Can we turn off the water and electric if the tenant does not pay since they are in our name?

Full Question:

We are the landlord and have a signed lease agreement for the tenant to pay water & electric to us by the due date or the services will be terminated. The utilities are in our name. Can we turn off the water & electric if the tenant does not pay?
05/15/2007   |   Category: Landlord Tenant   |   State: Pennsylvania   |   #4870

Answer:

68 P. S. § 399.3. Notices before service to landlord ratepayer discontinued

(a) Except when required to prevent or alleviate an emergency
or except in the case of danger to life or property, before any
discontinuance of service within the utility's corporate
limits, to a landlord ratepayer for nonpayment a public utility
shall:

(1) Notify the landlord ratepayer of the proposed
discontinuance in writing as prescribed in section 5[fn1] at
least 37 days before the date of discontinuance of service.

(2) Notify the following agencies which serve the community
in which the affected premises are located in writing at the
time of delivery of notice to the tenants of the proposed
discontinuance of service:

(i) the Department of Licenses and Inspections of any
city of the first class;

(ii) the Department of Public Safety of any city of the
second class, second class A, or third class; and

(iii) the city or county Public Health Department or in
the event that such a department does not exist, the
Department of Health office responsible for that county.

(3) Notify each residential unit reasonably likely to be
occupied by an affected tenant of the proposed discontinuance
in writing as prescribed in section 6[fn2] at least seven
days after notice to the landlord ratepayer pursuant to this
section, and at least 30 days before any such discontinuance
of service. However, if within seven days of receipt of the
notice issued pursuant to this section, the landlord
ratepayer files a petition with the court disputing the right
of the utility to discontinue service, such notice shall not
be rendered until such petition has been adjudicated by the
court.

(b) Before any discontinuance of service by a public utility
to a landlord ratepayer due to a request for voluntary
relinquishment of service by the landlord ratepayer:

(1) the landlord ratepayer shall state in a form bearing
his notarized signature that all of the affected dwelling
units are either unoccupied or the tenants affected by the
proposed discontinuance have consented in writing to the
proposed discontinuance, which form shall conspicuously bear
a notice that false statements are punishable criminally;

(2) all of the tenants affected by the proposed
discontinuance shall inform the utility orally or in writing
of their consent to the discontinuance; or

(3) the landlord ratepayer shall provide the utility with
the names and addresses of the affected tenants pursuant to
section 4[fn3] and the utility shall notify the community
service agencies and each residential unit pursuant to
sections 3 and 6.[fn4] Under the voluntary relinquishment
discontinuance procedures of this sub-paragraph the tenants
shall have all of the rights provided in sections 7 through
11.[fn5]

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.5.

[fn2] 68 P. S. § 399.6.

[fn3] 68 P. S. § 399.4.

[fn4] 68 P. S. § 399.3 and 399.6.

[fn5] 68 P. S. § 399.7 to 68 P. S. § 399.11.

68 P. S. § 399.4. Identifying tenants

(a) Upon receiving a lawful request for the names and
addresses of the affected tenants pursuant to this act, it
shall be the duty of the landlord ratepayer to provide the
utility with the names and addresses of every affected tenant
of any building or mobile home park for which the utility is
proposing to discontinue service unless within seven days of
receipt of the notice, the landlord ratepayer pays the amount
due the utility or makes an arrangement with the utility to pay
the balance.

(b) Such information shall be provided by the landlord
ratepayer:

(1) within seven days of receipt of the notice to the
landlord ratepayer required by section 3;[fn1] or

(2) within three days of any adjudication by a court having
jurisdiction that the landlord ratepayer must provide the
requested information if the landlord files a petition with
the court within seven days of receipt of the notice to the
landlord disputing the right of the utility to discontinue
service.

(c) It shall be the duty of any public utility to pursue any
appropriate legal remedy it has, necessary to obtain from the
landlord ratepayer, the names and addresses of all affected
tenants of a building or mobile home park for which the utility
is proposing discontinuance of service to such landlord
ratepayer.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.3 of this title.

68 P. S. § 399.5. Delivery and contents of discontinuance notice to landlord
ratepayer

(a) The notice required to be given to a landlord ratepayer
pursuant to section 3[fn1] shall contain the following
information:

(1) the amount owed the utility by the landlord ratepayer
for each affected account;

(2) the date on or after which service will be
discontinued;

(3) the date on or after which the company will notify
tenants of the proposed discontinuance of service and of
their rights under sections 7, 9 and 10;[fn2]

(4) the obligation of the landlord ratepayer under section
4[fn3] to provide the utility with the names and addresses of
every affected tenant or to pay the amount due the utility or
make an arrangement with the utility to pay the balance
including a statement:

(i) that such list must be provided or payment or
arrangement must be made within seven days of receipt of
the notice; and

(ii) of the penalties and liability which the landlord
ratepayer may incur under section 18[fn4] by failure to
comply; and

(5) the right of the landlord ratepayer to stay the
notification of tenants by filing a petition with the court
disputing the right of the utility to discontinue service.

(b) Any one of the following procedures shall constitute
effective notice to the landlord under section 3:[fn5]

(1) Notice by certified mail if the utility receives a
return receipt signed by the landlord ratepayer or his agent.

(2) Notice by personal service of the landlord ratepayer or
his agent.

(3) After unsuccessful attempts at personal service on two
separate days, notice by first class mail and conspicuously
posting at the landlord ratepayer's principal place of
business or the business address which the landlord provided
the utility as his address for receiving communications.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.3.

[fn2] 68 P. S. § 399.7, 68 P. S. § 399.9 and 399.10.

