Can my landlord make me “take over utilities” if my unit is also on the same meter as an empty and unapproved apartment?

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Can my landlord make me “take over utilities” if my unit is also on the same meter as an empty and unapproved apartment?

Free-standing house is zoned as a 2-unit dwelling. But there are 3 separate apartments inside with the second and third floors being on the same utilities meter. The third-floor apartment does not meet code (by landlord admission). Landlord had been paying all utilities for the second and third-floor apartments, but now wants the second-floor tenant to “take over” all the utility bills for that meter (which covers both units) because the third floor is now empty (though still filled with appliances and still containing steam radiators, etc.). How legal is this?

Asked on August 16, 2011 New Jersey

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you have an existing written lease with a term remaining on it, you are under no obligation to change what you have already agreed to with your landlord. Most rented and approved rentals have their own separate utility meters which go with the unit rented.

Your landlord cannot force you to pay utilities for some unit you are not using and which you never agreed to pay for. If the landlord insists that you pay the utilities for the two units, you should insist that you have use of the two units in exchange for paying for the utilities for the second and third floors. If he agrees, you can sublet out the third floor possibly and lower your overall rent.

Good luck.


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