Author Topic: can a landlord charge for that?  (Read 9806 times)

The Money Monk

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can a landlord charge for that?
« on: July 29, 2014, 11:40:16 AM »
I recently declined to renew the lease on a warehouse I was renting for business purposes. I got everything out of there and cancelled my service with the internet and utility companies.

The landlord seemed perturbed that I cut the power before my last day when we did the handover of the keys, and honestly I hadn't even thought about that I was just trying to tie up all my loose ends.

Anyway he came and checked out the place and other than a portion of the floor that was dirty (we verbally settled on a deduction from the security deposit to clean it)  we were good to go and I turned over the keys.

I left him a message to inquire about the return of the (substantial) security deposit, and he left me a message in return implying that there would be a charge for him having to turn the electricity back on (ostensibly to check the place out). I looked through the lease and didn't see anything on this, but haven't scoured it with a fine tooth comb yet.

My question is, if anybody knows: Is it legal for him to charge for this if I can't find it in the lease, and if he didn't do it until AFTER I handed over the keys? (I'm in Florida, if there are state differences).

dragoncar

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2014, 12:03:22 PM »
No idea... as always, laws are local and maybe check w/ a local tenant law hotline/clinic.  Anyways, was the power on when you moved in?  Most leases have a provision that you return the premises in substantially the same condition you received it.  One could argue that working power is one such condition.  But if the power was shut off when you moved in, you have a stronger argument.

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2014, 12:19:28 PM »
He should have set up a landlord account with the utility - so that power is automatically billed to him (and service continues uninterrupted) in the event that no tenant is paying the bill.

Local laws are going to vary on this but IMO at most you owe him for the power used during the last few days of your lease (if any) plus the usual base charge. Any reconnection fee is his problem as he didn't bother to set things up with the utility.

If I were you, I'd call the utility, explain the situation, and see if you can get the fee waived.

-W

escolegrove

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2014, 12:39:07 PM »
I have residental properties so take what I say with a grain of salt. That being said, yes turning off the electricity is a no go. You are support to keep it on till the end of your lease. There are a couple of reasons why 1)temps can ruin the structure (mold in the summer, frozen pipes in the winter) 2) high charge to turn back on. Often times lease will state you are help accountable for the utilities till the end of the time.

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2014, 12:42:26 PM »
He should have set up a landlord account with the utility - so that power is automatically billed to him (and service continues uninterrupted) in the event that no tenant is paying the bill.

Local laws are going to vary on this but IMO at most you owe him for the power used during the last few days of your lease (if any) plus the usual base charge. Any reconnection fee is his problem as he didn't bother to set things up with the utility.

If I were you, I'd call the utility, explain the situation, and see if you can get the fee waived.

-W

There was no power used during the last few days. I cancelled my account with the utility company and there was no power being used there until I handed over the keys. After that I obviously have no idea what was taking place in there. I have payed for every cent of power used during my lease.

The power was not turned on when I took control of the unit. I had to set it up with the power company.

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2014, 01:33:29 PM »
If there was no power when you took possession, you're under no obligation to leave power on when you leave unless that was in the lease somewhere.

That said, your best course is to solve it with the power company, get your deposit, and walk away.

-W

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2014, 01:54:43 PM »
If there was no power when you took possession, you're under no obligation to leave power on when you leave unless that was in the lease somewhere.

That said, your best course is to solve it with the power company, get your deposit, and walk away.

-W

That's the thing, I already got my deposit back from the power company. From the sounds of it he paid to turn the power back on to check the place out (after I turned over the keys) and is going to bill against the security deposit for the charge.

escolegrove

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2014, 02:56:44 PM »
What does your lease say regarding power?

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2014, 03:19:43 PM »
I guess I wasn't clear: you should resolve this with the power company (ie try to get the reconnect fee waived) and get your security deposit back from your landlord. You are probably legally in the right but any other way of solving it (short of the landlord just caving and handing you a check) is going to cost more time/money than it's worth.

