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I signed a lease to rent the lower level of a home which has an upstairs unit as well. My lease lists me as the only tenant on my lease, for my unit. It states tenant agrees to be responsible and pay for the cost of electricity, gas, yard maintenance, snow removal and snow walks. I had to put utilities in my name. I’ve paid in full for years, but questioned a few months after moving in why my electric and gas run at least $200 a month each. Apparently I pay and provide the utilities for the other unit. That’s not what my lease states. Also, it states that no subleasing, sharing of premises, or assignment of the lease agreement is permitted. Tenant shall not sell or give accommodations in the premises to any boarders, lodgers, or roomers. The upstairs unit is leased to a middle aged single woman. Her utilities are “included in her rent”, in truth I pay for her utilities and I get no type of reimbursement from the landlord for her “included utilities”. In October of 2021, she left and didn’t return until after the first of the year. The end of October to the beginning of November, I noticed that her adult son, his girlfriend, and their child were always there. I noticed in increase in my already high utilities. There is only one mailbox for both units, so we all see each other’s mail as we have to shuffle through the one box. By the end of November (2021), there was mail for both the son and girlfriend regarding their recent change of address, unemployment to them both addressed to the address, Friend of the Court correspondence, and so forth. When the tenant on the lease returned, she stayed a couple of weeks, and the son and girlfriend and child have never left. This is their residence. I advised the landlord in November of what was going on, so they sent a notice to all occupants demanding possession of the property. March 24 of this year, I received a voicemail from the landlord stating the owner of the property management company had passed away. Her daughter has ran the business with her mom for many years, and when her mom became ill a few years ago, she has ran it on her own. The voicemail stated they’re not going to go through with the demand of property because she didn’t feel like dealing with anything. I called and expressed my concern regarding the extra tenants and the fact that them not going through with it affects me and me only, because I am responsible for their utilities. They told me to get over it and to basically accept the increase due to 3 additional people who have moved in against the leases terms. There is a no waiver section in the lease. If I’m understanding it right, do I not have any rights at all? In addition, I get rental assistance from the housing voucher program, and I just came across a request for tenancy that must be filled out, including a blank copy of the lease for approval by the housing commission prior to being able to actually sign the lease, and an inspection of the rental unit before any lease can be approved. In a section titled “Some of the items that we look for at the inspection are”….the 2nd item listed states that all utilities must be turned on. If the unit is not a single family unit, there must be separate meters for utility services (gas, electric, water, etc.) for each unit. As I mentioned earlier, there is only one utility meter for 2 units. The housing commission approved the lease, and I now wonder if the fact that both units use the same house number and street in the address, which explains why there has always been only one mailbox for both units. There is nothing in the lease stating the units address ends with unit A or B, nor up or down. In a search of the property on the county’s website I inquired the property address. It lists the house as a single family home, when it’s a house that was made into 2 units. The upstairs uses the gate on the side of the garage leading to the backyard to gain access to the stairs leading to the unit. There is no indication by looking at the front of the house that there’s an upper apartment. I had contacted the post office regarding the house only having one mailbox as I’ve been missing some important, time sensitive mail. They advised me that there was nothing I could do because the house is registered as single family and the units aren’t specified through the county. How might this affect the fact that I am legally responsible for the utilities as that is what my lease states? Could I possibly be reimbursed for her portion of the utilities based on square footage of my unit vs hers, amount of people, and by taking such things into consideration as the fact that she leaves a crank type window open all winter long? Or that she uses a window air conditioner?

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    Can you break down that wall of text in to paragraphs please.
    – Rick
    Apr 10, 2022 at 9:33
  • In addition to Rick's suggestion, make sure your post reflects which paragraphs are excerpts of the lease and which ones are not. Apr 10, 2022 at 9:47

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As far as I can figure out, your question is whether you are required to pay the utilities for the whole house, when you have no control over utility usage in half of the house. The answer comes from two sources: local law, and the lease. Your state or country may have laws that directly address rights and responsibilities for shared utilities. The law usually allows landlord and tenant to work out a suitable arrangement, appropriate to the physical realities of the residence, but it is commonly required that the landlord give an accounting to tenant for utility charges paid by the landlord. You'd have to look up the law of your jurisdiction. Since you mention "housing voucher", this could include separate legal provisions for landlords receiving such vouchers, if this is a government-run program.

The other source of obligations is the lease: if you're required under the lease to pay the entire amount of the utilities, then you have to pay all of the utilities even if you don't like the outcome, because that is what you agreed to. This can interact with the previous "what does the law say?" consideration, because the lease might be "all of the stuff that you agreed to", paper of not, or it might be limited to that which is written on the signed lease agreement.

Typically, a utility company gives a bill to a specific account-holder, who then has to pay that bill. The account-holder could be the landlord, or one or more tenants. If there is only one electric meter or water meter for the entire house, there will be one account-holder (if there are two meters, one for upstairs and one for downstairs) there can be two account holders. If you don't have two meters, then either the landlord has to guestimate utility charges and distribute the charges accordingly – as specified in the lease – or the landlord offloads the problem to one of the tenants, you.

You'd be best off consulting with an attorney to see if you have any legal recourse.

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