landlord tenant law in the US regarding utilities
November 18, 2006 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal for landlords in the United States and the State of Colorado to pay the utilities for a building and then evenly divide the sum between all of the apartments? Someone told me that there was law against this but I have been unable to locate it. They said that essentially all units must be metered or the rent can be raised to "include utilities" but that they could not pass utilities on without metering apartments so that each pays their share.

I have rented apartments before where the rent is 'x' per month and the utilities are paid. This situation I understand is legal in that they are merely charging more rent at what they estimate the utilities to be and calling it even. However, I now live in a building where each apartment has metered electricity but the gas/heating bill is shared by everyone in the building by what they get billed by the utility company. Aside from the obvious problems with this (ie everyone turns their heat up so they aren't getting charged to be a little colder) my friend told me that he thought it was illegal to charge utilities in this manner without individual metering as they essentially charge everyone the same amount regardless of the amount of gas they use. I also believe that the managers may be inflating the utility charges but am awaiting a reply from the energy company on the buildings usage for a given month to see if this is true. Does anyone know to which law my friend refers? Any ideas how I should approach this with the landlord?
posted by occidental to Law & Government (6 answers total)
IAAL-B-NYL, and I can't speak for your state. But yeah, it's called "added rent" or "additional rent," and it frequently rears its ugly head in standard leases.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2006

Couldn't find you a law, but this bit from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission implies it's legal:
The PUC has no authority over billing systems used by the management of apartment pass along gas and electricity costs to tenants as long as the landlord does not charge the tenants more than the total utility bill for the complex. The management may design any method it chooses to allocate gas or electricity costs to individual units. The PUC also does not regulate charges for "heat," "hot water" or "air conditioning."
(emphasis added)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:33 PM on November 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I assumed it was legal when our former property manager -- part of a pretty large area company -- included such a requirement in our lease about a year and a half ago in Washington state.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:59 PM on November 18, 2006

Details in rent law might be set at the local level as well as the state. If you can't find anything in state law, check the city or township codes.
posted by ardgedee at 5:14 PM on November 18, 2006

from fun experience i can tell you that it's illegal in the town of burlington, vermont, per municipal ordinance, to split the cost of fuel for a furnace between two tenants. however, charging extra for "heat included" is legal, but not based on usage. the law relates to heat sources, though, water, for example, i believe is legal to split like this.

you should contact your local tenants association or hotline. they have the answers you require. next stop is the housing inspectors office.
posted by qbxk at 5:38 PM on November 18, 2006

Another possible contact is some type of "housing rights center". They would be able to tell you whether or not the practice is legal in your area, and, if illegal, provide you with representation.
posted by Cog at 11:51 PM on November 18, 2006

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