-Walt

If there was no power when you took possession, you're under no obligation to leave power on when you leave unless that was in the lease somewhere.

That said, your best course is to solve it with the power company, get your deposit, and walk away.

-W

That's the thing, I already got my deposit back from the power company. From the sounds of it he paid to turn the power back on to check the place out (after I turned over the keys) and is going to bill against the security deposit for the charge.

ingrownstudentloans

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2014, 03:29:19 PM »
if the amount that you are going to seek is less than the statutory cap in small claims court, it might be worth the small filing fee (i think the latest is $25 in NY, no idea what it is in FL) to get it in front of a judge.  The LL might decide it's not worth his time to go to court over and pay you what you think is owed.  In small claims court you don't need to bring a lawyer, but make sure you do bring all of your paperwork, lease, electric bills, etc... (as I am sure you will).


Jack

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2014, 04:13:28 PM »
if the amount that you are going to seek is less than the statutory cap in small claims court, it might be worth the small filing fee (i think the latest is $25 in NY, no idea what it is in FL) to get it in front of a judge.  The LL might decide it's not worth his time to go to court over and pay you what you think is owed.  In small claims court you don't need to bring a lawyer, but make sure you do bring all of your paperwork, lease, electric bills, etc... (as I am sure you will).

How do small claims courts tend to feel about suing for damages + filing fee + cost of time to attend court instead of damages only?

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2014, 05:07:11 PM »
Small claims is a losing proposition even if you "win", in my experience.

-W

Fishingmn

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2014, 08:33:35 AM »
My guess is that you are on the hook for utilities through the end of the lease.

Since you disconnected utilities before the lease end you should be responsible for any charges related to turning them back on until the lease end date. The claim that there's no power being used doesn't fly - there's always power being used in some small way. Also, if the landlord needed the power on to do a move out inspection then it was your responsibility to have power available as per the lease.

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2014, 10:46:07 AM »
My guess is that you are on the hook for utilities through the end of the lease.

Since you disconnected utilities before the lease end you should be responsible for any charges related to turning them back on until the lease end date. The claim that there's no power being used doesn't fly - there's always power being used in some small way. Also, if the landlord needed the power on to do a move out inspection then it was your responsibility to have power available as per the lease.

Is that a law, or would it depend on what is in the lease? If such language is NOT outlined in the lease, I don't see how the responsibility would legally fall on me to provide him the means to perform an inspection to his standards?

(keep in mind I am mostly just trying to understand teh situation, and probably won't even contest it if it is only like a $50 charge, not worth it)

Some thoughts:

- How is there "always power being used"  if it is disconnected? Is the utility company just giving us free power and is ok with it? No electrical devices work when it is turned off, so where is this power being  used?

- I handed over the keys after his initial inspection on the last day of my lease. Any power he used for any subsequent inspections were outside the time-frame of my lease. 

For me it seems the issue is totally hinged upon whether or not this issue was specifically mentioned in the lease. If not, it doesn't appear there is any law that would automatically require me to pay for this expense of his. If that is incorrect, please let me know and provide some kind of source.

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2014, 11:14:27 AM »
Wait, this is for some piddling amount of money? Just pay him and walk away.

-W

johnhenry

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2014, 01:15:42 PM »
My guess is that you are on the hook for utilities through the end of the lease.

Since you disconnected utilities before the lease end you should be responsible for any charges related to turning them back on until the lease end date. The claim that there's no power being used doesn't fly - there's always power being used in some small way. Also, if the landlord needed the power on to do a move out inspection then it was your responsibility to have power available as per the lease.

Is that a law, or would it depend on what is in the lease? If such language is NOT outlined in the lease, I don't see how the responsibility would legally fall on me to provide him the means to perform an inspection to his standards?

