Utility Service for Tenants (Submetering)
Tenants should understand how they will receive and pay for utility services before signing a lease agreement. This fact sheet from the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) provides important utility information for tenants of a house, apartment or building complex.
Renters should ask the landlord who is responsible for paying the utilities before you sign a lease agreement. The lease should say who is responsible for setting up utilities, how you will receive and pay for utility services, and which utility companies will serve you.
If the utilities are not included in your rent, you are responsible for setting up services and paying the bills. If the landlord has an agreement with the utility companies, the charges could be included in the rent. Then, the landlord would also be responsible for establishing service.
In locations with multiple apartments, condominiums, and mobile home parks, a master meter (single meter) may be used to measure the total amount of electricity, natural gas, or water used. Master meter utility service is required to be in the landlord’s name. The landlord may divide utility costs among each of the units based on square footage, the number of occupants, or other factors such as common areas.
If your utilities are master metered, it may not be easy to control the cost of your bill. Utility assistance and programs to reduce consumption are not typically available to master metered buildings since customers are not individually billed.
If the utilities are in the landlord’s name and the bill becomes delinquent, your service could be disconnected. Before a disconnection can occur, regulated utility companies will provide the landlord with a 14-day notice. If the landlord fails to act, the utility company will provide a 10-day notice to each tenant receiving master-metered service. The disconnect notice will explain ways tenants can avoid disconnection. You should contact the utility company for your options.
For example, you could set up an escrow account with local courts. An escrow account is a third-party account set up in your local court to hold money on behalf of you and your landlord. Payments are made to the local court or court clerk instead of the landlord. An escrow account can be used to pay utility bills and prevent disconnection.
If you live with another person and that person’s name is on the utility account, then you are not responsible for the bill. If that person moves out and still owes the utility, you can establish services in your name. The company may require proof that the tenant owing money no longer lives on the premises. It is important to contact the utility to discontinue or transfer service if you are moving to a new location. If you leave the premises and do not notify the company, any outstanding debt may be sent to a collection agency.
Refer to your lease agreement to determine who is responsible for any repairs and maintenance to the utility lines. If the account is your responsibility, contact your utility about issues with the lines. If the landlord is responsible for the account, contact him or her about any repair or maintenance issues with utility lines. Insurance or warranty programs are available but may not be in your best interest, especially if you are not responsible for the utility lines.
Some housing communities could be submetered for electric, natural gas, water and or sewage.
Submetering is when a landlord or third-party purchases utility services and resells the service to consumers using a submeter. The submeter records the usage of each housing unit (i.e apartments, condominiums, and mobile home lots). Consumers are billed by the submetering company instead of the utility.
Submeters may provide a more accurate measure of usage so you can take steps to manage your costs. Submetering companies can earn a profit by charging various fees to their consumers that utilities cannot.
The OCC is working with lawmakers and regulators to address concerns about submetering. Submetering legislation has been introduced, and complaint cases have been brought before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
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