What to do if I rented the apartment of one of my friends approximately 4-5 years ago and she is now trying to come after me for an energy bill?

When my friend’s lease was over, my boyfriend and I chose to move into her rental unit as new tenants. The energy bill was never switched out of my friend’s name, now she received an invoice from the energy company in the amount of $349. which she is attempting to collect from me. I don’t know the exact dates that I lived in the residence and I don’t remember whether I paid the utilities or not (I assume I did). I don’t know how to proceed with this legally as I don’t feel like I can prove either way that I owe the amount. I last lived in the apartment 4 years ago.

Asked on June 17, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The statute of limitations, or time period to sue, in Wisconsin for an agreement to pay some cost--like electric bills--is six years; that means that if your friend maintains that there was an agreement between the two of you that you would pay the electric bill, you still has time to sue you.

You don't havve to pay unless she sues you and wins in court; to win in court, she would have to prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" (i.e. that it is "more likely than not") that there was an agreement for you to pay; you in turn could present your own evidence or testimony refuting or denying her claim, and/or showing that you did already pay.

Given the time involved in litigation--if  she sues you, assume you lwill ose at least half a day, potentially a full day, in court--and that fact that if you don't have records of payment, it is not at all certain you'd win, your best course of action might be to pay the $349.

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