Tenant Laws: Utilities

Utilities are basic necessary services provided to residential properties by public companies. They include gas, electricity and water and sewer services. Landlords are legally required to provide access to these necessities, but sometimes the lease will require the tenant to pay for their cost when they are separately metered for the tenant’s unit.

If the utilities are not separately metered and involve more than one unit no part of the bill should be billed to an individual tenant. For example, if a duplex unit has only one gas meter but two tenants, the landlord cannot require the tenants to split the bill since there is no way of knowing if one tenant is overpaying. In such a case the payment of the bill is the landlord’s responsibility.

Utility Services Tenant Rights Act

There is a Pennsylvania law which protects tenants whose landlords fail to pay their bills. If landlord doesn’t pay gas, electric or water bills the tenant should not be required to pay the back bill to keep services on. The utility must notify the tenant occupants before any shut-off and allow them to pay the bill for last 30 days only and deduct the payments from rent as it becomes due.

Utility Assistance Programs

If the utility bill is the tenant’s obligation and you are behind in your payments call the following agencies to see whether they can assist you:

  • Energy Coordinating Agency Of Philadelphia (215) 988-0929
  • Crisis (215) 686-2590
  • LIHEAP (215) 560-2970
  • Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) (215) 829-0545
  • United Communities (215) 467-8700
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