Imagine the following scenario: your tenant in a lower level unit calls you early on a Saturday morning late in December to let you know that there is a leak coming through the ceiling. You show up and knock on the unit directly above the tenant who called you – the tenant you know has been struggling to make their rent payment. Nobody answers the door, so you peak through the window and your eyes are greeted with a magical sight of a winter wonderland. Beautiful and fantastic crystalline structures made from ice with magnificent ice stalactites and stalagmites fill the center of the room. It’s absolutely breathtaking – not just because it’s pretty but because it’s stunning that something so awful could happen when a tenant neglects to pay their heat bill.
The UAA strongly recommends that landlords contact their utility company and get a “Landlord Agreement” from the Utility Company for all their properties. Instead of shutting off utilities when tenants don’t pay or move (risking costly damage to your property and potential legal complications under the Utah Fit Premises Act), under such an agreement the utility company will switch responsibility for future payments to the owner and send a notice of transfer. You will not be responsible for the amount owed by your tenant, and no connection fee should be required to restore the utility service in your name.
If the tenant isn’t paying their utility bill, then you can give them a Three Day Notice to Comply or Vacate. Renters will be required to get utilities back on within three days or vacate the property, or the landlord will began eviction proceedings.
What about payment though? How are you going to be able to get money back from a tenant if they have let their utility bills get far enough behind that it would be about to get shut off? The best advice is to get a large enough deposits to pay for potential unpaid utilities in situations like this, especially if the tenant has poor credit or a history of struggling to pay for utilities or other bills.
The UAA is working with the larger utility providers to help them streamline the process. If you have questions, concerns or experiences you would like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure that we can have your input into how we can improve the operation of these landlord agreements.