What do I do if my tenant . . . . . . . Stops paying the water bill or another utility?
This is a common question. In many states, DC, Maryland, Florida etc, the water bill for the property must always stay in the owners name. The tenants may be added to the water bill and receive a courtesy copy to pay each month, but they are never the true account holders. The account does not affect their credit and as such, this is often the most neglected bill of many tenants.
How you deal with a tenant not paying the water bill stems from your lease. Your lease should have a clear section regarding utilities that directly states what your tenant is and is not responsible for in relation to the utilities. If the tenant is responsible for water or any other utility in the lease and fails to pay the bill then this is considered a lease violation and should be treated as such. You should enforce these lease violation section of your lease.
For example: In Columbia Maryland you must file a 30 day notice to abate or vacate against the tenant. If the water bill is then still outstanding after the 30 days you may choose to move forward with the eviction.
Another related question on this matter is whether or not the owner should pay the water bill so that there is no lien placed on the property. I don’t think anyone wants to worry about their investment property having a lien against it. My advice, talk to the water company and explain the situation. Let them know that you are more than happy to make payment and have the lien removed or not placed. Let the water company know that until the tenant makes payment to them in the amount owed, the water service should not be restored. This way you can protect your credit and investment, while still having a real consequence for your tenants.
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