Am I responsible for a utility bill that doesn’t have my name on it even if I resided at that address?

UPDATED: Aug 22, 2012

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Am I responsible for a utility bill that doesn’t have my name on it even if I resided at that address?

My previous roommate didn’t pay the cable/internet bill that was in her name before she moved out. I gave her my portions of the bill which she deposited. Apparently she gave the cable company my phone number as the number on the account even though its under her name. I set up new services after she moved out, but since she has past due balance that is tied to my number they shut my services off. The only way they will restart my services is if she fulfills the financial obligation. I contacted her and asked her to do so since I already provided her w/my portion of the bill and she refuses.

Asked on August 22, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, New York


Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Based upon your description of the facts, as a practical matter, if you want your cable/internet services restored, you will have to pay the past due balance even though the account was not in your name.

However, if you pay the balance due on an account that is in your former roommate's name, I suggest you create a "paper trail", including writing a formal business letter to your former roommate advising her that: 1) she owed an outstanding balance (indicate the exact amount) on a cable account that was in her name, 2) she failed to pay the cable co. the money she was entrusted with by you(indicate the exact amount & ck# & date), which was specifically intended for payment of your portion of the unpaid bill, 3) because of her failure or refusal to meet her contractual & legal obligations, you were forced to pay the entire unpaid balance on her account, in order to have service restored (include a copy of the cable co's statement showing the date the outstanding balance  was fully paid), 4) you are advising her that you are reserving all of your legal rights & any legal claims against her regarding this matter, 5) you are making a written demand that she forward payment to you within 10 days of the date of your letter for the full amount you paid on her account & 6) if she fails to make full payment within 10 days, you will commence legal action against her in the local small claims court. Your letter should be sent to her by USPS certified mail, return receipt requested & an additional copy should be sent by regular 1st class mail with a "certificate of mailing". (If she refuses to claim/sign for your certified letter & it's ret'd to you as unclaimed, the additional copy will still be delivered to her mailbox & you will have proof of mailing because you paid for a "certificate of mailing" at the post office.

If you don't receive payment from her, you should contact the local court clerk's office & obtain information on how to start a small claims court action. You do not need a lawyer to represent you in NY small claims court. Good luck! 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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