Eviction in progress - Can I shutoff utilities?

9 Replies

So I have this tenant in my 3 unit complex that I've had a lot of problems with over the last few months. Aside from these issues, she stopped paying rent at the beginning of August. I really want her out of there and have already started the eviction process but it can take quite a long time to wrap up. The other tenants are getting fed up with her and are threatening to move out.

Utilities are included in her rent, meaning I pay them. So what I am wondering is, since she hasn't paid rent/utils can I call the utility company and have them shutoff her gas and electric? She is currently living in her motor-home outside her unit running an extension cord from inside. I think turning off the electricity could be the motivation she needs to move on down the road, but I don't want to do anything illegal.

I am new at this and this is my first eviction. The advice of more seasoned landlords would be welcome. Oh and this is in Colorado if that makes any difference.

Thanks!

If she stopped paying rent first of August why is she still there?  Evictions are usually pretty quick here.  Try these guys:  http://www.thslawfirm.com/

Not sure they work in Co Springs, but they can point you to someone if they don't.

No, you cannot just turn off the utilities.   That's a "self help" eviction and will make a bad situation worse.

You definitely don't want to shut off any utilities cause as Jon stated that would be considered a self help eviction which is just more trouble. Just follow thru with the eviction doing everything by the book.

so she's not living in your complex but in a trailor next to it and basically just mooching off electricity? Did she she take her stuff to? If so, Doesn't that count as she vacated already?

Thanks for the quick responses. Jon, she is still there because I was trying to be nice and at the time thought that she was a rational human being. I tried a "cash for keys" approach initially which she agreed to but then backed out at the last minute. This happened twice. This means that I didn't actually get the complaint filed till today. Have you used THS in the past? How was your experience with them?

Phil, she is almost entirely moved out except for a few pieces of furniture. But yes she is just living in her trailer next to the complex and mooching electricity and allowing several members of the homeless population to use the shower in her unit.

I know that turning off utilities is a "self-help eviction" and not a good idea, I just thought it might be different since I am now paying her utilities out of pocket.

I have used THS for reviewing my lease and discussing various questions, but, fortunately, not an actual eviction.  I know folks who have, though, and they were happy with their work. They specialize in landlord/tenant law.

@Patrick Schoenecker  If the utilities are separate for each unit then have them pay for their own utilities in the future. They will use less when they have to pay the bill and if the utility cuts them off then it is not in you to keep paying it. 

Unfortunately water tends to go back to your property eventually. Be sure to include a clause where all receipts go to pay unpaid amounts first. This way when they make the rent payment, you pay the water and immediately give them a 3 day pay or quit.

Tenants use about 30 to 35% more of something if the landlord pays utility. They also are slow to report leaks which runs the bill up even further.

Even if you get less rent per month on the lease your net is usually higher with tenant paid utility if at all possible.

Do not cut utilities off. Self-help eviction can get you into hot water with the court and possible hefty fines.

Your mistake was waiting to file eviction right away and listening to the sweet talk of a tenant. They pray on newer landlords. Experienced ones file right away and say maybe we can reach a agreement before the sheriff comes out. This way if they do not have the money as promised or being gone as promised etc. you are just that much closer to the eviction. I learned having 20 units a long time ago that you just file and pay the money to court.

No legal advice.

An extension cord going from the residential building to a motor home parked on the property would be a municipal code violation in our town. Any chance your town has a similar code? If so, keep the electricity turned on in the unit and disconnect the cord to the motor home, so you will be in compliance with city code. She would then be motivated to move on. Then again, if she is almost moved out of the unit, I wouldn't want her feeling the need to move back in for want of electricity. If may be less expensive to let her have the electricity for the time being.

Originally posted by @Patrick Schoenecker:

The other tenants are getting fed up with her and are threatening to move out.

Let the other tenants know that you understand their frustration and are addressing the matter. You can share with them that you must adhere to landlord-tenant law and are moving forward as fast as you can to restore peace and quiet to the property. Don't share confidential details. Ask for their patience. They will feel heard. Consider giving them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant as a token of your appreciation for their patience during this time.

Also, step up your watch of the property. This might discourage both the outgoing tenant and her invitees from staying around.

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