letterbox the keys to the old house, first take meter readings and then ring your old providers to say goodbye. Be cagey about your new address, and tell them you’ve already got a provider you’re quite happy with, thanks.
  • Water: Thames Water claim to handle house moves through a form on their site. They spend much of your telephone call to them informing you of this with a recorded message. Unfortunately they can’t cope with any overlap even if they claim they can, and will try to bill your new landlord for that period. Again, just close the account when you’re ready, and open a new one when you arrive. If they offer to take a meter reading from you, then unless you have a special water meter that doesn’t need its manhole pumping out in order to read it, decline politely and suggest an estimated reading. Or give them a mad reading and force them to check it themselves.
  • West Oxfordshire District Council: will simply lose the details of everything you tell them first time round. Their tone of voice will somehow imply this is your fault. I know of no way round this except to try to work for West Oxfordshire District Council during the move.
  • British Telecom: if you’re lucky (in the very narrow sense of still having to have BT provide your phone line) you’ll find the one remaining knowledgeable person in BT that the post-privatisation redundancies didn’t cull. He’s got a faint northern accent and has clearly worked on the wires in his time. I think his name was Fred. He’ll know exactly which buttons to press to transfer your account. Ring them a week or two in advance and it should all work on the first weekday after your move, with an SMS notification to say so (I’m cagey because I’m still at work). At this point, if you have broadband at your old property (see below) then ask him for something like an order matching registration number.

    However, the billing system will still start to send bills for your old address to the new address, effective immediately. And they’ll follow it with a red reminder, because you’ve yet to move into the property yet. When you phone to quietly complain and grudgingly pay the bill, you’ll be put in touch with a Sunday knobhead, lovely girl, who can barely speak English and seems to be on a round-trip satellite phone via Neptune. She will inevitably recommend direct debit in future, as if your payment arrangements can possibly make up for the deficits in their billing arrangements.

    But you will have a phone, if you can just find Fred.

  • ADSL broadband: if they take part in BT’s house-move programme, then you can give them the order reference crossmatch code device from BT, set up a new package (the old one will of course be out of date) and cross your fingers. I’ll let you know more about this one tonight, if I can.
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