Landlord Stuck With Tenant’s Unpaid Utility Bill

by Chris on December 6, 2010

Q: Is there any recourse for landlords not to get stuck with utility bills. – TVS Landlord

It’s been a few times that tenants move in a property, residential or commercial, sign up with the utility companies and then a few months before they leave they call the utility (like Hydro or Enbridge Gas) tell them that they are no longer responsible for the utilities and later on I find out that as the landlord I’m stuck to pay their outstanding bills.

When I contact the utility companies they say as the landlord I have to pay it and then bring the tenant to court to collect (in other words I just became a collection agency for these companies).

I live in Ontario, so unfortunately here there is no way to have a deposit from the tenants.

As far as residential rentals go, a landlord can agree to provide utilities and apply a portion of the rent payment, or the tenant signs up for an account directly with the utility and pays the fees to them. In that case, the tenant has some incentive to pay because it could hurt their ongoing relationship with the utility.

For example, Enbridge allows tenants to make payments directly to their own account, which they then transfer to their next property when they move. An Enbridge spokesperson told us that if a landlord contacts them, the landlord’s name can be noted on the account as the property owner, and an Enbridge employee will call the landlord if the tenant asks to transfer the utility out of his or her name. That may not avoid liability as the property owner, but it would give the landlord some advance notice that the tenant is trying to transfer the account before it’s time for them to move.

We would love to hear from other Ontario landlords regarding whether they’ve had similar experiences.

Without a deposit, you likely will have to take legal action to collect outstanding expenses from your tenant. Ontario’s new metering law takes effect soon. These rules may impact a landlord’s rights and responsibilities regarding utilities. One change that is likely: a landlord with meters (where tenants pay direct) may not have the ability to apply to the Board for the outstanding utilities as “unpaid rent”.

We recommend that you contact Ontario legal expert April Stewart with Landlord Legal (705-812-2267) to find out your best course of action.

The tenancy agreement should include a provision that states who is responsible for each of the utilities. You can accomplish this via a checklist marked “landlord” or “tenant” for each item, or you can simply state “tenant shall be liable for…” and indicate the responsibilities, then do the same for the landlord.

In addition to the lease provisions, be sure to keep records of all communications with the tenant and with the utility companies regarding the expenses, and all bills and records of payments, because it will be the landlord’s burden to prove the expenses in court or before the Board.

Keep in mind that landlords do have power to make their tenants pay rent on time. Tenant Verification Service, a credit reporting agency, offers landlords the ability to Report Tenant Pay Habits. Good tenants reap the rewards of a solid rental payment history, while bad tenants will think twice before becoming habitually late payers. See Report Tenant Pay Habits for more information.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew M. December 7, 2010 at 11:56 pm

In our situation, the tenants pay for gas and hydro. But we are registered with both as the landlords. If the tenant cancels their service, we are automatically notified. There is a fee to transfer it back to us, but that’s better than not knowing about it, plus it gives you a heads up that the tenant may be moving early.

This past year we got a call that the gas was in default and had been shut off – it wasn’t paid for 3 months. We immediately contacted the tenants and made them aware of their options including help from some local charities. After they arranged their payback schedule with the gas company, all was well.

It’s a good thing to let the tenants pay for their services, but as landlord, make sure you also have some agreement with the services companies so they can call you if there are problems with the accounts.

G. Hall March 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

I have a written lease agreement that the tenants pays for a stated portion of the utilites, they refuse to pay. The Ontario Residency Act indicates that utilities are not rent and cannot be used for a basis for eviction. Does anyone have any ideas on what recourse I have to collect my money?

