Especially with increasing electricity prices, it’s not uncommon that Ontario landlords ask tenants to pay their own hydro bills. As a result, we have seen a number of complaints from landlords, whose tenants rack up significant electricity charges, but don’t pay the bill. So, what should landlords and tenants alike know about hydro bills?
Landlord – Tenant Agreements about Hydro Bills
A landlord looking to have a tenant pay the hydro bill should consider four issues:
- A tenant has no obligation to pay for hydro if this has not been specifically agreed upon.
- In many cases, a tenant’s oral confirmation that he or she agrees to pay for electricity is not sufficient. An obligation to pay for electricity should be included in the rental agreement or confirmed in writing in some other way.
- How electricity use is measured is an important aspect of the problem. If the rental unit has a separate meter, it’s easy enough: the tenant can just be asked to pay for the meter readings. Things get much more complicated if the meter covers one or more units, as this sets the ground for disputes about how much electricity was used and by whom. Consider investing in a separate meter for each unit – while it can be a hassle and a costly process, if you regularly rent out several units, it can save a lot of headache when it comes to future hydro disputes. A temporary solution could be allocating the cost of electricity between tenants using some clear method beforehand, and separating electricity use by, for example, installing coin-operated laundry machines.
- The last, but one of the most important, issues is whose name is on the hydro bill. In some cases, the landlord leaves the account under his or her name, and in other cases the account is switched to be under the tenant’s name. If the landlord and tenant agree upon the letter, it’s important that the tenant confirms that he or she will transfer the bill in his or her name is in writing.
Tenant Doesn’t Pay Hydro Bill: Landlord’s Options
First, it is possible to evict a tenant who doesn’t pay the electricity bill using the Landlord and Tenant Board process. However, it’s a common misconception that the amount of the unpaid electricity bill can be collected together with the rent, and that the same process used for evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent can be used to evict him or her for not paying for electricity. That’s not the case.
However, this does not mean that evicting the tenant for an unpaid electricity bill is impossible. The landlord must give the tenant a proper eviction notice, the type of which usually depends on the number of the rental units in the building and other aspects of the tenancy, and follow up with the proper application. This will take the landlord to a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a case assessment if you are in situation where you have an agreement about electricity payments, but the bill is not being paid.