Is a landlord responsible for tenants’ utility bills? This is a question we hear a lot from prospective clients and self-managing landlords. We put in all our leases that tenants are responsible for basic utilities. Today, we’re explaining what that means.
What is Considered a Utility?
The basic utilities that tenants must pay include water, gas, sewer, electric, and cable or internet charges. The only exception to this is when a property is in an HOA, or a homeowner’s association, and the HOA provides an amenity such as water. It’s important for owners to understand that HOA dues are not utilities. That fee is not a tenant’s responsibility. Failure to pay an HOA fee could result in a lien on your property. Sometimes, we’ll require tenants to pay for certain privileges within the HOA. For example, in our Wildwood community in California, Maryland, there is a pool. If a tenant wants to use the pool, our lease says that they must pay the HOA fee to access it.
Transferring Utility Accounts
Before a tenant moves in, we send a list of utilities that need to be transferred into the tenant’s name. We ask for verification and account numbers to document that it’s happened. If there is a gas tank, an oil tank, or any other refillable energy source, we ask the owner to fill the tank first, so the tenant moves in with a full tank of gas or oil. Then, we include a clause in the lease that says the tenant must fill the tank before moving out.
Tenants Not Paying Utility Bills
When a tenant provides a move out notice, the owner needs to transfer utilities back to their own name on the move out date. We make sure the final bills are sent to the tenant’s forwarding address. Before the security deposit is released, we ensure there are no outstanding utility bills and the property is in good condition. If the tenant has not paid a utility bill, that amount will be deducted from the security deposit before it’s given back.
Owners must ensure the utilities remain in working order and continuous while the property is vacant. You want your property to remain safe and secure for tenants to view, and you don’t want any issues with it while it’s vacant. You want to avoid things like reconnect fees.
This is just a little information about utilities on rental homes in southern Maryland. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Real Property Management Gold.