My Landlord Did Not Pay the Utility Bills

My Landlord Did Not Pay the Utility Bills

Last updated: March 2008

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If your landlord does not pay the utility bills, you can pay the utility company directly. You can lower your rent payment by the amount you paid for utilities.If your landlord is not paying the utility bills and your building has 3 or more units, the utility company must notify you before they cut off your service. The utility company must mail, deliver, or post a notice of termination.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Does the agreement have to be in writing for my landlord to pay my utilities? No. An agreement between you and your landlord can be either written or oral.What happens if my landlord doesn't pay for utility services that he or she agreed to pay for? If your landlord doesn't pay for utility services, you can pay the utility company directly. This is true even if the utility service is for a common area in the apartment building.How can I get paid back for utilities services that I pay for? You can lower your rent payment by the amount you paid for utilities. You may continue to deduct future payments for utilities from your rent to make sure your utility service doesn't get turned off.How will I know if my landlord is not paying the utilities? If your apartment building has 3 or more apartments, the utility company can't cut off your service without notifying you. Before the utility company terminates your service, it must mail, deliver, or post a notice of termination.What kind of notice does the utility company have to give me? If there are 3 or more apartments in your building, the utility company must give you notice. The notice must contain the following information:The date the utility will be terminated. You must be given at least 10 days notice;A statement of your rights to either pay the utility the amount owed and deduct it from your rent or to petition the court to appoint a receiver to collect the rent due and pay the utility company;The dollar amount due and owing on the date of the notice and the average monthly utility bills;The name and phone number of any legal services agency in the utility company's service area where the tenants may get free legal help.The notice must be big, on red paper, and in at least 14-point bold face type. If the notice is posted, the words "notice of utility termination" must be in 36-point bold face type.Why can't my landlord just tear down the notice? The notice states that it is illegal to tear it down. If your landlord does tear down the notice, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor.What happens after I decide to pay the utility company directly? The utility company must turn the service back on as soon as it gets your payment for the amount that was owed.Can I have the utility company put the utility service in my name? Yes. The utility company must restore and continue service to any tenant who:Requests that the utility bill be put in his or her nameEstablishes good credit references or pays a security deposit, andAgrees to pay future billsWhen can the utility company make me pay a security deposit? If the utility company finds that you haven't paid for a past due utility service, they may refuse to provide service. When this happens, the utility company may make you pay any past due bill or provide a security deposit. The utility company can also make you enter into an agreement to pay the past due bill with a payment plan. The deposit can't be more than 1/6 of the estimated annual charges for service for the applicant or customer. The utility may require that a minimum of 1/3 of the requested deposit be paid within 12 days after the issue date of the request for deposit. The gas and electric utilities must allow you two billing periods to pay the rest of the security deposit. The sanitary and sewer utilities must allow you 30 days to pay off the rest of the security deposit.Can I get my landlord to pay me back for the utilities I put in my own name? Yes. You must prove that you were billed for the utility services because your landlord didn't pay services he or she was required to pay. If the amount billed was for your apartment, you can deduct the amount paid directly from your rent. If the utility service was for services other than those directly for your apartment, the landlord must pay you 100% of those costs. If the court determines that your landlord's violation was knowing or willful, the court may give you more money besides the money you paid for the bill. You may also recover court costs and fees including attorney fees, if the court awards you over $3000 for utility fees.Can my landlord make me responsible for utility services in the common area? Maybe. Your landlord can only bill you for utilities in common areas if he or she notified you of these costs before you signed your lease. Your landlord must also notify you before he or she accepts your security deposit. Your landlord can't make you ollect any money for utility bills from your neighboring tenants whose utility service you may be paying.What kind of notice does my landlord have to give me before I am responsible for utility service to a common area? Your landlord must give you a written statement that describes the parts of the building that the meter for the common area covers. Your landlord must also describe what the area is being used for right now and what it might be used for in the future. For example, does the meter measure the utility for a laundry facility? Or is there an empty apartment that may be filled later causing the utility usage to go up? Your landlord must also give you copies of the utility bills for the space for the previous 12 months. Your landlord doesn't have to give you the past bills if you waive your right in writing. Your landlord must also tell you in writing the amount of the proposed rent reduction he or she is offering to give you. This rent reduction is based on your payments for utility usage outside of your apartment.Can my landlord make me responsible for my utilities after he or she agreed to be responsible for them? No. If you have a written lease, your landlord can't make you to pay for utilities that he or she agreed to be responsible for during your lease. If you do not have a written lease, your landlord must give you at least 30 days notice before making the change. If your written lease is about to expire, your landlord must give you at least 30 days notice before your lease ends. You can agree to change the lease without notice if the agreement is in writing and signed by both parties. A lease that states something different than any of these rules above is not enforceable.What can do if my landlord has stopped paying the utilities and I don't want to pay the utility company directly? You, or a utility company, may ask the court to appoint someone, known as a receiver, to collect your utility fees. This process is known as petitioning the circuit court for the appointment of a receiver. The receiver collects rents due for use and occupancy of the building. To start this process, you need to file the following documents:Complaint for ReceiverEmergency Motion for Appointment of ReceiverOrder for Appointment of ReceiverWhat does the receiver do with the rents he or she collects? The court will design a payment plan where the receiver has to pay the utility company. This means that utilities can stay on. The receiver can also pay the utility company money towards a security deposit, if one is required. If there is any rent left over, it is used as the court directs. When deciding how to use the left over rent money, the court may take into account the ordinary and necessary expenses of the property including:Repair billsMaintenance billsOther utility billsProperty taxesThe amount you owed to the utility company in questionAny other expenses that involve your buildingWhat happens if the receiver doesn't collect enough rent to pay the utility company? Within 10 days of the appointment of the receiver, he or she determines whether the total rent paid by everyone in your building is enough to pay the current utility bills. The receiver also determines whether the total rent is enough to pay for an authorized security deposit, if necessary. During those 10 days, the utility company cannot cut off service to the building because of non-payment. If the amount collected is not expected to be enough to pay current bills and any authorized security deposit, the receivership ends.What if the utility service was already terminated when the receiver was appointed? The utility company has to restore services as soon as it receives notice that the court has appointed a receiver. The receiver will make all reasonable efforts to provide the utility company with access to the building at all times to turn the utility services back on.What if my landlord turns off the utilities on his or her own? Your landlord is not allowed to turn off or interfere with your utility services. A temporary shutoff in the case of an emergency or done with 7 days written notice is okay. If your landlord does illegally interrupt service, you don't have to pay your rent for the time period the utility is shut off. If the landlord turned the service off on purpose, the court may give you damages up to $300, or $5,000 divided by all the affected tenants in your building. The court will award whichever amount is the lowest.


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