Can I turn the electric off ?

12 Replies

This is in the state of Florida - and the title isn't Exactly what I am asking.  I'll explain - 

A SFH tenant wants to move into a property. But the electric company wants some Huge deposits made first. I know this is true because I have had to pay them myself. As a result the new tenants can't move in until they get paid again.

I told management to just write up a letter of agreement with them stating that they could move in immediately, leave the utilities in my name until some future date  (say three weeks from now)  at which time they would pay the electric company's deposit, change the electric into their name, and then they would pay me for whatever electric they used in the meantime.  Get them both to sign and date their agreement-to-terms and that would be that.

Management says that if they move in and then refuse to change the electric into my name - that I cannot have the electric shut off.  My position is that if they don't pay me - I can't pay the electric company - so the electric company would turn the power off in their standard way.

My further position is that if these are the sort of people who would try to cheat me if presented even the slightest chance to do so - I don't want them as tenants in the first place. <g>

Can the law really take the position that I am obligated to fulfill my portion of a contracted arrangement while the other party to the same contract refuses to fulfill theirs? <g>

Here I just have the electric taken out of my name, not shut off.  The power co posts a door hanger that the occupant has 5 business days to put in their name or it will be shut off.  You are being more generous than most letting them use your power.  If the tenant doesn't fulfill their agreement regarding this, just call personally and have the power taken out of your name!

I know I can't just turn it off in my state, but quick check of Florida says this:

83.67 Prohibited practices.—

(1) A landlord of any dwelling unit governed by this part shall not cause, directly or indirectly, the termination or interruption of any utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, elevator, garbage collection, or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of, or payment is made by, the landlord.

It also says tenant can sue for 3 months' rent and attorney fees, or something similar.  Here is the link:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0083/Sections/0083.67.html

In my experience you cannot shut the electricity on once it is in your name no matter what :) So thats why even with all the deposits I try to keep the utilities out of my name. Because it is hard to get people to do it. As people are "lazy" so unless there is a pressing need. As, no electricity there is no emergency for them to deal with it :0

What exactly constitutes a "huge" deposit? If this is a known cost of moving I would be concerned that they hadn't planned for this.

I would not make myself responsible for someone else's utilities (as others have explained). If this tenant wants to move in, they need to figure this out for themselves. If they can't move in because they don't have this deposit, keep showing the apartment until you find someone who does.

If they can't afford the electric utility deposit, then they most likely won't be able to afford the rent.

@Stephen S.  If you have any utilities on when they move in and then shut them off on the tenant that can be considered a "self help eviction" and you can be liable for up to 3 months rent as damages.   I have the utilities scheduled for turn off the day of move in to avoid this.  If they're not on in your name when the tenant moves in you're fine.....never leave them on in your name after the tenant moves in.  It's FL, no worrying about pipes freezing here.

It sounds like your options are to leave them on and face the potential of being sued when you shut them off of the tenant, waiting 3 weeks for them to come up with more money and not having your unit rented or finding another tenant.  I'd look for another tenant and inform the tenants you will not hold it but if it's still available in 3 weeks and they have the funds to move in then they should give you a call.  

For those wondering about the huge deposits I'm guessing it's 2x the average monthly bill, at least that's what Duke goes for if you don't have great credit.  In FL that deposit can easily be $500-600.

Yes;  when it was Progressive the deposits were pretty normal - but since Duke took over they are pretty huge.  My credit is pretty good but I paid a Duke deposit recently that was almost $1000.  I can picture an in-the-process-of-moving tenant not having an extra grand laying around.

I like these tenants and thought of another angle:  I could just pay the deposit myself, the tenant could put the power in their name, and then let them pay me back when they get paid in a few weeks.

A very funny thing to me is that I have made your argument with Duke already.  I always try to provide housing which has a very low operating cost to the tenants.  For one thing it is the right thing do, but more selfishly speaking;  it also makes it unlikely that the tenant will be able to move later. <g>  When roofing I always install solar-reflective white, I use high efficiency appliances, I build the A/C systems myself to make them very efficient to operate, put timers on the water heaters, etc.  And if walls are opened I insulate with foam.

