Q: Landlord Third Party Billing
A landlord is third party billing tenants for water service. Landlord is unable to provide an itemized list of usage and charges for this utility and is charging tenants 3x more than service would typically cost. The lease does not have a provision for this third party billing and tenants are unable to secure water service on their own. Tenants have no idea what total water bill is for unit, how it is being calculated, or if landlord is simply pocketing additional monies received for these services. Are their laws relating to third party utility billing for tenants and landlords?
A: Based on my experience, there are no provisions in the Virginia Code that address which party has rights and obligations when there is a third party billing of utility bills. Those provisions are generally made a part of the Residential Lease Agreement. You may want to make a formal complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, Consumer Division for them to make an investigation of gauging.
A: Actually, there IS law on pass-through billing of utilities to tenants in Virginia Code 55.1-1212 - https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title55.1/chapter12/section55.1-1212/ (former code section was 55-226.2; it is essentially unchanged). The section of law is complicated, most lawyers don't know it's there (I found it some years ago by accident) so you should consult a landlord-tenant lawyer in your area about your remedies.
A possible remedy would be to file a Tenant's Assertion asking the court to adjust your rent to make up for the overpayments made for excessive water billing.
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