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Richard - Bizlaw
Richard - Bizlaw, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 9721
Experience:  Commercial and residential leases in NY & NJ & US
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My rent does not include utilities. However our apartment

Customer Question

My rent does not include utilities. However our apartment complex has a 3rd party company that sends a bill each month. They then take the bill and divide it by the number of people who live in your unit. I had a disagreement about utility bills for 2 months. I did not pay that amount. My landlord is now taking me to court for past due rent. The amount that is owed is utilities NOT rent. I remember hearing a few years ago that a landlord can not sue you for utilities only past due rent since it is not included with the rent. Is this correct and if so where can I find the code or law that says this?
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Richard - Bizlaw replied 1 month ago.

Hello, my name is ***** ***** I will try to help you. Please remember I just report or interpret the law, so the outcome may not be what you hoped for.

Have you reviewed your lease agreement to make sure that utilities are not considered part of the rent? Just because they are separately billed through an allocation system does not mean they are excluded from the determination of rent under the lease. A third-party company is often doing nothing more than acting as the landlords's agent for purposes of collecting each unit's allocable share of the utility. Let me know what your lease says about the utilities.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.

Attachment: 2016-09-13_205435_equity_residential_lease_19208-572-572-3_8.pdf

I dont think so.

What should I be looking for in the lease's Utilities Addendum

Expert:  Richard - Bizlaw replied 1 month ago.

This is the addendum to the lease. What does the lease itself say about utilities? You can also look to see how the term rent is defined in the lease. Normally, it includes utilities supplied by the landlord even though billed to you. Let me know what you see in the lease.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.

I am checking now.

Rent: You agree to pay the amount shown in the Total Monthly Rent section of the Term Sheet and all additional rent (described below), in advance and without demand, on or before the first day of each calendar month. All fees and charges described on the Term Sheet or in this Lease, including, but not limited to, late charges, returned item fees and utility bills that are payable to us or to our utilities billing vendor, are “additional rent.” Total Monthly Rent and additional rent are, together, referred to in this Lease as “rent.” All rent must be paid in U.S. dollars and we reserve the right to require that payments be made in one lump sum, even if there are multiple residents listed on the Lease. We strongly encourage residents to use online or electronic payment methods. We may elect to centralize the collection sites for non-electronic payments and/or require that all payments be made electronically. If we do so, we will notify you in writing of the requirement, and, in the case of centralized collections, the address to which you should send your payments, as well as the effective date for such change. If we designate an off site receivables location, you agree that all rent and other payments directed to that location must be received at the designated location on or before the due date. We do not accept cash, third party personal checks, or checks without a preprinted name and address of the account holder. If you pay by personal check, you are authorizing us to scan the check and convert it into a one-time electronic debit from the bank account against which the check was written. Unless prohibited by law, we reserve the right to refuse payments by personal check, automatic debit or other form of electronic payment if, for example, you have submitted previous checks or other payments to us that have failed to clear the bank. We are not required to re-deposit a dishonored check.

Expert:  Richard - Bizlaw replied 1 month ago.

As you can see from the provision you provided, the utilities constitute additional rent. For this reason the fade today utility bill is the same as not paying your rent in full. The fact that the utility bill constitute rent under the lease does not preclude you from challenging the manner in which the utility bill is calculated. If you cannot resolve it with the landlord, when you answer their complaint, you should make clear the basis of your challenge and indicate that you are prepared to escrow the disputed amount with the court while the matter is being resolved in the court.

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