Utility fee for long term sit?

We are looking for house sitters for a period of 5 months. Is it usual that the sitters always live for free? We are a little bit worried that the service charges will increase, for example because the sitters heat the house a lot or use a lot of water. How is this usually handled for long term sits? Is it possible to charge an amount for utilities here?

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We just started a 5 month house sit in Brisbane, Australia. Our HO is very frugal when it comes to utilities (we’ve sat for her before and have a good relationship). We like to be comfortable and turn lights on more freely. We proposed, and agreed to pay a set amount per month. This is not an unusual discussion to have for a long house sit.

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Are they also caring for pets, plants, yard? Or just the home? For a long sit, I would consider paying anything that’s a certain amount over the utilities for the same month last year, depending on what my other sit responsibilities are. So if you paid $100 last year and the bill this year is $150, I would pay the $50. You also have to look at who will be sitting for you. If you are a couple, it’s completely possible that your bills will go down with a single person there.

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That’s a good idea! They will have to take care for two cats and a few indoor plants. As it will be winter when we‘ll be away the garden won‘t need much attention.
I would like to charge an amount for heater/warm water and firewood. I‘ll be fine with the other costs, as we will have to pay them anyway and as they are not consumption based.
I had no idea if asking for that fee is common on long term sits. It‘s good to read that this is not unusual. And I hope it won‘t scare sitters and stop them from applying for the sit.

It’s not common for HOs to ask for utility fees (less than 5% I would say). We have only been asked to pay twice (both times very high amounts, up to 1000 EUR per month). Obviously we didn’t go through with those sits. We have never paid anything and would not consider sits on THS where money is exchanged (we only do sits with animals, though). But it’s not completely unheard of and you might find suitable sitters who are willing to pay a sum. It’s just best to be very clear and transparent in the listing about all the costs (and maybe also write what you usually pay).

Charging for utilities is allowed by THS, but it may cut down on your number of applicants. The heating and cooling are also needed for your pets, unless you would consider leaving them in a house without heating/cooling. But I do understand your desire to protect yourself against sitters running up your utility bills. Whatever you decide to do should be transparent and mutually agreed upon. Good luck.

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Well we have two cats and only a few inside plants that have to be taken care of. It is really little work. And in a 5 months period during winter I am really concerned that sitters are „waisting“ energy as they do not have to pay for it. We have a fire place and the wood is expensive. I don‘t want to give it away for free…. Of course I don‘t want the sitter to pay my rent, but just an amount that covers their costs. I was thinking of 100€ per months. They‘ll have a 125sqm house and really not much work!

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@DaNi I would add that amount to your listing and see how you get on with applications. I personally do not think this is unreasonable. If someone does they just won’t apply for your sit. If you don’t get any applications you can always change it.

Just a question… would you not heat the house for your cats anyway?

I have never applied to a sit that asked the sitter to contribute to utilities, I would perhaps consider it if there were no animals and it was an absolute dream of a location but it doesn’t really sit that well with me so would have to be a special circumstance.

And I am thinking of this from both sides, I usually sit through TH but my partner and I are considering going away together for a few months this winter and will be looking for a sitter. We wouldn’t dream of asking the sitter to pay for heat. We’d be heating the house so the pipes and dog didn’t freeze anyway.

Living in Canada with pretty high winter heating costs, I do understand your concern, but keeping my house lived in and my dog cared for, loved, and out of an expensive kennel is well worth the heating cost to me.

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Hi @CreatureCuddler
Energy prices have gone up so much. This may not be quite fair.
@DaNi taking meter readings and comparing with how much electricity you used last year would be fairer.
With the wood perhaps leave them how much you would use for 5 months and tell them where they can get more if they want to burn more.
I wouldn’t pay for utilities, but equally I am very considerate of the HO and their circumstances. We did a sit in France where we were constantly cold as we were so careful with the heating. Couldn’t believe it when the HO came back and didn’t turn the heating off before going to bed. We went down and did it feeling quite taken advantage of.

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Same here, even paying a person to come twice a day to visit the cats would set you back by around 4000 EUR (for a period of 5 months), while with THS you get loving full time care for free. 500 EUR utility fees for 5 months isn’t THAT much on the other hand and I’ve certainly seen worse offers. If we were new sitters or felt that we REALLY needed to do this particular sit, we would perhaps consider it.

