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Amanda Barnes
  • Garner, NC
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New Tenants have Not turned on Utilities

Amanda Barnes
  • Garner, NC
Posted Jun 19 2022, 13:53

Tenants moved in June 1st.  We gave them a month free because we were 2 weeks late in providing the rental.  We went on vacation right after they moved in and they failed to turn on the utilities in their name and Friday we returned and asked them why had they not done it they said they had been busy and they were planning on doing it next Friday.  I told them no, they had to get it done on Monday, they already had two free weeks of utilities.  They are on a month to month lease.

What are our options legally should they fail to turn the utilities on in their name on Monday? 

Raleigh, North Carolina

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Greg Scott#4 Real Estate News & Current Events Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
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Greg Scott#4 Real Estate News & Current Events Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
Replied Jun 19 2022, 14:14

Why are you giving them free utilities?

When we have a resident that fails to turn on the utilities we charge them back for the utilities plus an administration fee.  Hopefully you have a well-written lease that makes it clear they have violated the terms of their lease. 

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Amanda Barnes
  • Garner, NC
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Amanda Barnes
  • Garner, NC
Replied Jun 19 2022, 14:44

Thanks for the reply.  We don't WANT to give them free utilitie.  The lease says utilities must be put in their name.  We have never had this happen before and I am wondering what our legal options are should they not get them turned on tomorrow.  

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John Teachout
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Concord, GA
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John Teachout
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Concord, GA
Replied Jun 19 2022, 15:19

We've had similar situations in the past and we now require proof of utility transfer "prior" to giving them the keys to the property.

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John Teachout
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Concord, GA
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John Teachout
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Concord, GA
Replied Jun 19 2022, 15:23
The issue here is that in most jurisdictions, it's considered "self help eviction" for a landlord to terminate utilities. They may be in violation of your contract by not maintaining the utilities in their name. Post a notice to cure/quit. They're playing you and if you don't get control of your property things will only get worse.

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Greg Scott#4 Real Estate News & Current Events Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
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Greg Scott#4 Real Estate News & Current Events Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
Replied Jun 19 2022, 17:37
Quote from @Amanda Barnes:

Thanks for the reply.  We don't WANT to give them free utilitie.  The lease says utilities must be put in their name.  We have never had this happen before and I am wondering what our legal options are should they not get them turned on tomorrow.  

Just send them the bill plus admin fee.  When they pay rent, the first portion goes to cover utilities plus admin fee.  Then they still owe you some rent.  If they don't pay all the rent, start eviction proceedings.

PS. You must do it in this order.  Most judges will not evict over late fees or utilities but will evict over non-payment of rent.  That is why every payment first goes to late fees or other items (such as failure to pay utilities).  Then, all they haven't paid is rent.   Ensure your accounting follows this procedure.

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Nathan Gesner
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
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Nathan Gesner
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
ModeratorReplied Jun 20 2022, 04:53

1. Always get proof they've met all requirements before handing them the keys. This includes paying deposit and rent in full, setting up utilities, establishing renter's insurance, and whatever else you require.

2. Call the utility company and request they turn off the utility in 48 hours. Call tenant and tell them if utilities are not in their name by that date, they will be shut off. This is not illegal because it is not an attempt to evict.

3. You will receive a final bill that covers up until the Tenant set up their own utility account. Prorate to cover the days they occupied and pass the bill on to them. Let's say they owe $200 for utilities and rent is $1,000. If they only pay $1,000 on July 1st, that gets applied to the utility first, leaving only $800 towards rent. Now you can evict them for non-payment of rent. A better option is to not accept payment unless they pay everything in full. If they bring you $1,100 but owe $1,200 then you reject the payment, demand the full amount, and start eviction if they don't pay.

  • Property Manager Wyoming (#12599)

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Replied Jun 20 2022, 04:56

Just because they didn't put the utilities in their name, doesn't mean you should pay it.  When you get the bill charge them for the one month that it was in your name.  IF they fail to do it, then tell them they are in violation of the lease and give them notice to cure.

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Michael Robbins
  • Property Manager
  • Henderson, NV
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Michael Robbins
  • Property Manager
  • Henderson, NV
Replied Jun 22 2022, 08:08

@Amanda Barnes does your lease agreement specify when the tenants are to turn utilities in their name?  If so, then send a letter and refer to the lease.  

Real Estate Agent NV (#BS.145905 ) and NV (#PM.166776)

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Erin Dreher
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Little Rock, AR
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Erin Dreher
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Little Rock, AR
Replied Jun 22 2022, 11:59

@Amanda Barnes we now require to have proof of utilities being changed into their name before we release keys. Prior to that we ran into this a lot. We usually reach out and give them a reasonable time (48hrs) to have the utilities turned on in their name and we schedule a disconnect. We will charge back to the tenant any time past the move in date. 

Real Estate Agent Arkansas (#SA00087879)

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