I rent rooms out in the house I live in and own. I have month to month lease agreements with utilities included on 3 rooms.

I recently received an abnormally high electric bill, around $200 higher than the prior month. I noticed one newer roommate's behaviors to not be energy efficient. He works from home, has an AC in his room that he installed, his AC and the whole house AC are constantly on at a fairly high temperature, he was using the oven multiple times a day on hot days. I was thinking of changing his lease going forward to include 25% of the electric bill over a certain electric or gas value.

I wouldn't be charging the other tenants because they do not work from home and have some energy saving etiquette. Is it legal for me to make the described change to the non-energy efficient roommate's month to month lease and not the others? I live in the state of California. I appreciate any feed back.

  • Is your electric bill divided by tenant, or do you get one bill that is based on the combination of all the tenants' electricity usage for that period?
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 9:49
  • Its a single family home I own, that I decided to rent by the room with the kitchen and other common areas being shared, so we get one electric bill. Which I typically pay in full, but Like I mentioned one tenant works from home and just does not have good energy efficient etiquette, and the bill increased higher than I have seen it. Thanks!
    – 1881
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:18
  • Non-legal advice: making up new rules and applying them to one tenant specifically is bound to cause trouble. Especially when the pretext looks flimsy (even if you don’t care that this specific tenant leaves, the other two might reconsider their accomodation plans if they hear you increase rent based on "using the oven too much"). "Everyone pays 25%" or "no heavy electrical equipment in your own rooms" are easier rules to sell.
    – KFK
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 10:35

1 Answer 1


You can set whatever rental and utility costs the tenants agree to in a lease. You can't generally modify the division of utility costs unilaterally.

But, since the lease is month to month, you can modify the lease payments prospectively by giving notice of the new lease terms within the time required by law before doing so. California and local law regulates when notice must be given, how often rent can be changed, and how much rent can change (at least in some places). But, in principle, any mutually agreed change to the amount owed by a tenant is allowed.

  • 2
    and in general if the tenant disagrees with new lease provisions, their option is to move out.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 18:58
  • Thank you! Much appreciated!
    – 1881
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:21

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