Carmichael, CA asked in Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: Does a landlord have to pay electric bill(included in rent) if a tenant refuses to pay rent & the utility gets shut off?

The rent includes their electricity cost that is in Landlord name and billed directly to tenant as additional rent (variable electricity cost). The utility company shut off the electricity due to non payment. Does the landlord have to cover the utility costs and turn back on electricity even if the tenant is behind on rent payments (2 months, 3 day to quit for non payment of rent already served) in Sacramento?

Please see lease excerpts:

"Additional Rent includes, without limitation: Any applicable charges for utilities and/or other services to the Property, in amounts that vary by month (Variable Charges), payable to Landlord within 15 days of billing."

"Services and Utilities- Landlord will only provide the services and utilities as specified in the Basic Terms and as otherwise required under applicable law.Tenant waives all liability of Landlord for any interruption or insufficiency of any service or utility resulting from causes beyond the reasonable control of Landlord."

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

A: Based on the information provided and the lease excerpts, it appears that the tenant is responsible for paying the electricity bill as part of the "Additional Rent" agreement. The lease states that the tenant must pay the variable charges for utilities within 15 days of billing.

In this case, since the tenant has failed to pay rent for two months and has been served with a 3-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent, the landlord is not obligated to cover the utility costs or turn the electricity back on. The tenant's failure to pay rent is a breach of the lease agreement, and the landlord is not required to maintain utility services when the tenant is in default.

However, the landlord should proceed with caution and follow the proper legal procedures for eviction in California. This may include filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit if the tenant does not vacate the property after the 3-day notice period has expired.

It's important to note that the lease also includes a clause stating that the landlord is not liable for any interruption or insufficiency of utility services resulting from causes beyond their reasonable control. This further supports the landlord's position that they are not responsible for the utility shut-off due to the tenant's non-payment.

As always, it is advisable for the landlord to consult with a local attorney specializing in landlord-tenant law to ensure they are following the correct legal procedures and to discuss any specific circumstances that may affect their case.

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