What can I do if my previous landlord is taking me to small claims court for payment on past electric bills?

UPDATED: May 22, 2012

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What can I do if my previous landlord is taking me to small claims court for payment on past electric bills?

I told him that if he sent me copies of those bills, I would be happy to pay. I just want to be able to look them over and make sure they are actually my unit the bills are in his name. Instead, he sent me picture messages via text, along with a small claims notice. Can I be sued for bills that I never received and are not in my name?

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if the landlord believes you are responsible for the bills, he may sue you. To win his lawsuit and receive a judgment  (right to be paid) against you, he must prove his case in court, by a "preponderance of the evidence." That means he'll have to prove that  it is "more likely than not" that you were responsible for  the bill and did not pay it. You in turn will have the chance, if sued, to present evidence and testimony refuting his case or affirmatively showing that you were not liable for these sums.

While it makes sense to first try to work alleged debts or amounts owed out amicably with someone before going to litigation, but there is no actual requirement to do so--if someone feels that you owe them money, they may simply sue you.

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