If a tenant vacates a rental house and utiltites are intheir name, who is liable for the outstanding water bill after they move?

Lease states tenant responsible for utilities, and water has always been in tenant’s name, not landlord. Tenant leaving at end of month, owes $325 to city for water. When landlord rents to new tenants next month, can city refuse to turn on water until water bill paid? Can city go after landlord, or even place lein on property? Tenant may have some damage deposit coming back, however lease states after damages are covered, deposit will be returned. Nothing about utilities.

Asked on March 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Colorado


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

What needs to be determined here is what the water bill is tied to.  I guarantee that the bill itself is tied to the property - which means the owner - and not to the tenancy, even if there is a rental contract "assigning" - transferring - the obligation to the tenant.  And even if the bill is in the name of the tenant I think that it will become a lien on the property which is then the problem of the owner no matter whose name it is in.  So,I think that you have to seek some guidance here about the laws in your state as to the withholding of the security deposit (some states may allow you to do so in this case but some may absolutely forbid it).  The interpretation of "damages" may be the key here to your contract/lease.  But you can indeed sue the tenant for the money once paid.  Good luck. 

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