Can a landlord force you to turn on utilities if you are not living in the residence and are paying them separately from rent?

Asked on June 1, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the landlord can most likely force you to turn them on. That is because--

1) even if you are not living there, a standard rental contemplates that the premises would be tenanted, and the tenant would do those things that are normal incidents of occupancy, such as turning on utlities;

2) you have as tenant an obligation to take reasonable care of the landlord's premises, but not having utilities on could pose hazards to the premises--e.g. if water, gas, or electricity is not on, but there is something which requires water, electricity, or gas (for example, watering a lawn; having water available if there is a small fire; having electricity to run pumps or power tools for maintenance/repairs; having gas to avoid freezing damage during winter).

In short, unless  the lease specifies otherwise, you can be expected to do those things which the average reasonable tenant would do.

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