If my tenant is refusing to pay rent and utilities which are all under my name, can I shut it off?

UPDATED: Jul 6, 2012

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If my tenant is refusing to pay rent and utilities which are all under my name, can I shut it off?

There is no written lease. I have proof that then tenant has paid for rent and all utilities for over a year. The verbal agreement was that tenant would pay for the utilities and rent. What will happen if I refuse to pay and the utilities companies shut them off due to non-payment?

Asked on July 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you shut off the utilities, you will be guilty of an illegal "self-help" eviction and will be liable to the tenant for any costs or damages he/she suffers. Landlords cannot simply shot off tenant utilities, even if the tenant is not paying for them. The correct way to handle this is:

1) If the tenant has not paid rent, bring an eviction action in court to evict him/her for nonpayment; and/or since it's an oral lease, provide the tenant 30 days notice terminating his/her tenancy then bring an eviction action. Only the courts and court officers may evict residential tenants.

2) You can sue the tenant, including potentially in small claims court, where you can act as your own attorney, for any amounts the tenant owes you.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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