Paying utility bills in China: Central heating
If you live in the south of China, this probably won’t even be an issue, as you won’t have any central heating. In the north of China, however, winter heating bills are the biggest utility payment you’ll have to look out for. Here’s how it works.
Firstly, check with your landlord: Who is actually making the payment to the heating company? Many landlords will take care of the payment, which is one less thing for you to worry about. Of course, you, as the tenant, will still be coughing up the money – your landlord will either factor the cost of heating into your rent, or will tell you how much it is and collect the money from you when it’s time to pay.
The company providing your heating will usually notify you of the need to pay your heating bill just before the heating system is switched on (the activation date is usually November 15 every year). Normally, a slip of paper showing the amount you should pay will be posted to your door. In some buildings, a sign will be posted on the noticeboard at the entrance of the property telling all residents to pay their heating bill by a specified date, or in elevators or other communal spaces. Alternatively, you may be asked to pay your heating bill at the same time as paying your annual property management (wu ye) fee.
Making a payment
Before signing your contract, ask your landlord how the heating bill is usually paid and whether it should be them or you who pays it. If your landlord handles the payment, they’ll save you the hassle, although be aware that they will probably be factoring the cost of the heating into your rent.
In some areas, the heating company may send a representative door-to-door to collect payments. If somebody comes to your door claiming to be a heating company representative, be very careful before handing over any money. Ask to see their ID, or call your landlord if you’re at all unsure. Make sure you ask for a receipt if you do pay your bill this way.
In some cities, you can pay your heating bill at a bank. Not all banks will process this payment – ask your landlord or a friend to help you work out which banks will accept heating bill payments. A list of banks may be printed on the bill form itself. The bill can also be paid at the heating company’s office.
You do not have to go in person to make this payment – somebody else can take the bill along and pay on your behalf, as long as they have your exact address (best to give them your rental contract, or at least a copy), and your customer number if you have one.
Get a receipt
However you pay the bill, make sure you receive a receipt (fapiao) and keep it safe with other similar receipts for future reference.
If you pay the bill after the deadline, it’s not likely that you will be penalized. However, we don’t recommend giving the heating company any opportunity to take advantage of such a situation – save yourself the trouble and pay on time.
If your heating happens to be cut off, or is not working, contact the heating company directly. If you do not have their number or address, go to your building’s property management office (wu ye) and ask them for help.