I have a tenant who was supposed to be paying gas (heat & gas stove) but never put the utility in her name. I called them today to shut it off, which they will do Monday.
I know that under the law the landlord must provide heat from Sept. 16 onward. But here, it states clearly in her lease and was explained to her that she must pay for utilities. Will I face legal trouble if I don't turn it back on by the 16th, due to that code, or am I ok because she agreed in the lease to pay for her own heat?
To clarify: The property is in MA.
@Rich Ng ;-)
Looks like the tag in my last post didn't work, calling on @Rich N. for any sage advice!
Overall you should be fine if the lease was recently signed off.
To cover yourself, if you have not, send the tenant a reminder letter or text (keep the text) that basically states according to the lease agreement, you have notified the utilities to turn it off under your name and they should call them to activate it under their name.
As for the 16th date, that is if you were supplying/paying for the heat. I think it is from September to June. What you are required to do is keep a functional heating system.
Thanks for your advice! It wasn't so recent, but she was notified several times after I realized the gas hadn't been transferred to her name. Finally, when PM threatened to evict her, she wrote a letter saying she had a prev unpaid bill to the utility ("not her fault" of course!) and they wouldn't put it in her name. She knew this for a few months and never reached out to us to reimburse or deal with the issue.
She also lost her job 2 weeks ago, from which rent was being deducted from her paycheck, without telling us until PM called the office and they said she didn't work there anymore. So, these are as much red flags as you can get.
As she's still being uncommunicative after the letter, we're serving a 14 day notice... :-( My first eviction experience, I hope she either pays up or leaves right away. We'll see.
Wow, that is too bad. Next time, give no more than 3 days into the tenancy and then just call the utilities to confirm and turn it off your name if needed. Then advise the tenant that they must contact the utilities.
If they do not leave, when you file for the SP an court date... make sure you not only list the non-payment of rent but the months of the utilities owed. So you can hopefully get more of the security deposit.
The gas bill is a symptom, not the problem.
Evict and stick to it, this is not going to get better.
Thanks for the advice @Rich N. , lesson learned. Next time I will verify with the utility. I was kind of relying on the PM. She's great but didn't catch this. And she did itemize the money owed on the gas on her 14 day notice.
Part of what was tricky was that her move in date coincidentally was the same day as the gas bill, so I went a whole month without getting a new bill and without expecting one - until it came!
@Alexander Felice , I agree with you. It will be hard to decide to go thru eviction if she pays all money due within 14 days but somehow I don't expect that to happen anyway.
@Moshe H. I've had that happen to me. I had the gas company shut off the tenant. I would never do that again.
After I shut the gas the tenant stayed on for a bit. This was NYC and the tenant was paying then rent. So I did not want to evict bc it is such a pain, plus they were paying rent.
Anyway they eventually did leave. Once they left to get the gas company to turn the gas on I needed an inspection of the gas line. What a pain. I had a shut off right after the meter next time I would just shut that put the meter in my name and pay the minimum bill.
John thanks for the insight (can't tag you on my mobile). I hope I don't need an inspection. Am I understanding you correctly, that you put a manual shut off for the landlord after the meter and you just paid the minimal fee to keep your name on the utility? That sounds like a good strategy should this come up again.
Two quick notes.
1. here in the great tenant friendly state of MA. If the tenant somehow magically pays all past due within the 14 days...they get to stay (not your choice to decide).
2. Once again, in this great state, you can not touch the meter or any other part of it if your not a license plumber (of course anyone could do it).
@Moshe H. There was a shut off right after the meter....and anyone can shut that, if you think you smell gas, or you want to shut it off when an appliance is being installed it's for that purpose.
It's the meter your not supposed to touch.
But no I did not put it in. It was on the line already. Thats what was ironic. I had the gas shut so the tenant couldn't run up a bill but I could have just turned it off myself. The utility company has a record of when it's shut. After a certain time of being shut it needs to be pressure tested. I guess if there is no pressure in the line they want to retest under pressure. But after going through it I would rather pay the minimum bill.