Poway, CA asked in Energy, Oil and Gas and Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: Does a landlord have to provide heat for a rental unit? Does landlord have to prove energy usage to charge for energy?

I am renting studio (converted garage) and there is no a/c and no heat. I am currently using a space heater for the winter. I have a window a/c unit for the summer.

Tenant occupying main house is charging me for sdg&e bill but my lease states I have a $100 credit for utilities.

My studio does not have its own meter. Other tenant is charging based on bill increases and not my usage. I feel i should not have to pay this difference.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, landlords are generally required to provide a working heating system for rental units, particularly during the winter months. California Civil Code Section 1941.1 states that landlords must maintain a rental unit in a habitable condition, which includes providing functional heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum temperature in the unit. Failure to provide adequate heating could constitute a violation of this requirement, which could result in legal consequences for the landlord.

Regarding utilities, the lease agreement is the primary source of information regarding what utilities the tenant is responsible for and what utilities are included in the rent. If a lease agreement states that a tenant has a certain amount of utility credit, the landlord cannot charge the tenant more than that amount for their share of the utility bill. California Civil Code Section 1940.9 provides protections for tenants with respect to utility billing, prohibiting landlords from charging tenants for utility services that are not separately metered, unless the rental agreement provides otherwise.

If a rental unit does not have its own meter, it can be difficult to determine a tenant's actual energy usage. In such cases, landlords cannot charge tenants more than their fair share of the utility bill. California Civil Code Section 1940.9 also requires landlords to bill tenants for non-separately metered utilities based on an allocation method that is fair, reasonable, and reflects the proportionate share of the utility service used by the tenant. If a tenant believes that they are being charged unfairly or for more than their fair share of the utility bill, they may want to review their lease agreement and discuss the issue with their landlord. If a tenant is unable to resolve the issue with their landlord, they may want to consider seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney or filing a complaint with their local housing authority.

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