Chris March 19, 2012 at 7:19 am

Talk to April Stewart at http://www.landlordlegal.ca — she’ll know what to do —

Joseph May 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

My tenant paid first and last. She gave written notice that she leaving at end of month. However, she moved out in middle(15th) of the month and called hydro to cancel the service. Hydro billed me for the rest of that last month which I paid. Isn’t the last 14 days of the hydro bill hers? It cleary states in the rental agreement that she is responsible for Hydro while as a tenant. Since she paid for the whole last month, it’s still her apartment…isn’t it? Am I wrong?

mary-michael jackson May 16, 2014 at 7:45 am

Can the city hold the landlord responsible for 2 unpaid utility bills left by 2 previous tenants, and each time the bill were in the tenants name. Help please

mary-michael jackson May 16, 2014 at 7:48 am

The city is also refusing to turn the water on until both bills are paid.

Kat May 17, 2014 at 1:47 am

@Joseph: if she moved early, the hydro would’ve been a very nominal amount, if anything at all, since nobody was there. Unless she left everything on. Did you later make a verbal agreement with her about leaving the residence early? If so, you are technically responsible for it, or it becomes a her word against yours in small claims, so likely not worth it.

Lynne July 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

I gave legal notice to my landlord that I was terminating my tenancy on or before July 31. The unit is electric heated and all appliances are electric and the hydro account is in my name. Similarly, the gas bill is in my name. Since the only appliance that uses gas is a fireplace, I notified the gas company to end my account as of May 31. The gas company advised that Landlord and he refused to take responsibility on the account until July 31. The gas fireplace was turned off and there was no consumption of gas. The gas company is billing me service charges and delivery charges to the property.

Can the landlord simply instruct the gas company to bill me for the service to the property (it is multi unit property) without my authorization after I have cancelled my account ?

Isn’t the Landlord responsible to the service of the property ?

Shonna Denou November 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I was using a management company to handle my property in another state. 6 months after the tenants moved out (and the management company is no longer employed and I no longer own the property) I received a notice from the utility company that the tenants didn’t pay their final bill. They won’t give me a copy of the bill, just added the charges to my last bill for that address. The management company’s attorney claims that since they are no longer employed, it is my problem (even though it happened on their watch). Tenants forwarding address and email given to the management company are incorrect. All I have is a name. What can I do to get my money back from the tenant, since I am getting stuck with their bill?

Murray Sidon December 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I am a landlord in Ontario and I’ve been stuck paying hydro bills on two occations. It is a scam that tennents can do if they know the system. They simply give their notice and about three weeks before they leave they call Ontario Hydro and cancel their account. Ontario Hydro refuses to contact me by phone but sends me a bill which gets to me long after the tennents have left. I have told them of this problem and they told me they will not call me to notify they are changing the billing into my name. They said it was not their problem. Anyone with a solution?

John April 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

I hade a bad tanent over a year ago Lease specified Tanent responcibility for utilitys
they had the utilitys in there name.
among a lot of damages which we had to pay big on
he also left us with a Hydro bill that we are stuck with and have to pay with our Taxes as utility is government owned.
What are our options to go after the bad Tenant ?

Sylvia April 25, 2017 at 8:21 am

Haldimand county has a system that if a tenant defaults on their water/wastewater . The bill goes directly onto the homeowners tax roll. I have been stuck with paying over 1500 in 3 years for unpaid water bills. No accountability what so ever even though it is is the tenants name. This has to change for all good landlords who get stuck with professional tenants.

Leanna August 2, 2017 at 4:49 am

I am a home owner in Barrie Ont. Although I have a written contact sating that the tenants were responsible for paying the water bill they have not paid . The have since moved out and still not paid the water bill. Although the account is in their name unless the bill is paid the waster will be shut off as account remains against the home. Is there way to get them to pay or file something against their credit score?

Terri August 14, 2017 at 7:33 am

Something needs to change Tenants are getting away with not paying there bills .it not the Landlord responsibility to pay someone else’s bills. Just because we rent our home out doesn’t mean i have to babysit these people .if you call the company to get information u are told its not your account so why are we stuck paying there water bills when they dont .They are adults right .so the government wants people to rent because theres a shortage of affordable housing but they won’t protect the Landlords against tentants that wont pay because they no they can get away with it ..its wrong..We need better laws for Landlords .These people don’t care about people things there no pride because they don’t own it .So if the government doesn’t do something less people will rent out and there will more homeless.why do you think no one wants to build apartments because people don’t take care of it .we have become a society of no morals .no pride .no self respect. No accountability..Good luck with that in the future.

