If I am justa tenant, can a public service utility put my dead landlord’s bill in my name and hold me responsible for it?

UPDATED: Aug 20, 2011

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If I am justa tenant, can a public service utility put my dead landlord’s bill in my name and hold me responsible for it?

My landlord died and public service is trying to make me pay his back bill. The current bill was supposed to go in my name but instead they put the entire bill (over $5,000). They want me to pay it. Is that legal?

Asked on August 20, 2011 New Jersey


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The public service company can place your deceased landlord's utility bill in your name and try to have you pay the amount, but if it brings a lawsuit for its payment there does not seem to be a factual or legal basis for the claim.

The utility bill for the rented unit was previously in the landlord's name. Since the bill was in his or her name, it was the landlord's obligation to pay it. As a tenant in the unit you are renting, you have no obligation for any prior unpaid utility bills.

If the utility company continues to press you about the bill, you need to contact your state's public utilities commission and lodge a complaint over what is happening.

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