Tenant didn't transfer utilities in to their name.

10 Replies

I did not do the best job selecting a tenant and am paying for it now. I have a tenant that has failed to transfer utilities into their name per the lease when they moved in. I have forwarded all the Bills and reminders over to the tenant. I am now getting emails and phone calls from city water and light to pay the utilities because the utilities are still in my name. Am I legally obligated to pay the utilities if they were never transferred over?

I haven't experienced this yet, however if you still remain in good communication with the tenant I would let them know the utilities will be turned off Starting November 1st  and provide all the contact information for all the utility companies so they can easily call them to put them in their name. Let them know it's an easy process and if they want to avoid any interruption in utility services its best to contact them right away. 

In some cases the bills are tied to the property meaning even if they are in the tenant's name, if they don't pay you are on hook. I'm assuming this is in the lease, so let the tenant know they are in violation of the lease and must pay the bills or vacate.

I think that you are subject to what ever the local laws are.  I have learned that I do not turn over keys to a new lease until the tenant has shown the utilities transfer letter showing me that the billing info has been changed.  Good luck!

@Matthew Reid You may want to contact a lawyer to understand exactly what your recourse is. In my area, it would be against the law for me to shut them off, and the only recourse would be to serve them a notice regarding not fulfilling lease requirements (non payment of utilities) and then evict unless they conform. My rentals are in a Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Agreement (URLTA) zone which has uniform guidelines, so worth looking into.

@Matthew Reid check your local laws, but here is how I handle it.

1. I charge their ledger back the amount of the utility bill. 

2. If they pay before month end, great.  However, if they don't and the next month starts, that is now legally considered "rent" not an utility bill.  I then will refuse to accept the current months rent unless they pay in full and show proof they switched the utility.

3. If they don't pay in full, then I can easily file for non payment of rent.

I cannot thank you guys enough!!!! I have a long drive tomorrow so I will spend that time reaching out to the local city water and light as well as a lawyer to ensure I'm doing everything I can to protect myself and my property. I really appreciate the advice. Thank you again.

@Matthew Reid

I make the tenants show proof of transfer from the utility department before handing over the keys. I also have the utility office call me if the tenants fall behind more than one month as the debt stays with the property for water and sewer in my area.

Hindsight is 20/20 but now you know what to do in the future! Good luck!

@Matthew Reid

Ask the utility company to put a 10 day notice of disconnection. And then CONSULT a attorney in your state about what’s legal. Don’t make it worse and get sued. When the notice goes on there door that there utilities are going to get shut off they’ll usually set it up then.

@Matthew Reid we require tenants to put utilities in their name prior to taking occupancy. We find even good tenants sometimes forget to call one or more utilities. We call every utility to verify. It takes some time, but avoids headache down the road.

Rules around utilities vary by city. It is fair to say since the utilities are in your name currently, you are responsible for the balance owed. You could have sent in a disconnect notice for the day of move-in for the tenant, but now it is probably too late to disconnect them legally. Check with an attorney, because if that is an option, it would be good motivation for them to connect.

I have also found one reason people fail to connect utilities is that renters often have to pay a deposit, even though owners may not. They may have called to change over and been told they needed to come up with $150 or something they couldn't manage. Ask them directly if deposit or some other reason is preventing them from connecting.