[fn3] 68 P. S. § 399.4.

[fn4] 68 P. S. § 399.18.

[fn5] 68 P. S. § 399.3.

68 P. S. § 399.6. Delivery and contents of first discontinuance notice
to tenants

The notice required to be given to a tenant pursuant to
section 3[fn1] shall be mailed or otherwise delivered to the
address of each affected tenant, and shall contain the
following information:

(1) the date on which the notice is rendered;

(2) the date on or after which service will be
discontinued;

(3) the circumstances under which service to the affected
tenant may be continued, specifically referring to the
conditions set out in section 7;[fn2]

(4) the bill for the 30-day period preceding the notice to
the tenants;

(5) the statutory rights of a tenant to deduct the amount
of any direct payment to the utility from any rent payments
then or thereafter due; to be protected against any
retaliation by the landlord for exercising such statutory
right; to recover money damages from the landlord for any
such retaliation;

(6) that tenants may make payment to the utility on account
of nonpayment by the landlord ratepayer only by check or
money order drawn by the tenant to the order of the utility;
and

(7) a telephone number at the utility which a tenant may
call for an explanation of his rights.

The information in paragraphs (1) through (7) shall be posted
by the utility in those common areas of the building or mobile
home park where it is reasonably likely to be seen by the
affected tenants. Any officer or employee of the utility may at
any reasonable time, enter the common hallways and common areas
of such building for the purpose of complying with the
provisions of this section.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.3.

[fn2] 68 P. S. § 399.7.

68 P. S. § 399.7. Rights of tenants to continued service

(a) At any time before or after service within the utility's
corporate limits is discontinued by a public utility on account
of nonpayment by the landlord ratepayer, the affected tenants
may apply to the utility to have service continued or resumed.
A public utility shall not discontinue such service or shall
promptly resume service previously discontinued if it receives
from the tenants an amount equal to the bill of the landlord
ratepayer for the 30-day period preceding the notice to the
tenants. Thereafter, such utility shall notify each tenant of
the total amount of the bill for the second and each succeeding
period of 30 days or less and if the tenants fail to make
payment of any such bill within 30 days of the delivery of the
notice to the tenants, the utility may commence discontinuance
procedures: Provided, That no such discontinuance may occur
until 30 days after each tenant has received written notice of
the proposed discontinuance as prescribed in section 8.[fn1]
All payments by tenants to a utility on account of nonpayment
by the landlord ratepayer shall be made by a check or money
order drawn by the tenant to the order of the utility. Upon
receiving any such payment, the utility shall notify the
landlord ratepayer who is liable for the utility service of the
amount or amounts paid by any tenant and the amount or amounts
credited to the landlord's bill for each tenant pursuant to the
provisions of this section. In the event that the tenants fail
to satisfy the requirements of this section to maintain or
restore service and service to the affected dwelling units is
discontinued, the utility shall refund to each tenant the
amount paid by such tenant toward the bill which the tenants
failed to pay, upon the request of the tenant or after holding
the tenant's payment during 60 consecutive days of discontinued
service, whichever occurs first.

(b) Any tenant of a residential building or mobile home park
who has been notified of a proposed discontinuance of utility
service pursuant to section 3[fn2] shall have the right to
agree to subscribe for future service individually if this can
be accomplished without a major revision of distribution
facilities or additional right-of-way acquisitions.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.8.

[fn2] 68 P. S. § 399.3.

68 P. S. § 399.8. Delivery and contents of subsequent discontinuance
notices to tenants

Subsequent notices required to be given to a tenant pursuant
to section 7[fn1] shall be mailed or otherwise delivered to the
address of each affected tenant and shall contain the following
information:

(1) the date on or after which service will be
discontinued;

(2) the amount due, which shall include the arrearage on
any earlier bill due from tenants;

(3) a telephone number at the utility which a tenant may
call for an explanation of his rights; and

(4) the right of a tenant to file a petition with the court
to enforce any legal right that he may have.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.7.

68 P. S. § 399.9. Tenant's right to withhold rent

Any tenant who has made a payment to a utility on account of
nonpayment by the landlord ratepayer pursuant to this act may
subsequently recover the amount paid to the utility either by
deducting said amount from any rent or payment on account of
taxes or operating expenses then or thereafter due from such
tenant to the person to whom he would otherwise pay his rent or
by obtaining reimbursement from the landlord ratepayer.

68 P. S. § 399.10. Waiver prohibited

Any waiver of the tenant's rights under sections 3 through 11[fn1]
shall be void and unenforceable.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.3 to 68 P. S. § 399.11.

68 P. S. § 399.11. Retaliation by landlord ratepayer prohibited

It shall be unlawful for any landlord ratepayer or agent or
employee thereof to threaten or take reprisals against a tenant
because the tenant exercised his rights under section 7 or
9.[fn1] Any landlord ratepayer, or agent or employee thereof
who threatens or takes such reprisals against any tenant shall
be liable for damages which shall be two months' rent or the
actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater,
and the costs of suit and reasonable attorney's fees. The
receipt of any notice of termination of tenancy, an increase in
rent or of any substantial alteration in the terms of tenancy
within six months after the tenant has acted pursuant to
section 7 or 9 to avoid discontinuance of utility service,
shall create a rebuttable presumption that such notice is a
reprisal against the tenant for exercising his rights under
section 7 or 9. However, the presumption shall not arise if the
notice of termination of tenancy is for nonpayment of rent not
withheld under section 9 or lawfully withheld under any other
right that the tenant may have under law.

[fn1] 68 P. S. § 399.7 and 399.9.

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