Experience transferring utilities during a local move

We moved to a rental in Alameda a week ago (03/2010) after the sale of our primary home. As soon as a lease agreement is in place the next step is to coordinate address change with USPS and transferring all the utilities to the new address. This post is aimed at being a place holder for the various utilities that needs to be notified during a move and to help manage expectation when conducting business with them. Despite being monopolies, these steps largely went smooth although there are some caveats as can be seen from the details given below.

USPS Change of Address: It is recommended that this request be submitted at-least two weeks prior to the move date. The alternatives are
  • Online option: The movers guide section of the USPS website allows for submitting the form online – forwarding start date, type of move (permanent vs temporary), Name/Address, and Identity Verification (Credit card details input and a $1 charge) are the requisites.
  • Over the phone: 1-800-ASK-USPS ($1 verification fee applies) and performing a similar process,
  • Mail in: Use the online system, print, and mail the form (no $1 verification fee), or
  • In person: Submit the PS Form 3575 at the post office.
We chose the online process and it worked well.

Electric Power & Gas: The electric Power & Gas transfer was the easiest. All that was required was only a quick call to Alameda Power & Telecom (510-748-3900) and PG&E (1-800-743-5000) respectively. PG&E did question whether access was an issue at the new address.

Water: East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) offers two kinds of transfer fees - $16 applies for an online transaction or $32 for over the phone. We tried the cheaper online option, but having timed out twice, on the third attempt the system asked to call them. The information one is required to provide is the same either way and the process itself was smooth, although we were on the hook for the higher fee.

Recycling/Garbage Collection: Alameda County Industries (510-483-1400) sends star/stop forms upon request which needs to be filled up and submitted by fax or in-person (2307 Blanding Avenue, Alameda, CA-94501). A 3-month service deposit is required which is charged to your credit card (that information is requested on the start service form). They do a final pickup on the day of your usual pickup when your carts are taken (the id numbers on the cart are needed for the Start service form). New ones are delivered to the new address on the day of that pickup. Again, well-oiled operation.

Internet Service: AT&T DSL Internet Dry Loop Service transfer turned out to be the most disruptive step in this whole process. As this move came on the heels of the bad experience we encountered while trying to move from regular phone service to Vonage, we ensured we did due diligence this time around. We called the customer service a week early to get the process rolling. The customer service call (1-877-722-3755) itself went well and a transfer for the day of the move was double confirmed. A new account number and order number was also given. Imagine our horror, when the Internet ceased working within an hour! This meant our Vonage telephone service was down too. Called AT&T to check the status of the order and the automated system said the order was scheduled for the day we called – not the day of the move. After repeated calls to AT&T customer service, our request was escalated and a new order created and they informed that it had to be done with a new voice number as otherwise the delay will be longer. The rest of the day saw no progress but on the following day an AT&T rep showed up at the house wanting to hook up a voice line. He was oblivious about our situation and we were left with a dial-tone on the phone line and could receive in-coming calls (no outbound calls), although this was NOT what was requested. After wasting more time waiting on the customer support line we decided enough was enough so called AT&T and cancelled the request to have DSL reinstated for the remaining days at the old address. Needless to say, we went through the same drill of having to take emergency time-off from work and having to be content with 2-hour one-way commutes for the rest of the week. Once we moved, to our surprise, things went smoothly, and we had DSL and Vonage service up and running in no time. A couple of days later, the new owners at our old house informed us that AT&T customer service had informed them that they had NEVER received a request from us to cancel the voice line – surprise, surprise! Words fail us!

Telephone Service: For Vonage telephone service, nothing special is required, but you do need Internet access!

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