Do utilities NEED to be turned on?

21 Replies

I just closed on a house that did not have  the power connected nor the water. We won't be starting work on it immediately. My question is, do I need to turn on the utilities  or can I hold off on that ? I'm just trying to figure out  if something  bad will happen within the mechanicals of the house.

@Melissa Dinas no utilities do not Need to be on. But as some stage they will be required. The risk to the systems would be frozen pipes and I don't think that would be much of an issue where you are.

hard to do renovations without running water: wet saws, cement, grout, paint, dirty tools, subcontractors when nature calls, etc...

@Max T. I can't remember the last time I did a renovation on one of my rentals when I had electricity and power.... We just use a generator and then we fill up 2 big trash cans full of water from the neighbor and we pay them 20 bucks and we just work out of that. But my renovations are usually gut jobs and I can't get utilities turned on until I'm almost finished anyway from the city..

@Marcia Maynard The house has been vacant for quite some, even before I became the proud new owner =-) Everything of value has been stripped already. However, I do want to avoid inheriting squatters! 

The reason I was asking was because I haven't been able to get the utilities on due to my missing a certain document. So that got me to thinking, what's going to happen for the several days that I can't connect the water & power? It didn't have it during the time it was listed....so I'm soliciting for all possible scenarios that I don't know about, being a newb and all. 

@Max T. Yes, I am planning on having them all on by that point but I didn't know if there were any negatives to not turning them on immediately as opposed to waiting until they're needed. Thanks for your input. 

@Mark Fries sounds fun. I actually need to get permits for the MEP'S so it seems to me we'll need it up and running before then. How do you do gut jobs without power & water? Don't you need permits? And don't inspectors need to check those things? I've never been through this process before so any insight would be appreciated. 

@Melissa Dinas Permits for full MEPS seems overkill for residential remodel. If you had a medium size commercial property and you are doing massive amounts of work then I could see the need for all of that but otherwise...forget it.

@Jason D. My main concern was the fact that I actually couldn't get them turned on immediately because I was missing a doc when I went in to do it and then the next day they were closed and now it's the weekend...however, I hadn't considered what you just pointed out. Thanks for the input!

Originally posted by @Sam Shueh :

I always turn the utility bill on. No consumption no pay.

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they don't want to disconnect now unless the property change its title - yes, there is cost even if you don't use anything - connection costs.

Gas will be $30/mo, water $9/mo, sewer $12.....if you're doing nothing - these bills still cost you

@Melissa Dinas,

Like others replying to your post, I have done rehabs with and without utilities.

Let me answer your question by asking one:  If you were the contractor or sub, would you charge more for doing a job without utilities?  Will you provide a porta potty, or not (think trips back and forth to the nearest convenience store or gas station, or worst-case, they use a corner in the backyard, which leaves the wrong impression on your neighbors)?  If you have to use your own generator, which is a hassle and requires constant refueling, is this extra work?  In the absence of good lighting, as contractor, will you provide your own ancillary lighting, or will you just get by, which could impact the quality of work performed? 

Other challenges:  Tough to plug in security cameras without power, right?  After several break-ins on prior rehabs, I decided to install security at all projects for two reasons, keep my contractors honest and notify me when unauthorized parties attempt access.  Also, unless you use an electronic lockbox on the front door, you may want to use intelligent locks, which require Internet access, which requires power.

No question that there are many reasons why you should turn on utilities, not the least of which would be to better understand how the plumbing and electrical is working given the property has been vacant for a while, but I can't think of one reason why you shouldn't, including the one about saving money, because I am fairly confident that not having utilities will end up costing you alot more than you might think.

Best of luck on your project!

I would place the utilities online then just close off the master water into the home and flip breaker off until you need it.  Wont cost you much.  My fear is perhaps you need to plug work equipment to handle whatever and there is no power.  A generator comes with issues you probably rather avoid.

@Melissa Dinas if the utilities have been off for a while the utility company may want to perform an inspection before they turn them in. I would at least contact them now and see if that’s necessary so you don’t get held up later.

Thank you all to your insightful additions to my question. 

I wouldn't have my contractor and his crew working without heat or running water and wouldn't want the hassle of a generator for power, although that may work for some. Work won't be starting for a couple of weeks (one of those unforeseen things) so I was wanting to weigh the pros/cons of waiting until then...

Lots of information here. Thanks!

Turn the utilities on.  Aside from avoiding the vacant house look due to no lighting, many municipalities require an inspection of the various utilities to reconnect after a prolonged period of no service.  This can be expensive and or time consuming, especially if the property's  mechanicals are way behind current code. 

In the county I rehab in, an inspection is required for re-connection of residential utilities that have been off for one year.  This drops to 30 days for commercial properties.