When can a residential landlord charge for utilities?
Many landlords charge tenants for utilities or have them pay the utility companies directly. The penalties for improperly charging utilities to a tenant can be severe. A residential landlord can charge for utilities under certain conditions as follows:
- Heat and electricity (electricity, gas, and oil). A landlord can charge these to the tenant or have the tenant pay them directly if there is a written letting agreement (commonly called a lease) in which the parties agree that the tenant will pay any or all of these charges. In addition, the utilities must be separately metered to the tenant.
- Water and sewer. A landlord can charge these to the tenant but must take more steps. Like heat and electricity, there must be a written letting agreement. In addition, the landlord must install water conserving fixtures, must have a licensed plumber certify as to the installation of these fixtures and have the certification filed and accepted by the town or city Board of Health. In addition, the water and sewer must be separately metered so that the tenant is charged only for the water used. If the landlord fails to comply with all of these requirements, then the landlord must pay these charges.
- Telephone, cable tv, and internet. These utilities are not necessary for a habitable home and the landlord has no obligation to provide these. If the tenant wants these utilities, then the tenant must pay for them.