Can a utility companyhold me responsible for bill that was in roommate’s name?

I was living with a roommate and he had the utility bill in his name. The bill was sent to his mom’s house because he seemed to spend most of his time over there. Anyway, 1 day I came home from work and he was gone. He took his belongings and just left. I never received a bill and then 4 months later I was told my gas and electric were getting shut off due to a past due balance. I gave them the roommates name and number so they could call him. The utility company told me that since I was living at the house I am responsible. And they won’t turn anything back on until it’s paid in full. Is that right?

Asked on September 2, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You are not responsible for the utility if it was in your roommate's name and this was the agreement you had. If you wish to pay it for him, then you can sue him immediately for contribution (reimbursement) but understand that is quite a long time. You can also talk to your landlord and see if he can simply get him out of the lease, re-write the lease solely with you if you can afford the place on your own and see if the landlord can get the utilities turned back on so that you can apply in your name. If not or if the utility company will not go for it, your only real choice is to talk to your roommate and or indirectly through his mom, explain you will sue and that will be really bad for his credit, if he doesn't do what he was legally and contractually obligated to do, which is to pay the bill.


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