Everybody talks about how stressful and difficult it is to buy a home but little is written about how stressful and difficult it is to rent. A large part of what makes renting difficult is that it seems like every rental and every landlord is different so you never know what you’re going to get. One area where “nothing is the same” is in what is and what is not provided in a rental. So today we are going to look at the question Do Landlords Provide Heat?
In most states, your rental must, by law, have safe, working, heating available and a landlord is not allowed to cut off your heat unless it’s to make repairs. Who pays for the heat, how much is paid, what is included in that payment, and how that payment is made, all depends on the terms of your lease.
Of course “it depends” isn’t an exactly helpful answer so let’s take a look at the most common set-ups for landlords, tenants, and their heating arrangements.
Do Landlords Provide Heat?
Landlords do have to provide a safe, habitable rental and this includes a way of heating your home. The heating facilities or equipment does not have to be of a particular type but it does have to work and the landlord is responsible for making sure any repairs are carried out as soon as possible.
While your landlord has to provide a way of heating your rental, they do not have to pay for its use. So, your home may have baseboard heaters, radiators, or any other form of heating but your landlord is not legally responsible for paying the electricity or gas bill so you can use it.
Some landlords do pay utilities, but many more do not.
How Do I Know If My Landlord Pays Utilities?
How the utilities are paid for in your home should be detailed in your lease agreement. The most common arrangements are:
- The landlord pays for garbage collection and sewage, the tenant pays for electricity, gas, and water. These payments are made, by the person responsible for the bill, directly to the utility company.
- The tenant pays for gas and electricity, the landlord pays for water, garbage collection, and sewage. Again, the payments are made directly to the utility company, by the person responsible for the bill.
- Gas, electricity, water, garbage collection and sewage are all “included in the rent.” In this case, the tenant makes their rent payment to the landlord and the landlord is responsible for applying some of that rental payment towards the utility bills.
- As above, plus the internet, TV, and landline are included in the rent.
Let’s take a look at some detail behind each arrangement.
The Tenant Pays For Gas, Electricity, And Water
This arrangement is more common in rentals with gardens and in parts of the country where metered water is especially expensive.
The landlord pays the utilities when the property is empty and the tenant will contact the gas, electricity, and water companies to arrange for the utilities to be placed in their name from the date they move in.
It is important for the tenant and the landlord to check the meter readings on the day the tenant moves in and on the day they move out. These readings are given to the utility companies to ensure the tenant only pays from the time they move in and stop paying when they move out.
It is the responsibility of the tenant to:
- Arrange for the utility company to transfer the account into the tenant’s name on the date they move in and take them off the account again on the date they move out.
- Provide the utility companies with the relevant meter readings when moving in and out.
- Pay the utility bills in full and on time
The Tenant Pays For Gas And Electricity
This arrangement is exactly the same as the one above, except the landlord retains responsibility for the water bill.
Utilities Are Included In The Rent
If you see an ad for a rental where utilities are included in the rent there are a couple of things you need to do.
- Look at ads for other rentals, without the utilities included and get a feel for the average utility free rent.
- Use Google to find the average electricity and gas bills for the same kind of unit – condo, townhouse, 2 bedroom house, etc – where your rental is located.
- Add the average bills and average rent together to see if the “utilities included” rent seems reasonable.
Why do I suggest this? Well, unfortunately, some unscrupulous landlords will set a “utilities included” rent as a way to make extra money. They check the average rents for their units, work out the likely cost of utilities, add the two together and then add a premium.
Double Check The Lease
Check the lease thoroughly before signing and make sure it clearly states that the landlord will be responsible for the utilities and that the bills will be in their name. If you don’t ensure this is in writing in the lease then you risk finding out you have been charged an all-inclusive rent but signed a lease that says you will pay the bills.
Advantages Of An All-Inclusive Rent
It might seem, after reading all of that, that all-inclusive rents are a bad thing. Not so. As long as you protect yourself from rogue landlords an all-inclusive rent can be a fabulous option. For example you:
- Do not have to worry about keeping track of multiple bills.
- Will know exactly how much you will be paying every month – no nasty surprises from a huge electricity or gas bill.
- Don’t have to bother with putting utilities into your name, taking meter readings, etc and then doing all of the same things when you move out again.
- Aren’t affected by wildly fluctuating utility charges.
- Do not have to rein in your electricity or gas use if you don’t want to because your usage isn’t directly associated with your bills.
Disadvantages Of An All-Inclusive Rent
Assuming you have checked your all-inclusive rent is comparable to other utilities included rents or rents plus utilities in the area, and that it is all written into the lease, you do still have a couple of things to consider:
- As your utility use does not directly impact your bills you do not have any scope for reducing your monthly costs by conserving energy.
- You could discover your landlord hasn’t been paying the bills and then you are in danger of having your utilities cut off.
What To Do If Your Landlord Doesn’t Pay The Bills
First up – I’m not a lawyer and this is not solid legal advice. Laws, rules, and regulations vary from state to state so if you are in this position you should seek legal advice from someone who specializes in landlord-tenant law. Having said that, most states have the same or similar laws that cover this situation. So, generally speaking, if your landlord fails to pay the utility bills, the following applies:
- If you receive a notice informing you of an imminent cut-off contact your landlord immediately, inform them of the notice and request they make the payment owed.
- You also have the option of paying the bill, either in total or just enough to prevent loss of service and deducting the cost from the following month’s rent.
- If this is not possible, as soon as any utilities are cut off your landlord has failed to adhere to the terms of your all-inclusive rent and has broken the lease. As a result, you can give notice and leave before the end of your lease. In this situation, you can also sue your landlord for the costs incurred by your move, as well as for damages and legal fees.
- In addition, if you are left without heating, a eans to cook, and/or a way to heat your home than your rental is no longer habitable and you can move out temporarily, to a hotel which your landlord must then, by law, pay for until the utility is reinstated.
Utilities Plus TV, Internet, And Landline Are Included
Some landlords, especially those who manage some of the larger, modern condo towers, may include internet, cable or streaming Tv and/or landline in the rent.
In this situation, all of the above advice under Utilities Included In the Rent applies except what to do if your landlord doesn’t pay the bills. That section applies only to your gas, electricity, and water. If your TV, internet, or landline, services are interrupted, and this breaks the lease, you can still move out but you cannot pay the bill and take it out of the rent or move to a hotel and charge your landlord.
Your landlord must provide a way of heating your home and they are responsible for repairs. However, your landlord is not responsible for paying the bills unless this is included in the lease.
For this reason, it is particularly important to double-check your rental agreement to ensure you are clear about who pays for what.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.