Utility Disconnections and Texas Law
Posted by Government Affairs
on Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Recently, we've received a few questions from renters about utility disconnections.
Most of these questions apply to properties that are "All Bills Paid." In those situations, residents pay their rent to an owner/manager. The rent payment includes utility fees like water and electricity. The owner then pays all of the utility bills for a property to utility compaies. If an owner does not pay their bills to a utilty, and the utility is disconnected, renters have many rights under state law.
Here is what the Texas Property Code (92.301) says:
§ 92.301. LANDLORD LIABILITY TO TENANT FOR UTILITY
(a) A landlord who has expressly or impliedly agreed in
the lease to furnish and pay for water, gas, or electric service to
the tenant's dwelling is liable to the tenant if the utility company
has cut off utility service to the tenant's dwelling or has given
written notice to the tenant that such utility service is about to
be cut off because of the landlord's nonpayment of the utility bill.
(b) If a landlord is liable to the tenant under Subsection
(a) of this section, the tenant may:
(1) pay the utility company money to reconnect or
avert the cutoff of utilities according to this section;
(2) terminate the lease if the termination notice is
in writing and move-out is to be within 30 days from the date the
tenant has notice from the utility company of a future cutoff or
notice of an actual cutoff, whichever is sooner;
(3) deduct from the tenant's rent, without necessity
of judicial action, the amounts paid to the utility company to
reconnect or avert a cutoff;
(4) if the lease is terminated by the tenant, deduct
the tenant's security deposit from the tenant's rent without
necessity of lawsuit or obtain a refund of the tenant's security
deposit pursuant to law;
(5) if the lease is terminated by the tenant, recover a
pro rata refund of any advance rentals paid from the date of
termination or the date the tenant moves out, whichever is later;
(6) recover actual damages, including but not limited
to moving costs, utility connection fees, storage fees, and lost
wages from work; and
(7) recover court costs and attorney's fees, excluding
any attorney's fees for a cause of action for damages relating to a
(c) When deducting for the tenant's payment of the
landlord's utility bill under this section, the tenant shall submit
to the landlord a copy of a receipt from the utility company which
evidences the amount of payment made by the tenant to reconnect or
avert cutoff of utilities.
(d) The tenant remedies under this section are effective on
the date the tenant has notice from the utility company of a future
cutoff or notice of an actual cutoff, whichever is sooner. However,
the tenant's remedies under this section shall cease if:
(1) the landlord provides the tenant with written
evidence from the utility that all delinquent sums due the utility
have been paid in full; and
(2) at the time the tenant receives such evidence, the
tenant has not yet terminated the lease or filed suit under this
As of January 1, 2010, landlords are not allowed to disconnect electricity for nonpayment of rent. Electricity may be disconnected in certain instances, such as for repairs.
Section 92.0091 - RESIDENTIAL TENANT'S RIGHT OF RESTORATION AFTER UNLAWFUL UTILITY DISCONNECTION - describes that a renter may seek a writ of restoration from a Justice of the Peace, if the landlord illegally disconnects utilities.
Renters may also be interested in answers to our frequently asked questions or our online complaint form.
Member Managers -- Check out the REDBOOK online at www.TAA.org (you must be a REDBOOK online subscriber to use this feature or order one from Frances at Frances@haaonline.org) for complete, up-to-date guidance on issues related to Ownership and Management of rental properties in Texas.