So you´d like to charge your sitter(s) 100 Euro per month for the extra energy she/he/they may (eventually) use due to her/his/their carelessness while they provide a free service to you? Hmmm.

Just checked the Cologne pet service market. Overnight stay at the sitter´s home costs approx. 30 Euro/night which equals 900 Euros per month. The cheapest kennel I found was 15 euros per night per pet. Your two cats would cost 900 Euros per month. Say you get some discount for the second cat. 600? 5 months - 3000 Euro? 600 per month.

100 vs 600 … easy math.

I am still pretty new to THS, but quite frankly your post made me question … well, a lot of things

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Do make sure that if you go this route, you include it in your advertising post, and don’t spring it on the sitters after much discussion has passed. I’m certain it’s not just me, but yes, it would put me off.

If you would have the heat on for your pets and to keep your house in good condition. then you should reconsider,.

Plaster cracks, pipes freeze, and floors buckle when indoor temps are too cold. My in-laws had a vacation home in northern Wisconsin that they didn’t heat at all over winters, and the resulting damage from the cold was a surprise every spring. Even picture frames became warped, the glue got brittle, and glass fell to the floor and shattered.

It seems unfair to expect that your sitter would have to stay in a cold house to avoid having an expense while they stay for you.

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Though we have certainly seen requests for utilities for long-term sits, we have never applied for them. We have, though, had frank conversations with HOs about how they managed the costs and did our very best to follow. For example, in one 17th century farmhouse in Italy, they had heavy drapes blocking off the stairwells and only heated the main floor. For the bedrooms, we just turned on a small electric heater shortly before going to bed and turned it off again once we were settled. This was in winter. In a recent sit in Canada, the HOs showed us how to boost the heat from their AC/heater, but also said that they liked to use the fireplace when it was chilly. We chopped and used wood to keep the costs down. I agree with others that you would need to heat the home for your animals. I would just have a conversation with prospective sitters about your cost concerns. As a sitter, I would love to know, after the first month, how we were doing, allowing all to relax or tweak behaviours as necessary.

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@RadarInc I think THS is always a win win situation for both sides. I don‘t want to offend people but it was a point I was thinking about and that’s why I asked this question here. I would like to get a feeling what is ok and how other people handle it. And maybe my worries are pointless. :slight_smile:

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@Lindsay That‘s a good point! I really don‘t want so scare sitters and stop them from applying. I want to get a feeling what is ok and what is not. That’s why I am asking this question here in the community. I wouldn‘t have charged them for utilities, but than I was reading here about sitters that left the house in a mess and do not take care of things and animals. Of course I do videocalls before and I hope I can trust my gut feeling. Normally I would assume that all people behave in a polite way and don‘t waste energy. But it CAN happen that they waste all things because they don‘t have to pay for them. And I realised that quite often sitter use this plattform only to have holidays for free. It should be a win win for both sides!
But maybe you are right and I’ll just have to trust the sitters.

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This is a great point. I’ve not paid for utilities in years so I don’t really pay attention to those costs, though I still try to minimize my personal usage, just for planetary reasons.

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Hi @DaNi to answer your original question it is not against the rules to ask sitters for contribution to the cost of utilities.

However keep in mind this will severely limit your number of interested sitters. The number is already limited because it requires a 5 months stay in a Schengen zone country and the fact your house is a bit out of town and the sitter will probably require a car to get to the grocery store. We briefly looked at your listing but you had the 500 EUR utility cost so we moved on. Our advice is to have an open discussion with your sitter and set expectations for energy use. Experienced sitters with many 5 stars reviews have already proven that they won’t run up energy bills or waste energy. Although this sit is not for us, it may be a great sit for somebody else. Good luck!

P.S. Your cats are super cute!

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It is a good question but the equation you are doing seems back to front to me. The way I look at it is

the longer the stay = more utility usage cost to home host
Is equal to
the longer the stay = The more the home host saves on kennel/cattery fees

Hence a one week stay will cost the home owner no more or less than a one year stay

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Hi @DaNi Unrelated to your question in this post, but keeping in mind your goal is to find sitters, I’ll mention one point. Your listing shows that there’s a bus stop outside the house, and travel into the city is 20 mins by car or 30 mins by train/bus. There is a supermarket 2 km away. This tells me that it’s not really inconvenient to use public transit, whereas it is in some areas. I question why you show that the sitter needs a car. Convenient? Yes. Needed, perhaps not. You are limiting the number of sitters that may show any interest.

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