Is it illegal to refuse utility service due to a previous tenant not paying their bill?

UPDATED: Aug 1, 2011

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Is it illegal to refuse utility service due to a previous tenant not paying their bill?

I’m the new tenant of a rental house, and the old tenant skipped out on their power bill. The landlord has called the power company to have the power turned back on the property, or tell the power company that the old tenant is no longer an occupant, and they refuse to turn on service stating the old tenant is an occupant in the house. I’ve attempted to talk to the power company stating I’m the new tenant, and that the bill will be in my name, as well as my landlord stating I need new power services in my name, and they refused both times stating the old tenant is still living there.

Asked on August 1, 2011 California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The utility company has to change its billing invoice to reflect that a new tenant will be occupying the home and start up power under your name.

The utility company's recourse for the unpaid power bill of the prior tenant is to sue the prior tenant and/or lien the home owned by the landlord for payment of the power where the landlord ultimately will end up having to pay the past due utility bills of the prior tenant.

If the power will not be turned back on by the utility company, then you have a good argument with the landlord that he or she either pays the past due amount owed by the prior tenant or you will consider the lease agreement breached by the landlord due to no power and will look for another rental.

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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