This property was occupied last summer, when it was frequently in the nineties, the thermostat was set at 72º - 24/7, and the highest electric bill was less than $100. (about $70. something I think.)  So I made the argument to Duke that their deposit formula was not applicable to this property.  Answer:  TS pal;  we have a Policy . . . . . <g>

BTW:  the previous-electric history on this property shows electric bills over $400. a month at times.  Although, it is also true that I have no idea how the house was being managed then - for all I know the owners had the thermostat on 50º and all the windows open. <g>  The original A/C unit was an elderly and substantially under-maintained packaged unit - poorly ducted in through the attic spaces with cheap flex duct.  The roof was black at the time and the attic temps trended over 150º on a sunny day.  The new system is half the capacity and all the ducts are inside the conditioned space.  And of course the roof is solar reflective white.  Now on a 90º day the attic is maybe 100º.

stephen
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 Originally posted by @Patrick L. :

@Stephen S.  If you have any utilities on when they move in and then shut them off on the tenant that can be considered a "self help eviction" and you can be liable for up to 3 months rent as damages.   I have the utilities scheduled for turn off the day of move in to avoid this.  If they're not on in your name when the tenant moves in you're fine.....never leave them on in your name after the tenant moves in.  It's FL, no worrying about pipes freezing here.

It sounds like your options are to leave them on and face the potential of being sued when you shut them off of the tenant, waiting 3 weeks for them to come up with more money and not having your unit rented or finding another tenant.  I'd look for another tenant and inform the tenants you will not hold it but if it's still available in 3 weeks and they have the funds to move in then they should give you a call.  

For those wondering about the huge deposits I'm guessing it's 2x the average monthly bill, at least that's what Duke goes for if you don't have great credit.  In FL that deposit can easily be $500-600.

Originally posted by @Stephen S. :

This is in the state of Florida - and the title isn't Exactly what I am asking.  I'll explain - 

A SFH tenant wants to move into a property. But the electric company wants some Huge deposits made first. I know this is true because I have had to pay them myself. As a result the new tenants can't move in until they get paid again.

I told management to just write up a letter of agreement with them stating that they could move in immediately, leave the utilities in my name until some future date  (say three weeks from now)  at which time they would pay the electric company's deposit, change the electric into their name, and then they would pay me for whatever electric they used in the meantime.  Get them both to sign and date their agreement-to-terms and that would be that.

Management says that if they move in and then refuse to change the electric into my name - that I cannot have the electric shut off.  My position is that if they don't pay me - I can't pay the electric company - so the electric company would turn the power off in their standard way.

My further position is that if these are the sort of people who would try to cheat me if presented even the slightest chance to do so - I don't want them as tenants in the first place. <g>

Can the law really take the position that I am obligated to fulfill my portion of a contracted arrangement while the other party to the same contract refuses to fulfill theirs? <g>

The issue with the utility company has nothing to do with your contract lease, it's between you and the utility and they can not force a tenant to honor your agreement. If you default in paying, your credit is effected and they will shut off accordingly, has nothing to do with the tenant.

Don't let them move in until they have utilities changed into their name! If they can't do it, say next and give back their deposits as they can not complete the contract. :)

Can the electric company spread out the deposit?  When we bought our house, the new electric company wanted a hefty deposit despite having great credit and an immaculate payment history with the old electric company.  Instead of forking over all of it, they let me split it over 3 payments...  

I always like it when a thread ends with an explanation - so that's what I'll do myself. <g>

I offered to pay the tenant's electric company deposit for them, so they could move in now with the utilities in their name, and then have them pay me back the loan in a few weeks.

I think this may have embarrassed them.  Although they didn't say that - I got that distinct feeling.  They declined my offer and a few hours later called back to say that they would be proceeding on their own.  I didn't ask, and they didn't say - but I think they got the money for the electric company deposit from someone privately;  parents, other relatives, payroll advance, etc.

So that's that.  Thanks for helping me. 

stephen

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Originally posted by @Stephen S. :

I always like it when a thread ends with an explanation - so that's what I'll do myself. <g>

I offered to pay the tenant's electric company deposit for them, so they could move in now with the utilities in their name, and then have them pay me back the loan in a few weeks.

I think this may have embarrassed them.  Although they didn't say that - I got that distinct feeling.  They declined my offer and a few hours later called back to say that they would be proceeding on their own.  I didn't ask, and they didn't say - but I think they got the money for the electric company deposit from someone privately;  parents, other relatives, payroll advance, etc.

So that's that.  Thanks for helping me. 

stephen

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 Well I'm glad that worked out for you.  I wouldn't have offered to pay the deposit for them because they can easily stick you with that and take their refund of the deposit later when they moved out.  Generally when tenants have ask me if I can keep the power in my name for X amount of time so they can get it switched out and I declined they've always found a way to get it done.  It probably would have just been financially easier for them to not pay the deposit and let you keep it in your name.

The deposits can be really high but I have a business account with Duke and use that business for all my rentals, deposits are a flat rate of $200 for me regardless of the average bill.  

If they can't pay the electric deposit, do not let them move in.

Why would you think they will be able to come up with the money at some magical later date.

And, you've set a precedent by allowing them to move in with electric provided. No, you cannot at some later date turn off utilities.

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