If I’m sharing an apartment with roommates who require more utility services than I do, amI obligated to pay an equal share?

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If I’m sharing an apartment with roommates who require more utility services than I do, amI obligated to pay an equal share?

I live with 2 other students. Previously we split utilities equally, each of us paying 1/3 share of the total bills. However, once the summer months rolled in they plugged in 2 portable air conditioning units that they leave running 24/7; even when no one is home and even when they go out of town. Our electricity bill has nearly doubled since this has happened. Additionally, our cable bill is over $170/month and only our living room TV and their 2 bedrooms have access to the cable; yet I’m still expected to pay 1/3 of that bill. Are there any legal ramifications to me paying less?

Asked on August 4, 2011 Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:

First, what does your lease provide? Does it state that you each pay for your own share, or that you jointly are responsible for utilities. If the later, then the three of you, as a group, must make sure that the landlord (or the utilities, if you pay the utilities directly) must receive the total payment--if you fail to do so, you could be in breach of lease and/or have servcies cut off. There are, in this case, no grounds to withhold payment.

Second, what agreement exists--even if only an oral or verbal agreement--between you and your roommates in regard to utilities? If the agreement between you was that you'd each pay your own share, you can enforce that (assuming you can prove the agreement, and how much power, etc. each one uses--which may be difficult or impossible). However, if the agreement was that you would split these costs evenly, then you have to do that--your roommates may be taking advantage of you, but it appears that they can.


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