Mandy February 3, 2018 at 6:36 am

I have a tenant renting my home. Our lease agreement is short term as I wanted to make sure he was truthfull about abiding by the lease. It states he will pay set rent and an amount towards utilities and if he goes over the amount he pays difference. Was great Tenant til I gave him first oil bill. Then he started complaining something wrong with furnace and smell. Gave dehumidifier in basement and furbace was checked. Then still not paid gave him second bill which was bigger tried everything to weasel out of paying. Now he got health board cit in my home to say exposed to mold. He chipped and dislodged tiles in my shower caused leak to basement which was not told about and now a very small amount of mold on wood. Told just starting but saying his flu he got in January is from mold spores. What tenants will go to get out of paying ….except I gave pictures of every room before he moved in inclung tiles in shower. See yah in court a….hole. we gave no rights I wish I never rented should have sold instead.

Sabs April 6, 2018 at 7:22 am

Hello,
My sister has a situation, where her tenants haven’t paid rent for over 2 months. She gave them a good one month’s time, and kept contacting the lady. She refused to contact my sister by responding to any medium. My sister went to the house a few times and no body was there and she couldn’t enter.
One day she find a guy living there who said the girl has left and my sister can sign a new lease with him. My sister refused as that would be a breach with the existing lease. He claims to be her ex boyfriend.
My sister asked him to evict the place, and in 2 days we get email from tenant saying he is my partner and we can’t evict him, etc. She will have a bankruptcy agency to contact my sister to start a plan. In the meantime my sister filed a N4 and sent it via Postal Canada.
As soon as she gets the letter, the next day we get a call ffrom Hydro that the account has been closed by someone and for final hearing they are contacting tenant and she isn’t picking up. If no one pays the service will be shut off on Monday.
The Tenant has not indicated that they are moving out, and nor is Hydro indicating who called to cancel the service.
The hydro account is under her name. What Options do we have?
1. Let Hydro deal with it, and not pay the bill. If it gets cut it their responsibility
2. Email the tenant to let her know the situation.

We are soo confused, as any step we take has to be calculated. The law seems not to favour the landlords
Thanks
Sara

jose August 1, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Hello everyone,
We read some of the comments regarding untruthful tenants. We find it absolutely disgusting how these people as some call it without any respect and morality for other people’s life saving including our homes.
We find it very disturbing that this Ontario government is actually letting the bad tenants to get away with these ridiculous excuses. We all work hard to invest and buy a house and to run a small business as well as subsidize the government for their lack of responsibility by supplying our homes to these tenants,and the reward we get is non-payment of rents, non payment of utilities and ruining or homes.
We believe we all should oppose these ridiculous rules to bring attention to the government that their protection of these bad tenants is not our jobs and they need to restrict the rules for tenants not landlords.
We pay the fees and we wait for decisions from a judicator who could possibly agrees with our substantiated claims or NOT ! Ridiculous
We should not be spending our time and money to wait months to find out we can not collect and find out our homes have been damaged by these irresponsible tenants and not be able to kick them out immediately,now that is ,RIDICULOUS !
WE have heard so much excuses and unimpressives lies that makes you sick and yet so helpless when it comes to landlord’s protection. It feels like you are in a lawless country and all the good thing happens if you are nothing, have nothing and hard working people are res[ponsible for theses disgusting and irresponsible BAD tenants.
Hope someone is listening from the government and has the courage to say enough is enough to get rid of these stupid rules and regulations that are most definitely working to their benefits!

Rucy August 28, 2018 at 8:26 pm

I’m the landlord of a condo unit. I was required to pay the hydro bills that the former tenant didn’t pay. If i didn’t pay they wouldn’t reconnect my power.

Please advise what can i do to order the former tenant to pay me back the money? He didn’t pick up my calls and i don’t know where is he living.

