Turning off utilities on a tenant

8 Replies

Hello All,
If the utilities are seperate from the rent and the tenant has not switched it over as they stated they did(what, a tenant that didn't tell the truth?) - am I legally allowed to have it turned off?
I have a house in Texas and the utilities are current on under my name. Thanks.

Probably not. If you turn off utilities it is usually considered a self help eviction and you don't want to be involved in that. If your tenant was supposed to have had the utilities in their name, but did not get them changed over, you may be able to turn them off, but I would be very careful and check your state and local laws and contact an attorney first. I am not familiar with Texas laws on this, but I believe in Indiana if the tenant is supposed to have utilities in their name, but you continue to pay the bill, you cannot turn the utilities off then.

It was recommended on another site, and I have added to my lease and move in practices, to have the lease state the utilities have been canceled already prior to the move in date and the tenant must get them moved into their name. I call the utility companies a day or two before the move in and confirm the tenant has had the utilities switched over to their name, if they have not, I will give the date to the utility company to have them shut off from my name and then I remind the tenants to get it transferred to their name.

I would recommend you check with an attorney familiar with your local laws to see your rights in this case, but you probably cannot turn the utilities off. So, bill your tenants for the utility charges. Hopefully your lease states payments received will be applied to all other charges before current rent, so if they do not pay, you can evict for non-payment of rent. If not, you will have a more difficult case on your hands and have to evict for breach of lease contract because they did not get the utilities in their name.

Not legal advice.

Originally posted by Dave Poirier:
Hello All,
If the utilities are seperate from the rent and the tenant has not switched it over as they stated they did(what, a tenant that didn't tell the truth?) - am I legally allowed to have it turned off?
I have a house in Texas and the utilities are current on under my name. Thanks.

Until January 1, 2010, in Texas, you could have turned the utilities off after you served a 5 day notice. The state changed the law. Now the landlord cannot turn off the utilities for non-payment. However, I am not sure how you are going to resolve this problem. Probably as @Kyle Meyers stated, it's attorney time.

Good luck

Just give 30 day notice and eat the utilities and move on. Attorneys will just cost you a whole lot more than a month of utilities.

You wouldn't be able to just turn off utilities. Legal action is your best option to resolve.

Thanks to all who answered.

Yeah Dave you made a newbie mistake.

Seasoned tenants know these things.Here we also have a program where you can have an agreement with the power company where if a tenant leaves they automatically transfer power into the landlords name so you can work on the unit.

Otherwise you have to pay a 30 connection fee each time to turn on for the landlord.Problem is tenants call power company and say they are moving when they are not.Power company then transfers power into landlords name while the tenant is still living there.

You the landlord now find out you have a nice bill for the last 2 months.Also if it is transferred into your name and then you get it cancelled the tenants cry foul and say you turned off utilities for non-payment.If it's an emergency or elderly person then the power company will turn back on and bill the landlord here.

How I get around all of this is I do not have a landlord agreement with the power company.The power is always in the tenants name.If the power company cuts off for non payment it has nothing to do with me nor can the tenant pull a scam and say they are leaving to get put in my name because I do not have that agreement in place with the power company.

If after a tenant leaves I need to work on a unit I get it turned on and then turned off before a tenant is allowed to move in.Then it's on them to get turned on.

Never let a tenant move in while you have any utilities on in your name.I do have water and trash in our name but that is included in the rent for my apartment buildings but you wouldn't do that for a house.

Im in PA so I'm sure its different than Texas, but I had this happen to me over the winter. I had a tenant move in and said she put the utilities in her name, but I received two bills that totaled over $300. Her not having power in the dead of winter kept me from acting the first month, but after the second bill I said oh well. I called the electric company and they said that since I am the landlord they would stop billing me for the power starting that day and would present her with a 10-day notice to have the power put in her name or be shut off. About 15 days later she called me begging me to have the power turned back on because the electric company had shut it off... I told her it was out of my hands and she had to take it up with the electric company. She did and got the power turned back on. Now I tell the tenant they have to put the power in their name and make the call to the utility company the day they sign the lease.

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