Utilities connection in Andalucia - The Basics
By Dee McMath
It can be quite a culture shock to up sticks and live abroad. Many people decide to settle in Andalucia, after many years of spending pleasant vacations in this beautiful part of Spain. However, if you have been used to hotels, rented accommodation or perhaps staying with friends and family, you may not know how to go about having the various facilities such as water, gas, electricity and telephone connected - to say nothing of how or where to pay the bills.
In many ways, the process follows the same basic principals as in the UK, but of course it is all part of the Spanish language and culture. If you have bought a property or have a long term rental contract, then you have most likely already some contact with a lawyer or administrator, who will certainly be able to help you out if you trust them to give you the right guidance.
To set up an account with the electricity company for example, it is quite likely that you will receive this energy supply from the large company in Andalucia, Sevillana-Endesa, although more competition is bringing wider choice of supplier into this field. Whether you have bought or are renting, you will need to produce some proof of occupation to the electricity company, show certain documents and sign a contract. To be able to pay your electricity bill through your bank (Sevillana-Endesa charge bimonthly), you will have to have a bank account set up and make sure it holds funds to pay the bills presented, or you risk being cut off.
The water companies work in much the same way and the process is quite similar to set up and keep running smoothly. There are some special laws concerning the use of water in more rural areas and you should find out more on that from your local authority, as well as chatting to your new neighbours. Some communities have their own separate water supply, which can be a great boon in times of drought, but may mean a supplement on your annual water bill. If you are living on an 'urbanization' (estate) where there is a Community of Owners, then ask the Community Administrator or President of the Community for any information.
Many people in Andalucia still rely on gas bottles (normally supplied by the company 'Butano', but there are also other companies such as CEPSA who sell gas canisters). Living in Andalucia, rows of Butano gas bottles being transported in open lorries will soon become a familiar sight around your local town or village. Along with the sight comes the familiar sound of banging and clanking as empty bottles are exchanged for full ones. Due to the weight of a full gas bottle, home delivery can be pre-arranged by a phone call to the local depot or supplier. This form of energy is used in many traditional flats and houses for gas cookers, water heaters and portable room heaters. It is a fairly cheap form of energy, but one which is becoming less popular as lifestyle expectations are changing; newer properties have cleaner, more modern forms of energy. Until a few years ago, central heating and air conditioning were considered a great luxury in Andalucia, whereas it is now becoming much more common. So the gas bottle, while not yet extinct, is not as popular as it used to be.
Although the mobile phone is another lifestyle change favoured by the modern Andalucian generation, the landline is still an essential part of life - not least of all, for our access to the Internet. There are many telephone companies and providers of internet connection and broadband, but the most predominant one present is Telefónica. The best thing is to shop around for the best provider and connection, which suits your needs. There may already be a telephone line in the property you are going to live in. The previous occupants should have cancelled the active line, but at least you have the installation in place and simply have to arrange for re-connection and then set up the standing order with you bank to pay both connection and phone bills. The process is very similar to that with the electricity and water companies. Remember that if you intend to rent out your property for part of the year, you might want to cancel the phone line while renters occupy your property.
With all utilities, when you move into a property, make sure all previous bills are paid off before you move in. Your lawyer, administrator or landlord should hand over the last bill for each utility so that you can transfer everything into your name. Since you are now living in a foreign country with different levels of charges, it is also best to keep a close eye on the bills coming in and your bank account, to avoid any nasty surprises when all the bills come in at once and funds are low! It is also important to know that although you may do everything exactly to the letter and set up the billing from the start, it has been known for the utility company to keep sending the bills to the previous user's bank account for the first few months. This is very annoying, because you only learn about this when final demands arrive at your address. So cheque the due dates and phone the company concerned if think a bill has been missed.
Once you have your contracts signed and your bank payments going through, you will see how smoothly things can work in this part of the world. However a word of advice - think twice before changing your Spanish bank account once your Direct Debits are all set up!