Utility bills to my roommate and my credit score.
August 26, 2008 4:36 PM   Subscribe

How do Utility Bills addressed to my roommate affect my credit score?

Both of our names are on the lease. However, all utility bills are adressed to my roommate. Our subletters missed a ton of payments this summer, and we got all sorts of mean letters about shutting off our gas/cable. Is my credit at risk if all of these letters were addressed only to my roomate?

I am in NY State, and letters were from ConEd and TimeWarner. Thanks, all.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Is my credit at risk if all of these letters were addressed only to my roomate?

posted by meta_eli at 4:49 PM on August 26, 2008

Nope, you're fine. The utilities will report to the credit bureaus only the name associated with the account. This kind of situation is why utilities are typically handled by the lease-holders and then re-billed to subletters if utilities aren't included in the rent.
posted by There's No I In Meme at 4:53 PM on August 26, 2008

Indeed, Meme. Next time the OP might want to pay the utilities themselves and then collect from the subletters, in order to ensure that they are paid on time.
posted by ChasFile at 5:10 PM on August 26, 2008

Why, Chasfile? The subletters are the ones who should be paying that stuff off. If they're not willing to pay the utilities, who's to say they'd pay the OP? And not to sound incredibly harsh here, but the bills are the roommate's issue as they're in the roommate's name. We don't know who's responsible for bringing the subletters in to begin with. If it's the roommate, it's their mess to handle... conversely, if it's the OP who did, or by a consensus, then the OP has some obligation in at least a moral sense. But we don't know. I just speak as one who has assumed bill paying duties in the past and have been burned more than once.
posted by barc0001 at 5:50 PM on August 26, 2008

So to recap, OP, you are totally off the hook for the bills. However, if you had a hand in the subletters becoming subletters, you have responsibilities here too, and should endeavor to rectify the situation with the utilities in question ,either by convincing the subletters to cough up the cash, or if that isn't going to happen for various reasons, by ponying up yourself.
posted by barc0001 at 5:53 PM on August 26, 2008

If they're not willing to pay the utilities, who's to say they'd pay the OP?

The utilities are the responsibility of the account holder. So even if the subletters are dead beats and fail to pay, it is still the account holder who will incur the wrath of the utility company's credit collections department, and ultimately the account holder whose credit report gets dinged.

It's a shame that your roommate will go down for this. But at least now he/she knows better, and can tell their story to friends.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:08 PM on August 26, 2008

For Con Ed, at least, if you didn't give your Social Security number, you're not the one listed as the responsible party for the bill. (Doubly so if your name's not even on the thing.) My name's on my Con Ed bill, but not first, and I'm not the party ultimately responsible for paying it.

I don't have cable, so I don't know about TimeWarner.
posted by oaf at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2008

I don't believe so. If you're not (one of) the account holder(s), your credit shouldn't be affected.
posted by Verdandi at 6:41 PM on August 26, 2008

Call the utilities and ask. Be vague and don't call from your own phone. Some kind of trunk line works best for such inquiries. Phrase the question along the lines of "my roommate and I are arguing about this question, and I just moved in..."
In some states utility bills are person/account specific and sometimes they are site specific. The difference between the two: if a utility bill is specific to a person, the bill follows the person. You sign for service and the unpaid bill follows the previous person. If it is specific to a site then any unpaid balances need to be paid before you have a new signer. An example of a site specific bill is often the water bill: in many areas municipal utilities are allowed to demand any unpaid water bills be paid before they'll sign and reconnect someone. (I've spoken to a number of people who had to cancel purchases because this was hidden during the purchase.)
Different states also have roommate rules. For example you may have to prove you were not at the site ("benefiting from the service") by providing a copy of a lease or some other utility bill to prove you were not at this address during this period.
You can also check the NY State Public Service Commission as well, but frankly I have taken countless calls like this in my many years working customer service at an electric utility.

And fwiw - subby or not, your name is on the lease. Don't you think that makes you at least a smidgen responsible for this? You won the coin toss for the utilities and picked some lousy tenants . . . just curious if you plan on saving your roommate's credit for taking the bullet.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 9:34 PM on August 26, 2008

Not so fast...

The account can be set up with two account holders. Billing address is not always the same as account holder.

The answer is probably not, but possibly. Call and ask if who the primary and secondary account holders are.
posted by 26.2 at 11:59 PM on August 26, 2008

I can say from some embarrassing youthful experience: probably not. (Which reminds me that now I'm friends again with the college roommate who DID get stuck with the bill 15 yrs ago...I should probably do something really nice for him....)
posted by epersonae at 8:48 AM on August 27, 2008

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