Tenant late on utility bill, but paid rent? What can i do?

Was renting a house, where utility bill was in my name. (yes i know, fail, ill never do it again)

Rent is due on the 1st, and the utility bill was due on the 2nd/3rd.
They paid the rent on-time, but say they are late on the utility bill.

Bill was higher than normal, and they say they not paying it.

The lease says tenant is responsible for all utilities, Can i file for evict now? or do i have to wait until this month is up first?

It depends on what state you are in. Most states you give a 3 or 5 day pay or quit. If they told me they were not paying I would have type a pay or quit at that time. They put you between a rock and hard place because it will affect your credit. Please if you are a land lord NEVER provide any utilities.

Your contract SHOULD state that all payments apply first towards late fees, previous months unpaid rent, utilities, etc and LASTLY towards new rent payments. If it did then technically they already paid for the utility bill and are behind in their payment. If your contract does not state that then you should still be able to evict them on the grounds that the contract does state they are to pay utilities.

I manage some industrial properties for my grandma who has to keep utilities in her name (because the city will not issue new occupancy permits to new tenants because they want the buildings gone). She has the contract setup like that and has no problems. Plus she clocks a lot of flier miles for paying all those utility bills on her credit card.

You have clear all the fact before allotting property to the tenant to avoid such kind of problems. You have to follow the tenant lease contract which you made before allotting your property to the tenant.

I have no idea what “pay utilities” means here. Gas? Electric? Water?

This is a guerrilla tactic I’ve used in the past and the statute of limitations has passed on my crimes, so I’ll share it.

I had a squatter. I posted the pay or quit notice. They were ignoring me. So, I put all his utilities in my name ostensibly for a “clean up.” The next day I called the water, gas and electric companies to request a “hard” shut off. Each of them did so …immediately.

My the sparks flew.

Well, the tenant had the utilities turned back on in their name after three days without services, and then they realized it would be a pain to deal with me, since I played outside the sandbox, as it were.

They also had to pay a deposit to get the utilities on. Ha!

How does this apply to you? Since the utilities are already in your name, just request a hard shut off.

Then offer the tenant an amended lease with the terms that Eric suggested.

What would be fun is finding out the tenant can’t get utilities in his name until the previous bill is paid off, or had to cough up a deposit before the services were initiated.

Meantime, somebody’s going to be taking dirt baths until the services are restored.

Frankly, I don’t (have to) do that anymore. I have all that stuff taken care of with my ‘must have something to lose if you screw me’ screening and deposit requirements. Just saying.

BTW, an unpaid utility bill won’t effect your credit (normally) unless it goes to collection, not just because it goes unpaid for few weeks.

In NJ its almost impossible to evict a tenant for anything other than failure to pay rent. Although tenants need to arrange for gas and electric, I keep the water and sewer in my name. My lease states the tenant will reimburse for water and sewer within 5 days of receiving a copy of the bill from me and that the payment are to be made “AS ADDITIONAL RENT”. This way if they don’t pay I am on my way to file for eviction. Any and all funds from the tenant for any reason other than security deposit are specified in my lease to be paid “AS ADDITIONAL RENT”.

Call the utility to have it cut off on Friday.
(Utilities will not reconnect service over the weekend.)

Most leases say tenant must keep utilities on.

Start eviction process on Monday for failure to keep utilities on.

This should motivate them to pay you or move out.

Deduct the utility bill from their deposit after they move out.

We can’t do that here.

My contract says this also. I’d get them to pay you for it late and then offer an amended lease without utilities.

What exactly can’t you do?

Kansas landlord tenant law stipulates the maximum deposit we can extract (1 month) and the fees we can charge upon skipping and the speed at which an eviction can occur.

That’s really restrictive. I guess Kansas doesn’t care about those who have been kicked around credit wise. They can go suck eggs.

Meantime, in California, we can only collect 2x’s the contract rent as a deposit. If we want to safely rent to those with iffy credit and get over-retail rents, then we are forced to rewrite the contract rent for whatever works to allow us to get the deposits we want.

I’ve posted this before, but for example, in a 55-community house I manage, I had a prospect tell me she had awful credit and an iffy income; not in those words, of course. I told her that I was unable to collect the deposits legally to overcome the risk of renting to her. Actually I could, but I really wasn’t interested in her offer as you’ll see why in a moment.

Meantime, she offered me a cosigner. I asked who this was. She said it was her attorney-friend. I said, ‘No attorney-friends as cosigners, thanks.’

She called me back a day, or so, later, and suggested something quite creative and tempting to me in order to overcome her ‘problem(s).’

