Can I disconnect my ex-husband’s electricity if the account is in my name and I no longer reside atthe residence?

My ex-Hhusband and I have been divorced for just over a year and it has been brought to my attention that the electricity account at his residence is still in my name. There is a deposit that I put down to have the account activated and will receive as a refund. The electric company representative said that I am the only person who can close the account since I was the one who set it up, even though I set it up with my ex’s name on the account also. Is there any legal action that can be taken against me by my ex if I close the account?

Asked on December 10, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you turn off his electricity, you could potentiallly be sued by hijm for an illegal eviction if the residence itself is also in your name (i.e. you're effectively the landlord):

1) Turning off power, especially in winter, is "constructive eviction"

2) "Self-help" evictions, or evicting someone, even constructively, without going through the courts is illegal.

Even if the residence is not in your name, if  your simply turn off the power and that causes him damages or costs--pipes burst; he has to stay in a motel for awhile; etc.--he could potentially sue you for those losses. The better course in this case would be to first send him a notice, in some way you can prove delivery, indicating that he has to put the account in his name, giving him a reasonable time to do so, and stating that you will cooperate in doing so. Then after that reasonable time, make the change over. Also, before doing anything, give the power company advance notice that you will be closing this account because you are no longer the resident and providing your husband's contact information. You want to be in a position of being able to show you did everything reasonable to avoid disruption.

If the residence is still in your name, you may need to evict your ex-husband through the courts.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unless your divorce papers made some mention of this account and how it was to be handled, yes you can close it since it is in your name as the primary account holder. Obviously, however, the electricity will be turned off.  Why not give your husband a heads up and either have your name taken off of the account or have it the transferred into his name?  He can then either refund you the deposit or put up a new deposit and yours will be refunded to you.


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