(keep in mind I am mostly just trying to understand teh situation, and probably won't even contest it if it is only like a $50 charge, not worth it)

Some thoughts:

- How is there "always power being used"  if it is disconnected? Is the utility company just giving us free power and is ok with it? No electrical devices work when it is turned off, so where is this power being  used?

- I handed over the keys after his initial inspection on the last day of my lease. Any power he used for any subsequent inspections were outside the time-frame of my lease. 

For me it seems the issue is totally hinged upon whether or not this issue was specifically mentioned in the lease. If not, it doesn't appear there is any law that would automatically require me to pay for this expense of his. If that is incorrect, please let me know and provide some kind of source.

I have landlord agreements in place with utilities to keep the power on when a tenant stops paying or cancels service.  But that is mainly to protect the building.  In some cases, the utility will waive or lower the transfer fee, but sometimes it doesn't save money.  In the case of a warehouse it may not be important for the owner to keep the utilities on when it's vacant.

You may be on firm legal footing if the lease didn't specify that utilities must remain on, especially since it was not powered when you took over.  But you made a mistake by lot leaving the power on until the checkout process was complete, if only because he's the one holding the money.  Whether your act was vengeful or not, it's likely the owner perceives it that way.

Fishingmn

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2014, 06:16:40 AM »
My guess is that you are on the hook for utilities through the end of the lease.

Since you disconnected utilities before the lease end you should be responsible for any charges related to turning them back on until the lease end date. The claim that there's no power being used doesn't fly - there's always power being used in some small way. Also, if the landlord needed the power on to do a move out inspection then it was your responsibility to have power available as per the lease.

Is that a law, or would it depend on what is in the lease? If such language is NOT outlined in the lease, I don't see how the responsibility would legally fall on me to provide him the means to perform an inspection to his standards?

(keep in mind I am mostly just trying to understand teh situation, and probably won't even contest it if it is only like a $50 charge, not worth it)

Some thoughts:

- How is there "always power being used"  if it is disconnected? Is the utility company just giving us free power and is ok with it? No electrical devices work when it is turned off, so where is this power being  used?

- I handed over the keys after his initial inspection on the last day of my lease. Any power he used for any subsequent inspections were outside the time-frame of my lease. 

For me it seems the issue is totally hinged upon whether or not this issue was specifically mentioned in the lease. If not, it doesn't appear there is any law that would automatically require me to pay for this expense of his. If that is incorrect, please let me know and provide some kind of source.

My assumption was that it was in the lease - if it isn't the landlord isn't very smart and you may have an out :)

SDREMNGR

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2014, 07:23:03 AM »
It's an owner charge. You shouldn't pay it.

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2014, 07:37:50 AM »
Wait, this is for some piddling amount of money? Just pay him and walk away.

-W

Probably, but I don't know yet I haven't got the bill. If its like 50 bucks I'm not going to waste my time trying to get it back.

Daleth

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2014, 08:10:29 AM »
He should have set up a landlord account with the utility - so that power is automatically billed to him (and service continues uninterrupted) in the event that no tenant is paying the bill.

Local laws are going to vary on this but IMO at most you owe him for the power used during the last few days of your lease (if any) plus the usual base charge. Any reconnection fee is his problem as he didn't bother to set things up with the utility.

If I were you, I'd call the utility, explain the situation, and see if you can get the fee waived.

-W

Not all utilities are set up for that. I know they're not where I live; when tenants leave I need to know the date they're canceling service so I can put service in my name. If they cancel before I can do that, I have to pay a fee to get the service back.

And I would totally charge that to the tenant. If they wanted to argue with me about whether that was in the lease (which of course it should be--that's a good idea), I would ask, "Why should *I* pay for *your* decision to cut power, without telling me, before you vacated the premises?!"

Also, MoneyMonk, this is most likely a piddling amount of money (fee for turning service back on + a few days of power). Assuming that's the case, couldn't you have made or saved more money by doing something productive instead of spending however much time posting here, reading your lease and trying to figure out some rationale for making the landlord pay for your decision?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2014, 08:14:21 AM by Daleth »

waltworks

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2014, 10:18:11 AM »
Wow, really? Where do you live? I'm sort of shocked, honestly. It's not like it's difficult for the utility. I've owned places in 4 states and never run into a utility that wouldn't do it with a simple phone call.

