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Is a landlord responsible for a tenants unpaid electric bill?

Pittsburgh, PA |
Filed under: Landlord-tenant law

We are trying to get the electric of a rental property turned on in our(owner) name. An old tenant has a bill in collections, The house has been empty for 3 years. The electric company says we, the owners, have to pay that bill before they will put a meter on the house.Is this legal? What are the landlords responsibilities in this matter?

If the previous tenant was a relative of the landlord, moved out and now the landlord wishes to have the power turned back on in their personal name, the relative wants to move back now, is the landlord liable for the previous bill under these circumstances? Final. First, thank you all. It's the policy of the company that they will not start service at an address of a relative in another relatives name in which a past due balance is due without having that bill cleared first. Therefor in order to have service in our name, we had to pay our sons bill. doesn't seem right but the PUC was not able to do anything for us. Maybe someone needs to look into this farther?...again thank you.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You were not the utilities customer. They do not have a lien on the property. More importantly, I would bet their conduct is not permitted under their tariffs approved by the PUC. Ask them to show you in writing where the Public Utilities Commission permits them to take this action.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Responses are based solely on Pennsylvania law unless stated otherwise.


  2. As you did not contract for the service or consume the utilities, you cannot be held responsible. As the prior response indicated, ask them for proof of your liability. What I have seen more commonly is that the utility company will refuse to activate service at the same address without a significant security deposit to ensure payment if another large debt is incurred. However, the company should seek out the prior consumer for the past debt.

    Disclaimer: The above response is not intended to create, nor does it create, either an attorney-client relationship or an ongoing duty to respond to questions. It is intended to be solely the educated opinion of the author and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the inquiring person and additional or differing facts might change the response. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the states of Illinois and Michigan. Responses are answers to general legal questions and the inquiring party should consult a local attorney for specific answers and advice.


  3. I agree that you should contact the PUC. However, perhaps you need to talk to a supervisor first. I find it hard to believe that the electric company is attempting to collect a bill owed by a former tenant. Is it possible that it was listed in your name, even though the tenant was supposed to pay it? If so, that could be a clerical error. They should have records of the original request by the tenant. Don't give up on this.

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