If your landlord pays the utility bills, but stops making payment to a utility company, a law called the Utility Service Tenants Rights Act requires the utility company to give you a chance to stop your utility service from being discontinued
[A utility includes the gas and electric companies, and most municipal water/sewer authorities (service must be provided beyond the municipalities' corporate limits), but not to Rural Cooperatives.]
The utility company must give your landlord at least 37 days notice that it will be turning off service. The utility company has to notify you of the proposed termination within seven (7) days of the termination notice to the landlord. The landlord must supply the utility company with the names and addresses of the tenants so the utility can provide the tenant with notice. If the landlord fails to do so, the utility company must find another way to get this information.
A utility company cannot turn off your utility service without first giving you at least 30 days prior notice.
The notice you receive must contain the following information:
- the date they gave you the notice,
- the date on or after which they will turn off your utility service,
- how you can stop the service from being terminated,
- the landlord's bill for the last 30 days of service, and
- a telephone number at the utility company where you may call for an explanation of your rights. The notice should have a bill for the previous 30 days of service attached. If you pay this amount directly to the utility company, they cannot stop service to your home. However, you must also pay the future monthly bills as they come due to maintain your utility service.
You have the right to deduct your payments to the utility company from your future rent payments. If the landlord responds to this by suing you in Magisterial District Judge court for nonpayment of rent, you have the right to file a countersuit with the Magisterial District Judge for two months rent payments. For example, if your normal rent is $300 per month, you can countersue the landlord for $600.
Contact your local legal services for further assistance. Finally, if the utility company shuts off your utility service without first giving you the proper notice, you may contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (814) 871-4371 or 1-800-441-2555 for help in enforcing the law.
We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this pamphlet.