-W

He should have set up a landlord account with the utility - so that power is automatically billed to him (and service continues uninterrupted) in the event that no tenant is paying the bill.

Local laws are going to vary on this but IMO at most you owe him for the power used during the last few days of your lease (if any) plus the usual base charge. Any reconnection fee is his problem as he didn't bother to set things up with the utility.

If I were you, I'd call the utility, explain the situation, and see if you can get the fee waived.

-W

Not all utilities are set up for that. I know they're not where I live; when tenants leave I need to know the date they're canceling service so I can put service in my name. If they cancel before I can do that, I have to pay a fee to get the service back.

And I would totally charge that to the tenant. If they wanted to argue with me about whether that was in the lease (which of course it should be--that's a good idea), I would ask, "Why should *I* pay for *your* decision to cut power, without telling me, before you vacated the premises?!"

Also, MoneyMonk, this is most likely a piddling amount of money (fee for turning service back on + a few days of power). Assuming that's the case, couldn't you have made or saved more money by doing something productive instead of spending however much time posting here, reading your lease and trying to figure out some rationale for making the landlord pay for your decision?

Jack

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #22 on: July 31, 2014, 10:35:29 AM »
He should have set up a landlord account with the utility - so that power is automatically billed to him (and service continues uninterrupted) in the event that no tenant is paying the bill.

Local laws are going to vary on this but IMO at most you owe him for the power used during the last few days of your lease (if any) plus the usual base charge. Any reconnection fee is his problem as he didn't bother to set things up with the utility.

If I were you, I'd call the utility, explain the situation, and see if you can get the fee waived.

-W

Not all utilities are set up for that. I know they're not where I live; when tenants leave I need to know the date they're canceling service so I can put service in my name. If they cancel before I can do that, I have to pay a fee to get the service back.

And I would totally charge that to the tenant. If they wanted to argue with me about whether that was in the lease (which of course it should be--that's a good idea), I would ask, "Why should *I* pay for *your* decision to cut power, without telling me, before you vacated the premises?!"

Also, MoneyMonk, this is most likely a piddling amount of money (fee for turning service back on + a few days of power). Assuming that's the case, couldn't you have made or saved more money by doing something productive instead of spending however much time posting here, reading your lease and trying to figure out some rationale for making the landlord pay for your decision?

So it'd be worth it to you as a landlord to "totally charge that to the tenant" but you object to the OP taking time to find out what his rights are as a tenant -- note, not even spending time actually fighting the issue, but merely finding out who was right? That's pretty damn hypocritical, if you ask me!

You might as well have written "be a good little tenant and pay anything your master landlord tells you to pay," since that's how you apparently feel about it.

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2014, 10:44:51 AM »

Not all utilities are set up for that. I know they're not where I live; when tenants leave I need to know the date they're canceling service so I can put service in my name. If they cancel before I can do that, I have to pay a fee to get the service back.

And I would totally charge that to the tenant. If they wanted to argue with me about whether that was in the lease (which of course it should be--that's a good idea), I would ask, "Why should *I* pay for *your* decision to cut power, without telling me, before you vacated the premises?!"

A lame zinger does not a legal requirement make.  You could just as easily flip the question: "why should *I* pay for *your* decision to turn the power back on, when it wasn't on when I got the place?"

Is there any legal requirement to even GET a contract with the power company in the first place? The power was off when I got the place. What if i never turned it on? In your mind would I still be "morally" obligated to pay for you to turn it back on?

I returned the unit the same way I got it. I had to do *my* initial inspection without power. If it's not in the lease, and it's not a law, then what justification could you possibly have?

