I assume you don't have anything in writing regarding how the utilities are to be shared and paid? California law does not specifically regulate how landlords bill tenants for water and sewer utilities. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has held that it has no jurisdiction in the vast majority of landlord-tenant billing relationships. Because there is no direct regulation or guidance from the CPUC or statute, it is important that all facets of the landlord-tenant billing relationship for utilities be agreed to in writing.
This code section might be helpful in explaining your rights and remedies. California Civil Code section 1940.9 provides:
"(a) If the landlord does not provide separate gas and
electric meters for each tenant's dwelling unit so that each tenant's
meter measures only the electric or gas service to that tenant's
dwelling unit and the landlord or his or her agent has knowledge that
gas or electric service provided through a tenant's meter serves an
area outside the tenant's dwelling unit, the landlord, prior to the
inception of the tenancy or upon discovery, shall explicitly disclose
that condition to the tenant and shall do either of the following:
(1) Execute a mutual written agreement with the tenant for
payment by the tenant of the cost of the gas or electric service
provided through the tenant's meter to serve areas outside the tenant'
s dwelling unit.
(2) Make other arrangements, as are mutually agreed in writing,
for payment for the gas or electric service provided through the
tenant's meter to serve areas outside the tenant's dwelling unit.
These arrangements may include, but are not limited to, the landlord
becoming the customer of record for the tenant's meter, or the
landlord separately metering and becoming the customer of record for
the area outside the tenant's dwelling unit.
(b) If a landlord fails to comply with subdivision (a), the
aggrieved tenant may bring an action in a court of competent
jurisdiction. The remedies the court may order shall include, but are
not limited to, the following:
(1) Requiring the landlord to be made the customer of record with
the utility for the tenant's meter.
(2) Ordering the landlord to reimburse the tenant for payments
made by the tenant to the utility for service to areas outside of the
tenant's dwelling unit. Payments to be reimbursed pursuant to this
paragraph shall commence from the date the obligation to disclose
arose under subdivision (a).
(c) Nothing in this section limits any remedies available to a
landlord or tenant under other provisions of this chapter, the rental
agreement, or applicable statutory or common law."
(See also California Public Utilities Code section 739.5.)
Hopefully you will be able to work this out with your landlord. If you are sued for unlawful detainer (eviction) because of your non-payment of utilities, you will need to defend the unlawful detainer case.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
define 'pushed' if you If you signed a contract and agreed to pay half that is what you will be held to . Under concept of contract construction unless there's ambiguity in the language of the contract those previous oral promises will not be considered if it comes to court
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