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What Renters Need to Know about Utilities

What Renters Need to Know about Utilities

What Renters Need to Know about Utilities

10Feb

What Renters Need to Know about Utilities

One of the duties for landlords is that they must provide tenants with a habitable place to live, which includes access to water, heat, and electricity. While they must provide the availability of these home essentials, they aren't obligated to pay. If the landlord doesn't assume responsibility, then it's up to the tenant to pay utilities. The lease should have the information about who pays.

Shared Meters/Shared Utilities

Sometimes, landlords make tenants share utility meters. This is legal, but they must inform you that this is happening. In shared meter situations, you and your landlord should come to an understanding about the percentage of each utility bill you will pay, and this needs to be in writing to benefit both parties. When you're charged, your bill should contain the meter reading at the beginning and at the end of the month, in addition to the current rates.

If you and your landlord are under the same roof, they will usually say something about sharing utilities. If the utilities are on the same bill, there should be indications about who is responsible. If not, or if the landlord isn't following the agreement, then they are in violation of the law.

The Name on the Account

When the landlord keeps the utilities in their name, they are the utility customer, not you. Generally, it's not an issue unless your landlord stops paying or goes into foreclosure. To avoid service interruption, tenants can apply for their own account. Here, you pay the bill while it's in your name, but the company can't make you pay any of your landlord's past due balance.

Is Your Landlord Using Your Utilities?

  • If you find this happening, confirm that you're the one paying for these utilities. Check your lease. Is there is any information about who is allowed to use these utilities.
  • If you and your landlord are under the same roof, there's probably a mention of shared utilities. If utilities are on the same bill, there should be indications about who is responsible. If not, or the landlord isn't following the agreement, then they're in violation.
  • If your landlord is using your utilities, they may also be accessing the property you rent. Confirm that they're visits comply with the lease and the law in general.
  • Document evidence: For example, trace the utilities to a power source and take pictures/videos to show appliances your landlord has hooked up to utilities you pay for.
  • Determine the frequency of use: monitor when your landlord starts and stops using the utilities. Is there a pattern?
  • Review old bills: if there was a time when you're sure your landlord wasn't using your services, use those bills as a reference, comparing your current bills with past bills. If nothing else changes, the price difference could indicate landlord usage, which can determine how much money you think your landlord owes you.
  • Address your landlord: send a written and traceable request. Discuss the issue and a proposed solution.
  • Continue paying rent and following lease: do not use this issue as a reason to be a bad tenant. Don't withhold rent or stop paying utilities. Don't attempt to cut off power source/utilities as it may be a safety risk or may decrease aesthetic value to the property.

Talk to an Experienced Tenants' Rights Attorney about Utility Concerns

As both a renter and a utility consumer, you have certain rights. For instance, when your landlord bills you for utilities, they must charge the same amount as the utility company and can't make a profit. If your landlord violates this or is otherwise breaking the law, you will probably want to discuss this with an experienced tenants' rights attorney. Contact a Wolford Wayne lawyer for help with your landlord/tenant issues.

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For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.

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