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Ask Legalease Your Own Question
Legalease
Legalease, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 16288
Experience:  15 yrs residential & commercial leasing experience.
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Our electricity was never shutoff and we were never notified

Customer Question

Our electricity was never shutoff and we were never notified about the monthly electric bills. They have now given us 10 months worth of bills the rental company has been paying for. What do we do?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Legalease replied 9 months ago.

Hello there --

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DO you have a written lease agreement?

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If you do, what does that lease agreement state regarding the electric bills and how they will be paid ? Is there any language regarding how long you have to pay any electric bills when you are presented with several bills at one time?

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MARY

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
It was skimmed over briefly between misplaced papers. The paper we received does not state how long we have to pay the bills we were presented with.
Expert:  Legalease replied 9 months ago.

Hello again -

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Because the provision is actually written into the lease agreement, even if difficult to find or understand -- it is still applicable as a written contract to both parties. However, because the landlord/management company neglected to clearly set forth the terms for the manner of presentment for these bills to you and the MANNER and TIME FRAME for full payment of these bills to you, any court reviewing this matter (including a housing or eviction court) must apply the "reasonable and prudent person / situation " doctrine to the contract and your lease/tenancy. What this means is that a judge would have to put himself in the shoes of a reasonable tenant who can otherwise afford the rent and a monthly electric bill ( ONE bill at a time, not TEN BILLS at one time as you have here !!) -- and the court would have to set a reasonable time frame on you as the tenants to make payments and pay these bills to date AND the judge would have to set a reasonable utility bill presentment period and time pay period for any utility bills going forward from this situation and all "reasonable" parties must abide by such a ruling of the court.

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Now, depending upon your history with this owner/landlord and whether or not you have had any prior issues with them regarding rent payment, etc, the landlord CAN and MIGHT declare that all of the ten months currently owed by you for utilities is actually RENT and because it remains unpaid and you are not able to pay it in a week or so, the landlord may TRY to evict you in court. THat move is one that can be made legally by the landlord -- they have the right to apply to evict you. =

BUT, then this is where you MUST bring up the lease written contract and point out to the judge.court that there is no manner for payment and no time frame for payment of the utility bills in the lease -- just a vague reference that it is the tenants responsibility ona monthly basis (or whatever your contract says). The landlord / owner will not point this out to the judge because they do no have to do so -- if you or your attorney missed this defense, then it cannot be heard on appeal and you could very well be evicted. However, if you answer any complaint for eviction in WRITING to the court (copy to landlord, keep a copy) and ADMIT that the utility bills are/were your responsibility, but claim that you did call and ask for the bills at several points since you moved in with no response and then suddenly you are HIT with 10 months of utility bills at one time and are asked to pay it all at once and immediately or face eviction -- DESPITE that your lease does NOT state when the bills will be given to you, HOW the bills will be given to you and HOW the bills will be paid to them. Your argument here is that the lease contract is NOT clearly written in the face of the document and thus the court is permitted to clarify the terms of the manner and timing of presentment of utility bills and the manner and timing of required payments for those utility bills going forward into the future.

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Your written answer might contain something like the following paragraph (it does not have to be exactly verbatim of what I wrote below - these ANSWER documents are written from scratch and must be responsive to the original document filed by the landlord / owner -- SO, the LL would file a Motion or Action for Eviction" document and you would respond with your document titled " ANSWER to Motion (or Action) for Eviction" -- as follows):

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"Under the circumstances, the Defendant requests that the court apply the "reasonable and prudent person / situation" rule to this matter and review /note that the lease contract contains no terms (or vague terms or both) of presentment or payment time frame / payment method of utility bills by tenant to the Landlord and the tenant requests that the court find the lease contract language regarding payment of utility bills to be vague and needing of further interpretation -- and tenant further requests that the court find that the manner of presentment of TEN MONTHS of utility bills at the same time on the same date to tenant with the unreasonable expectation of immediate or almost immediate payment to landlord to be the actions of an unreasonable and imprudent landlord / owner of such similarly situated rental properties / apartment building units. Tenant further states that a reasonable and prudent landlord /owner / management company would have presented the utility bills to the tenant on a monthly basis as received by the owner from the utility company (or at least a quarterly basis) so that a similarly situated tenant of middle class means could pay such utility bills on a reasonable monthly (or even quarterly) basis, as the utility companies expect that such bills will be paid to them. Finally, tenant requests that the court deny the landlord/owner request for eviction and order the landlord / owner to set up a reasonable payment plan for the outstanding utility bills and further order the landlord to reasonably revise the lease agreement contract in order to require the landlord to present future utility bills on a monthly (or quarterly) basis, as the court sees fit."

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Please press a positive rating above in the ratings section so I will be paid for my time. I am paid nothing for assisting you today unless you press a positive rating in the ratings section above (three, four or five stars is considered a positive rating). Pressing a positive rating will not cost you any additional money -- it simply triggers Just Answer to give me credit for assisting you today and to pay me for the time spent answering your questions. Please let me know if you have any additional related follow up questions on this matter. THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!

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MARY

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Expert:  Legalease replied 9 months ago.

Please press a positive rating above in the ratings section so I will be paid for my time. I am paid nothing for assisting you today unless you press a positive rating in the ratings section above (three, four or five stars is considered a positive rating). Pressing a positive rating will not cost you any additional money -- it simply triggers Just Answer to give me credit for assisting you today and to pay me for the time spent answering your questions. Please let me know if you have any additional related follow up questions on this matter. THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!

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MARY

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