Can I sue mylandlord if he is having me cover utilities for another tenant?

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Can I sue mylandlord if he is having me cover utilities for another tenant?

I live in a tri-plex that my LL has recently converted into a four-plex, by making the basement a unit. I just found out on my own yesterday that the reason my utility bills have been so high as of late is because the basement unit and my unit share the same meters for gas and electricity, it turns out I am paying for both my use of gas and electricity, as well as the tenant’s below me. The tenant below me has been unaware of this as well, and is being charged a flat rate for utilities that go directly to the landlord. Can I sue my LL for basically swindling myself and the other tenant?

Asked on March 31, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you are not supposed to be paying for the other tenant's utilities (i.e. it would be legal--though perhaps not wise--for you to have signed an agreement or lease stating that you pay for the other person's utilities) then the landlord cannot charge you for them. If the lease, for example, merely states that you pay for your own utilities, you're only responsible for your own. So you need to look to the terms of the lease to see what you're supposed to be paying. Whatever that is, you can enforce.

2) By enforce, I mean if you are being charged for more than you should be charged, you could sue for recovery of the excess (including suing in small claims court, if the amount is low enough to warrant that).

3) You can only sue for your own benefit--you can't bring a lawsuit on behalf of the other tenant, though he or she could certainly sue as well if they've suffered losses; and theoretically the two of you could jointly hire an attorney to split the costs, though that gets risky since your interests and the other tenant's interests may not be identical.


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