Q: Is it legal for my landlord to be forcing us to pay two different utility companies? We were only told about electric
When my fiancé and I moved into our apartment in October we were told we only had to pay electric. Fast forward to December and we get another utility company bill demanding we pay for sewer, gas (I have a boiler in my basement), and water. We were never told about it and now we are getting charged roughly $900 a month which is way more than we can afford (this is that ONE utility company combined with our rent) on top of the electric we have to pay. It was never said to us that we had to pay it, and as far as I can tell it’s not in our lease either. So we didn’t pay it once because of hospital bills and we got a note saying we would be evicted if we didn’t. So we paid them then our electric got turned off because we couldn’t afford the rent, and both utilities. Is it legal for them to charge us for those if we weren’t told about it?
A: Landlord-tenant relations in Wisconsin are regulated by Wis. Stat. ch. 704, and Wis. Adm. Code ch. ATCP 134.
Utility charges (ATCP 134.04(3))
Landlords often require tenants to pay the utility
charges separate from the rent. Before deciding
to rent a specific unit, it is important for a tenant
to know whether or not the utility charges are
included in the rent. A tenant needs this
information so they can accurately determine the
total cost of renting the unit.
ATCP 134.04(3), provides that the landlord must
tell a prospective tenant if utility charges are not
included in the rent. The tenant must receive this
information before signing a rental agreement or
paying any money for an earnest money deposit
or security deposit.
If utility charges are not included in the rent and
individual dwelling units and common areas of
the building are not separately metered, the
landlord must tell the tenant how the costs for
utility services will be allocated among the
individual dwelling units.
ATCP 134.04(3) (3) Utility charges. If charges for water, heat or electricity are not included in the rent, the landlord shall disclose this fact to the tenant before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit from the prospective tenant. If individual dwelling units and common areas are not separately metered, and if the charges are not included in the rent, the landlord shall disclose the basis on which charges for utility services will be allocated among individual dwelling units.
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