Is A Tenant Responsible For Paying Electricity On A Shared Meter?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

My landlord separated his home at the end of the hallway. There is only one electric meter and one water meter and he refuses to pay his portion of the electric (25%) without proof of a bill. My windows are lousy and my bill is $400 to $500 per month! What are my rights if I don’t want him to have my personal information regarding the bill? There are other issues as well, such as no smoke detector, no working dishwasher, only 3 burners work on the stove, and when I ask him to repair something he raises my rent. What can I do?

There are several issues here. In many states, a tenant is not responsible for paying electricity on a shared meter. If a meter is shared, then the landlord must pay the bill. If your state prohibits shared meters paid by the tenant, it may allow the tenant to waive that prohibition. Check your state’s laws to see what it requires, and if you and your landlord have met those requirements.

If the agreement regarding the utilities is not legal, you should contact your utility company and explain the situation. They can confirm that the meter is shared, and may be able to address the situation directly. If the agreement regarding the utilities is legal, you can also contact your utility company and see if they can provide a statement without personal information. You may also be able to simply black out your personal information on the bills you have to show to your landlord.

You also bring up several other concerns regarding the condition of your apartment. Tenants have a right to live in a habitable apartment. Your state will have a law defining what constitutes habitability. This standard is usually very basic: heat, water, electricity, no pest infestation, etc. Most likely, the condition of the stove and the dishwasher do not make your apartment uninhabitable. This means that you’ll have to rely on the terms of your lease to resolve these issues. There may be other options available (such as paying for the repairs and withholding the cost from your rent), but these vary greatly from state to state.

You also bring up the lack of a smoke detector. Most likely, this is a code violation and is illegal. You can notify your local housing code authority and they will confirm the code violation and issue your landlord a citation. It’s possible there are other code violations, such as a lack of permits for the division of the apartment, or a lack of fire resistant doors and walls between the two living spaces. An inspector will be able to identify any violations, issue appropriate citations to your landlord, and require that the violations be fixed.

A local attorney specializing in landlord/tenant issues can offer you advice based on your state’s laws. Legal aid offices can often assist with these types of disputes if you meet their requirements as a client. If a legal aid office is not able to serve you, they can provide names of attorneys in your area that can.