New tenant hasn't transfered utilities yet..... help!

17 Replies

HI all,
My new tenant hasn't transferred the utilities in her name yet and its been about 2 weeks.
I've asked repeatedly and she said she’s tried but there has been a death in the family. I told her by this Tuesday but what should I do if she doesn't follow through? There isn't anything in my lease which states a timeline to transfer service (nothing I can do about that now).
I’ve already let her move in only paying ¼ the security deposit. Her background checked out well but she but she has her cousin living there too (he is not on the lease).
What can I do?

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Hello Drew,

First, I agree with Michael about letting her move in with only paying 1/4 the security deposit. Here on out, let her know you made a one time exception, and will not do that with the rental payments.

In regards to the utilities, you should have them cut off come Tuesday. That will force her to either get them in her name or move out. Although not covered in the lease, you can explain that he was verbally communicated to her that she was responsible for the utilities. I would then add it to my contract or do an addendum regarding the utilities. In addition, you should make sure it is not against state law to cut the utilities off on the tenant. Good luck!

"Yep, hello.  My name is Drew, and I own the house at 123 Maple Street.  I rented it out recently, so would you please go by and get a final reading tomorrow and take it out of my name?  Thanks."

@Drew Denham  I don't know the laws in MI.  And I'm no attorney and can't give legal advice.  Would this be considered "stopping utilities on a tenant" or just "ending your service"?  I don't know.  People do this all the time when they sell a house.  They call the utility company and say, "hey, I'm selling the house on the 23rd, please take a final reading on that day and send me a final bill".

Taking utilities out of your name is not necessarily the same as shutting them off to the property... I would think that's between your tenant and the utility companies. In my area, the bill would temporarily go into the utility company's name. If you're worried about the legalities, you might want to call the code enforcement agency and ask.

I'd tell her I'm sorry to hear about her personal circumstances, but that the bills need to be transferred in two days because they will be going out of your name at that point. Or if feel you can't take them out of your name, your recourse would be to say that you can't continue to cover her bills and can't have her in the property with no services, so would be forced to start eviction proceedings. Also she needs to refund you for the bills. I would follow this up with a letter hand delivered or regular mail and another copy sent certified mail. 

She might have decided because of the deposit that you're "nice," aka someone who will let her get away with things. Be sure to enforce all deadlines and follow through immediately with any late fees or other actions necessary.

Your lease should say what utls the tenant is responsible for, and that means she's responsible for them from day 1 of the lease. If your lease doesn't say this, you REALLY need a better lease next time. And I would never take a 1/4 security deposit. Too much can go wrong, and that's your security!

Hope this helps!


Not sure how it works in your state but when I was managing commercial properties, I was able to put the utilities in tenants' names that "refused" to do it.  From what I remember, I only needed their SSN and an effective date of transfer of service.  I remember back dating it several weeks behind so you shouldn't have to take any hit from her not switching them over.  If you have her SSN from her app, call up the utility companies and see what they'll do for you.  

Landlord tenant laws are generally different for a residential tenant than commercial. Different regulations and sets of rules.

What you do not want is to take steps that are considered a "self help eviction" where you could face thousands in fines. This tenant might not even be able to get utilities  in their names. Did their credit check out good??

Sounds like  a pro tenant.

Did you tell her she could move her cousin in?  If it's a lease violation, you need to send her formal notice to cure or quit (in my state it's a 7 day notice) for the extra person plus the utility situation.   Show her that this is a business and you're a professional but not her friend.  She's testing you.  If you let this go, it's only going to get worse.  You're kind of stuck with the utilities because the property would freeze up if they were turned off.  Good Luck!

I would say with 95% certainty you have a bad apple.  More than likely there was no death, but even if so that's plenty of time to change utilities. 

I do believe there is a huge difference in change of service...does the leae indicate tenants to put utilities in their name? We have them sign a document stating when they will be shut off so there is no confusion.  If you were handling utility responsibilities and shut them off as a response to them not paying rent that's a different story, but if the leae states you aren't responsible for them then itsup to them to get them transferred or they will be shut off.

Having heard this story many times I would stay on top of them and the first time rent is late in the first three months go ahead and evict and save yourself the frustration and time.

In our lease this is covered.  Proof of transfer of service is shown before the keys are given to the tenant.  Nowadays, with the smart cans, the transfer is merely two phone calls - it can be done while you are on the phone with them.  We have a Lanlord Assistance service where if there is a chance during the lease that the utilities are going to be turned off, we get a notice to protect our property form freezing etc. The utility compamy has made it quite easy for the transition now, and we can be protected at the same time - plus the utility company is usually always getting their money - everyone is happier is some way.  I read my own meters to conform also - but they can do that from the office now.

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I had a tenant, who had past due bills with the utility company so they couldn't transfer into their name until the bill was paid. Needless to say I had to evict after a month or two. 

Also, be careful on this.  In some locations, a utility company can charge the property owner for bills that are not paid by the tenant.  It doesn't happen much at all in my area, but one small town where I invest does that with the sewer bill.  Ask me how I know.