She said she really liked the house and was willing to pay me $900/mo for the house if I would work with her. I asked what she had in mind.

Her proposal went something like this:

Contract Rent: $1500/mo. (more than twice the market rent)
Ontime Payment Credit: $600
Effective Rent: $900/mo (roughly $200 over retail)
Retail Rent: 700 (give or take)

Deposit: 2x’s Contract Rent> $3,000
Prepaid Rent: 2x’s Contract Rent> $3000 (3+/mos of ‘on time’ rents)
Total Deposit(s): $6000

So, with six thousand in the bank and three months of on time rent prepaid, it seemed like a deal for me. I would have taken the offer …if the house was mine, but it belonged to my church.

If anything had gone wrong (which it wouldn’t have, but if it had…), the church might end up in the paper with a headline reading:
“Church Gouges Elderly Woman! News At 11”


That’s a great idea!! I’ve stayed away from people that are risky for that very reason. I generally ignore credit and don’t allow anybody that has ANY evictions or bad references or gaps in the rental history. I also don’t allow pets as they can cause expensive damage.

What do you define as low credit?

I don’t have a definitive definition of ‘low credit,’ because ‘low credit’ can be overcome with cosigners and big deposits as far as the way I do business.

Furthermore, I rarely turn down a tenant, unless they look dirty. I mean if they can’t at least fake it for a day while they meet with me, I can only imagine how bad they take care of themselves when they’re on their own, or worse, how bad they’ll take care of my property.

There’s an element of pride that I look for. Even if a person is terrible at handling money, if they take care to look after their appearance, it makes a LOT of difference to me.

Regardless, I rarely turn anyone down. I just make them jump higher hoops. And big deposits, cosigners and/or longer rental terms, and over retail rents are enough to close my eyes and say, “You qualify.”

I was fooled about 20 years ago, really bad. I rented to an Asian couple in Garden Grove, CA. They had great credit and income and a rental history. Well, I didn’t realize they were a front couple getting housing for a fee for those who would never qualify.

I ended up with a 13-person load of people in the house with a couple of crazies. One of the crazies tried to hang herself, naked, from a 3’ bush in the front yard. If that wasn’t bad enough, they kept flushing a loaded and clogged toilet over and over and over trying to clear the clog …only to fill the entire house with excrement-tainted water.

My maintenance guy moved a 33/gal metal trashcan (full of rice) to the driveway, and uncovered a 1" mound of swarming cockroaches living under the can. He stumbled to the front yard and barf all over the tree the crazy lady tried to hang herself from. It was a mess.

I’ve never had anything remotely like that happen since, but I was a sucker for thinking that AAA credit tenants with low deposits were the answer to hiccup-free management. Wrong. Big deposits are the answer, if not big deposits and cosigners.


Jay, I think you should have a tv show…

I’ve been told this before somewhere else. In fact, I had a radio station ask me if I was interested in doing a weekend ‘creative real estate’ show. I thought that would be great! Problem was “I” had to pay for it. Yeah, well…

A couple of my friends and I thought it would be fun to offer a tv show where we did all the exact wrong things on one rehab job after another, and have to mop up our mess, and put the audience on a roller coaster trying to figure out how we were going to recover from our mistakes. Kind of like “Abbot and Costello Does Rehabs.”

We could watch other “Flipping” shows to get great ideas of what NOT to do.

One example we saw was a Realtor selling one of the “flip” houses and suggesting to the rehabbers that buyers only really cared about the interior and the outside would take care of itself. Meantime the outside looked like a version of Nightmare on Elm St. Then the show ended with the agent fawning all over the interior, but with no buyer. Hmmm.

My experience tells me that everyone’s an interior decorator, but nobody knows what to do with the landscape. As a result, our first priority IS the landscaping and curb appeal, then “if” there’s money left over we do the interior. OK, it’s not quite that black and white, but with a rental, we focus on the exterior first.

If you really drill down, a nice front door is practically a “show me” magnet.

Of course the professional rehabber pays attention to everything.

Russell Hantz (of “Survivor” fame) has a show filmed here in Houston similar to what you’re talking about. It’s incredibly rehearsed and staged for a “reality” show so I can’t watch it.

Ohh its a headache… you should evict that tenant. if you both agreed that he will pay the bills, then why is he not paying it…

I agree with javipa, great frightening experience! Right after you move someplace new, you never know what your utilities will really cost you until you get that very first bill. You may have been anticipating a fifty dollar bill and end up with a two hundred dollar bill. You would not wish to be late on your initial bill.