Also, MoneyMonk, this is most likely a piddling amount of money (fee for turning service back on + a few days of power). Assuming that's the case, couldn't you have made or saved more money by doing something productive instead of spending however much time posting here, reading your lease and trying to figure out some rationale for making the landlord pay for your decision?


Why don't you send me a link to the magical internet money machine that automatically would convert the 27 combined minutes I spent on here and reading the lease into money.

Still lets assume that its only 50 bucks. Even spending 8 entire hours working to get that money back would be pretty decent hourly wage compared to what you are earning for YOUR time in this thread.

And again, to say I am making HIM pay for MY decision is logically incoherent. My only decisions were to turn on the power, and then later turn it off. I paid for both of those. Nothing he chooses to do with the place after the timeframe of my lease can be described as MY decision. Especially when I got the place with the power off. How is him turning the power back on MY decision?

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #24 on: July 31, 2014, 10:45:40 AM »

So it'd be worth it to you as a landlord to "totally charge that to the tenant" but you object to the OP taking time to find out what his rights are as a tenant -- note, not even spending time actually fighting the issue, but merely finding out who was right? That's pretty damn hypocritical, if you ask me!

You might as well have written "be a good little tenant and pay anything your master landlord tells you to pay," since that's how you apparently feel about it.

Haha yeah, beat me to it

ingrownstudentloans

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2014, 11:03:34 AM »
Some state's laws (NY for example) provide treble damages plus attorney's fees for certain wrongs done in relation to real property.  if that is the case in FL, you might come out ahead, even after an attorney gets involved...good luck TMM

dragoncar

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #26 on: July 31, 2014, 11:05:26 AM »

Also, MoneyMonk, this is most likely a piddling amount of money (fee for turning service back on + a few days of power). Assuming that's the case, couldn't you have made or saved more money by doing something productive instead of spending however much time posting here, reading your lease and trying to figure out some rationale for making the landlord pay for your decision?

Likewise, you should send me $50.  You could argue about it, but it's really not worth your time so just go ahead and do it mkay?

arebelspy

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #27 on: August 23, 2014, 07:53:09 PM »
How'd it turn out Money Monk?  What was the amount, and did they charge you?
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richschmidt

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2014, 08:44:20 PM »
I'm also curious how things turned out. Having read your description, I can't see what justification the landlord would have for charging you... unless it was written in your lease.

My lease I use with our single-family-home tenants says that they're responsible for the utilities for the duration of their lease. And I have the landlord agreement thing set up with the utilities. (Ours requires a form to be filled out and faxed in, not just a phone call.) I've only had once when I had to charge a tenant for part of the utilities, because they had purchased a house before their lease was up and had to transfer their service to the new house when they moved, leaving me to pay for the utilities at our house that they'd vacated. Not a big deal.

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2015, 11:59:10 AM »
I'm also curious how things turned out. Having read your description, I can't see what justification the landlord would have for charging you... unless it was written in your lease.

My lease I use with our single-family-home tenants says that they're responsible for the utilities for the duration of their lease. And I have the landlord agreement thing set up with the utilities. (Ours requires a form to be filled out and faxed in, not just a phone call.) I've only had once when I had to charge a tenant for part of the utilities, because they had purchased a house before their lease was up and had to transfer their service to the new house when they moved, leaving me to pay for the utilities at our house that they'd vacated. Not a big deal.


Hey everybody, SOrry for not updating. After studying the issue I was absolutely certain that the landlord would not have had a justification for charging me. However, I I had no other issues with him throughout the lease, and he charged me fairly for some floor repairs, and the amount at that point was not worth fighting over to me, so I just paid it and moved on. Sorry to keep everybody in suspense forever.

Freedom2016

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #30 on: April 03, 2015, 09:50:05 PM »
How much was it?

The Money Monk

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Re: can a landlord charge for that?
« Reply #31 on: April 05, 2015, 08:35:14 AM »
How much was it?

I don't remember the exact amount, something like $60