Can I be held responsible for an other’s past due electric bill?

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Can I be held responsible for an other’s past due electric bill?

My stepson and his family moved out of state. Iowa to Montana. My family and I took over the contract of his house and moved in. Now, however, the utility company won’t let us hookup electricity in our name until my stepson’s bill is paid. They said they would let us set up a payment plan for $760 up front until his bill is paid. I don’t understand why we are responsible for his bill. So I now am without electricity unless I can come up with that monry. Why can’t I just set up my own account with the electric company?

Asked on November 11, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Iowa

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The only time a utility company can keep a utility shut off is if the last customer didn't pay the bill and continues to live in the home.  This is done to avoid name hopping and avoiding payment. If you took over the contract for the home, does that mean it is still in your stepson's name and you are simply paying or did you refinance so that monies owed to a mortgage company are now owed by you or if this is a landlord tenant situation, the new lease is in your name? If the mortgage or lease is not in your name, the utility company has no way of knowing this is a legitimate move and not a method to avoid payment. If you prove the move and you are the legal person under the new contract, the company must turn your electricity back on and sue the prior account holder for reimbursement. Contact your state utilities board to file a complaint. Your local legal aid office may also be able to help resolve this situation before going into the winter months.


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