The Onyx Group
Landlords and Tenants: Understanding Utilities
The two main financial responsibilities of a tenant are rent and utilities. While rent is a fairly simple agreement between the landlord and the tenant, utilities can get a bit more complicated and confusing for both parties, especially since they involve outside companies. Here is a quick guide to understanding three main points about utilities for landlords and tenants.
1. Common Approaches to Utility Agreements
Utilities for a rental property typically include water, gas, trash collection, and electricity. They may also include internet, cable, and security systems. Some landlords include utilities in the price of rent while others direct their tenants to the proper companies so that they can pay them separately.
Landlords who feel that there is a risk of losing money on utilities reserve the right to not include them in the rent. That said, this affects how much they can charge for rent as well since it will not be a financial responsibility they can account for.
Other landlords will include the utilities in the rent as a way to appeal to potential tenants as well as use it as an opportunity for higher rent.
Finally, some landlords will use a somewhat hybrid method in the form of a clause in the rental agreement that says the tenant will be responsible for utility costs above a certain amount.
2. Utilities and Rent
It’s never comfortable for anyone involved when rent payments slow or stop. That said, both landlords and tenants often wonder if this can or will connect to utilities, especially if utility payments are still being made.
The short answer is no, landlords cannot turn off utilities if a tenant is not paying rent. The law strictly prohibits this, and in Florida it is explored further under Statute 83. Even if utilities are included in rent, this is not a legal option for landlords.
That said, you can always initiate the eviction process if tenants are failing to pay their rent, even if they are successfully paying for utilities.
3. Legal Rights and Duties to Know
Understanding the legal rights and duties of both the landlord and the tenant is the best way to make sure you are operating within the right parameters and not being taken advantage of.
The main responsibility of landlords is to provide a property that is fit to be lived in. This includes working plumbing, hot water, climate control, and reasonable security. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to repair any of these necessary elements should they break down. This also means, as mentioned earlier, that they cannot shut off utilities for rent discrepancies.
That said, it is not necessarily the landlord’s responsibility to pay for utilities. Should a landlord express in the rental agreement that that is the responsibility of the tenant, they could risk loss of utilities due to missed bills as per the agreement with the utility companies.
For more detailed information on the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, you can review Statute 83 or get in touch with us.
Ultimately, the best approach to paying utilities will vary between situations. As long as you understand your rights and responsibilities as either the landlord or the tenant, you can be sure that you will make the most out of your situation and find what works best for you.
The law behind property ownership or renting can be difficult to master. Make sure you understand everything you need to know by contacting Onyx Group Legal today for a free consultation. Our team is ready to help ensure that you understand your rights and protect your assets.