I agree that payment of the utilities is generally subject to negotiation and should be provided for in the lease. However, many municipalities in Pennsylvania will not bill a tenant for the water/sewer bill. These municipalities have taken the position that the water/sewer bill is always the responsibility of the landlord. The landlord can pass the charge along. But the landlord is ultimately responsible. Good Luck.
Keep in mind that I do not practice in PA. To the extent there are different laws in PA, my answer may not reflect the proper advise.
Generally, liability to pay a water bill is a contract issue. In other words, whoever is signed up on the account is liable to pay the bill. If your name is on the water service account and you simply allowed the tenant to pay it, you may have a problem. Likewise, if both your names are on the account, you may also have a problem. If, however, your tenant opened a new account with the water provider and you cancelled your previous service, the debt will likely follow the tenant and you will be able to re-establish service with the water provider through a new account in your name. This is common practice for landlords in Arizona.
If your name is on the current account, the water provider may not provide water to any account with your name on it until either you or the tenant pays the bill. Of course, if you have to pay the bill, you should add that to the amount the tenant owes you when you obtain a judgment on him/her. You may or may not ever see that money again depending on how successful you are in collecting on your judgment.
Agreed, I think you need to pay them to avoid a lien on the property and then sue the tenant for breach of contract.
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