Kate October 13, 2018 at 11:16 am

This is all very disturbing and makes me nauseous when I read about all these bad tenants. I am a landlord and my tenants have been consistently late paying their utility bills, the accounts were on my name so I would pay the bills and then wait for the tenants to finally send me the money, most of the time a month later. We finally agreed to transfer the accounts onto their name but now they are not paying the final bills I received on my name. I sent them a few text messsages asking to provide the payment to what they responded asking to stop harassing them and called me hostile. They said the wouldn’t communicate with me if I don’t stop the threats! It’s unbelievable and I do realize now after reading some of the posts that there is really nothing I can do. Something has to change, we are after all living in a capitalist country where businesses are supposed to be encouraged and supported. Landlords are absolutely helpless against dishonest tenants and it’s outrageous.

Goes November 30, 2018 at 2:29 am

The first step is definitely to ensure the obligation of the tenant to pay the designated utilities is written in the lease.

Next, you need to ask for proof from the tenant that they have activated their utility account(s) before you give them keys (just like you would with tenant insurance). Certainly they can set up and then cancel the accout(s) right after but it’s still wise.

If they don’t set up or they cancel utilities during tenancy, you can serve them with an N5

Gord November 30, 2018 at 2:39 am

The first step is definitely to ensure the obligation of the tenant to pay the designated utilities is written in the lease.

Next, you need to ask for proof from the tenant that they have activated their utility account(s) before you give them keys (just like you would with tenant insurance). Certainly they can set up and then cancel the accout(s) right after but it’s still wise to take this step to verify. It’s also setting a precedent with the tenant that you are diligent in your duties.

If they don’t set up or they cancel utilities during tenancy, you can serve them with an N5 for violating their lease obligation under the interference of landlord’s lawful rights, privileges or interests. Document every communication with the tenant as evidence for the N5 but I would probably first serve the tenant with a warning that an N5 will be served if they don’t connect the utilities. Give them a deadline in the warning.

As for the unpaid utility charges that are in the landlord’s name when they are supposed to be paid by the tenant, if the tenant is not agreeing to pay, I would serve them with a warning that their arrears will be forwarded to a collection agency for recovery. If still unpaid or no agreement made after that, send them to collections.

Roza January 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm

My realtor, whom with I bought a house as part of the agreement rented out my house to the nightmare tenants-who drink alcohol, smoke and do not pay neither rent nor utilities. I HAVE ALREADY HEARING FROM the TENANT BOARD . My question is what is the right way to sue the realtor for not checking criminal background as well as credit history of the tenants? How realistic is to evict tenants ASAP?How to claim for utilities that keep coming and as we all know in Ontario the utilities are very expensive.

Neha January 30, 2019 at 12:06 pm

WORST Tenant I have seen in my life. We were emotional fools to get trapped in their talks and gave them the house. The reference they gave never picked up as they were Over the period of one year lease it was so stressful which started from 2nd month of the lease itself. 5 Rent cheques bounced and late payments every time. They never let us in the property in 10 months until we gave them the notice to vacate and started showing the property. She gave us a really hard time and stress every day. There were only 3 people in the lease however there were 2 families staying and they never informed us. And when we asked them they used abusive language and wrote all the stupid texts stating we are harassing them even though we never went in the house or outside. Left the property so dirty and used too many bad words while giving the keys. On the top they never paid the water and waste waster bill of 600 plus and region sends the email to us stating if we don’t pay it would go on our taxes and also credit report. This is ridiculous if tenant doesn’t pay the bill landlord gets penalized and tenant is free to do the next landlord. there is nothing we could do as they changed their phone numbers except for filling a case and taking all the stress. Because of all this my husband had lot of stress and end up going for the bypass surgery. Worst laws for the Landlords. Biggest problem tenant wont get anything on their credit report until we file a case. Is there anything we could do to atleast get this on the tenants credit. or atleast post somewhere where landlords can see their names and avoid getting in the same situation in which we are now.

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