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Unpaid Utilities

Discussion in 'Roomate & Joint Leases' started by The Dumb One, Jun 1, 2019.

  1. The Dumb One

    The Dumb One Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    I made some very bad decisions in order to try and save some money on rent and ended up moving into a house with 2 people I didn't know very well but who had been presented to me as good, honest people. I didn't realize this was their first time moving out of their parents' houses and that they had no previous rental experience.

    We decided to split up the legwork of signing up for utilities and "Roommate A" said she would cover the water bill. She decided to move out of the house about six months later. I had to practically chase her down to talk over how we were going to transfer the water bill over to the remaining roommates so that they wouldn't shut our water off and we wouldn't have to pay new startup fees. Long story short, she never officially had her name removed as the primary on the account and while I had the billing information changed, I never officially had my name put on the account. I THOUGHT I had done what I needed to do to have everything switched over, but the bills kept coming in her name and, to be honest, I just didn't think about it that much.

    Came a point where the remaining roommate and I were ready to move out of the house. I shut down all the utilities and moved out of state. I got an email a couple days after I moved saying that the water had not been shut off because my name was not on the account and I didn't have authorization to do so (I had sent in a form online). No problem - on the 8th of the month I texted Roommate A to see if she could call and have them shut it off. She said sure, no problem. Never heard anything back from her, so on the 26th I texted again and asked if she had done the deed. She said she had been too busy to call, so I sent her the online form and she filled it out immediately.

    A few days later, I get a text message from the water company for our final bill: over $500!!!! Our bills had consistently been running around $55 previously. It was the weekend so I tried to contact the water company and our old rental company to see if a pipe had burst or something crazy had happened. They all agreed: $500 was a LOT for a residential water bill. But the water company wouldn't look into it unless the rental company said a pipe had burst, and the rental company said everything was fine. What the water company DID tell me was that the increase in use of water started on the 15th of the month - a week after we had moved out (I have proof of such in a letter from the rental agency), and a week after I had asked Roommate A to close the account.

    So now we're in a standoff as to who is going to pay the $500. She says it's my fault for never transferring the bill over to my name, and I agree that as a good person I should have made absolutely sure everything was kosher. But. Isn't it also her responsibility to make sure that her name was taken off the water bill, even if it meant closing the account?? She never technically had her name taken off the lease either, so I'm pretty sure she technically owes us for a year's worth of rent, too. But I'm not interested in pursuing that.

    My concern is that she works as a paralegal or something like that for an attorney's office and she said she's going to talk to them to see if she is even responsible for this. My understanding is that legally, she is. Is that correct?? Thanks.
     
  2. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    You are correct. It is her bill. If she wants you to pay it she can ask you nicely, and if you refuse she can try to get a court to order you to pay.
    It was her responsibility to close her account when she left. This is not your problem.
     
  3. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Chasing an easy dollar can cause you to lose 1,000 hard earned dollars.


    Roommate scenarios rarely end well.


    I don't want to spoil the ending for you, buddy.

    You'll just have to wait and see.

    My last word, as long as YOU live there are TWO things you should never do:
    1) Become a roommate
    2) Allow someone to whom you are not married to spend more than two hours in your home.

    I won't bore you with the why, I'll allow you to make your own choices, that way you will own the consequences.
     
  4. The Dumb One

    The Dumb One Law Topic Starter New Member

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    @mightymoose Thanks for the info. If she went to court with it, what kind of things would they be looking into in order to see who is responsible for the bill? In all reality, taking into account that I will have to miss work if this goes to court, it would probably be cheaper for me to just pay the bill. But it seems to me that she needs to share some responsibility in paying as well.
     
  5. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    You have an unusual situation.
    The bill has always been in her name and she should have taken care of that long ago. Whether she is living there or not, it has remained her bill.
    However, after she left you took on the responsibility for paying her bill and you are one of the people actually using the water, so she could try to argue that you pay the bill.
    BUT... Apparently the water use occurred after you moved out. You attempted to end the service but could not do so. It was her responsibility and she felt she was too busy to deal with it (she forgot).
    As far as I see it, you could be responsible for the portion of water used up to the date you moved out and contacted her to end the service. Anything after that remains her problem.
    This would be for the court to decide, but that is essentially the argument to make.
    If you are good friends you might come to an agreement and settle this.
    If it was me and I felt I had been responsible and given adequate notice and done all I could, I would keep my money in my pocket.
    She may not even pursue court action. If she does nothing she will eventually be contacted by a collection agency. She seems the type to do nothing.
     
  6. The Dumb One

    The Dumb One Law Topic Starter New Member

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    @mightymoose Thanks for your help. This has been my train of thought (especially since she never even went through the process of taking her name off the lease after moving out). I'll stick to my guns and hopefully make it out OK. Thanks again.
     
  7. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    I'm gonna go with three:

    1) Become a roommate.
    2) Allow someone to whom you are not married to spend more than two hours in your home.
    3) Get financially involved with boyfriends or girlfriends. That sometimes involves number 2 but not always.
     
    army judge likes this.
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Number three is also sound.
    I might add, that my two are not ranked, just two things that are best avoided.

    I'd alter three to read:

    Don't financially involved with anyone NOT your spouse.

    I'd also add a fourth and a fifth:

    4) Resist the urge to become a landlord.
    5) Always obey all laws, even ones with which you disagree.
     

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