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Home · Property Management · Latest News : Tenant is Always Liable for Utilities, Right? Think Again

If you believe that your tenant is always liable for utilities, you might want to think again.

Gas metersPhiladelphia Gas Works, in the 165 years that it’s powered our sixth largest city, has grown weary of the financial drain caused by deadbeat tenants who skip out on the bills.

Now, it will look to landlords to do something about it.

The rationale: Why pass the cost on to all of Philly’s customers, when it’s the landlords who benefit from the access to gas service on their properties.

This is not an uncommon position. In fact, many utility companies around the country require the property owner, as a condition to receiving service, to sign up as a ‘reverter’, the party that becomes liable when the tenant moves out. Of course, the landlord is also liable for payment of services during any period of vacancy.

But PGW has taken it a step further. With the backing of the state’s legislature, it revived an antiquated law that allows it to levy liens – not on the tenant, but on the rental property itself.

Public comment to the proposed law pointed to the landlord’s dilemma: “If the tenant put the utility in their name and skips, why should the landlord have to hunt them down, or pay it for them, when the service was personal to them?”

Follow suitBut the law was enacted with the lien provisions in place.

Will other states follow suit?

PGW is offering an olive branch: The Philadelphia Landlord Cooperation Program. By applying for the program, the landlord can receive notice of delinquencies and, for now, be protected from the filing of liens during this pilot program. That is, if they register and stay off the “uncooperative landlords” list.

PGW pledges to make “all efforts” to collect from the tenant, but their goal is clear: “We must be paid for gas provided to customers.”

What do you think? Please share you insights below.

Interested in submetering? Find out how it can force your tenants to conserve gas, electricity and water. Click here for more.

Did you know there is an inexpensive device that can help save electricity and reduce your bills without having to replace expensive appliances? Click here for more.

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  • carrie

    I have known some pretty nasty tenants who turn on every light, and every faucet and skip out, it could be a month before the landlord knows they are gone…why should a lein be put on a property for this type of vicious behavior, then of course once a tenant skips out…you never find them again to go after them for damages, I think the utility companies should cut them off once they are only one month late and cut their loses. Leave the landlords alone, who spend enough money fixing all the damages they do.

  • Archer

    This is only “legal” until someone formally challenges it’s questionable “legality.” I doubt it really is. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time until electric utilities try the same thing, after all, why not? I’ve known of tenants who skip in the spring after running up well over $1k in electric bills, then boogie after the PUC allowed cutoff date.

    If I were affected by this, I would need to; 1. Add an accounting system that required proof of utility payment or worse yet, direct collection of the utility payment with the rent. Either would be a significant additional cost & staff, which would be passed on in additional rent, AND 2. Increase the amount of security deposit held to cover the inevitable monthly bill that I would otherwise be stuck with. Given the endless supply of $8/hr. Walmart and fast food type jobs these requirements would effectively eliminate yet another 50% of the tenant population from eligibility to rent.

  • jean


  • Jerald A. Peterson

    If this is allowed the gas company should also be required to share their profits with all the landlords.

  • Shirley

    This is ridiculous. Odds are if the tenant left owing a gas bill they also left owing rent. Maybe the gas company should bill the tenant for the landlord’s rent and collect it for them the next time the tenant obtains service. The utility companies already have the right to cut service for non-payment (even in the dead of winter) but landlords can’t just change the locks, we have to go through the court system which takes a minimum 4 weeks start to finish. Our local utility providers are no help at all when we call and ask them questions such as the date the tenant’s service was disconnected (even though it is in our lease that the tenant gives us permission to gather this information) but they have no problem calling us and asking us if we happen to know where a tenant who owes them money moved to.

  • Lucy Fritz

    I doubt this would stand up legally if challenged.

    We’ve had tenants whose credit is so bad they use the names of others (even their children) to obtain utilities – we find this out after they move out and unpaid utility bills continue arriving.

    As a landlord I would simply show the utility company my lease and prove that the name they were providing utilities to was not the name of my tenant. And if the utility company is going to do such a sloppy job verifying who they are providing service to then they can’t hold us, the landlord, liable. Plus, if the city prevents me from cutting off utilities during the winter, I can’t be held liable for non-payment when spring arrives and utilities can legally be turned off.

    At the end of the day the utility companies do pass these uncollectibles off to the public in the form of higher rates.

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  • robertr

    Listen to this one.. I put a leasee into my property in 2004. i checked his credit it wasn’t so great but not to bad. he had a wife and child move in with his. i stipulated on the lease only the leasee can have utilities in his name no occupants. In early 2007 i signed up for lcp. but got sick in 2008 and didn’t get my rentals license for that year. In 2010 i went to sell the property ( it’s a low value property ) I was told PGW wants $10,000 (YES $10,000 ) but this is the scam. The man who was the leasee is not the person who owes all this money. PGW allowed a person I never met , who was never on the lease to receive gas service. They never told me anything about this never sent me a notice this person was receiving gas service at my property and I think they are doing the roll over scam on me as well. This scam is a tenant moves into your house owing money from a previous location PGW then puts that money in with what the tenant generated in your property. PGW may also try colling from you and the previous landlord for the same bill. PGW is evil. The water company does the right thing and sends the owner a letter when money is owed. PGW will not give the owner any info on the tenants bill but then turns around and sticks you with the bill. Lets fight back.. [email protected]

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