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Energy and Utility Problems With Landlords

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Energy and Utility Problems With Landlords

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Landlords must provide utilities that work. This section tells you what to do if you have problems with your landlord about your heat, gas, electricity or water.

Click on a topic:

Is my landlord responsible for providing heat?

Yes. Your landlord must provide a heater that heats your home to at least 65°F. If not, your landlord can be arrested. If the temperature stays below 65°F, the landlord must:

You do not have to pay for heating fuel for shared areas like the basement or hallway. You may have to pay for heating fuel that is for your use only if you agreed to do this when you rented your apartment.

What can I do if I don’t have heat?

If you don’t have heat, follow these steps:

1. Check the temperature in your home. Use a thermometer. Write down the temperature and the time and date that you checked.

2. Ask your landlord or manager to provide heat of at least 65°F.

3. If you cannot reach your landlord or the problem does not get fixed, call your local housing or health officials – usually contacted through your town hall. Ask them to help you get proper heat.

4. If you still have no heat and the housing and health offices are closed (because it is after hours, a weekend or holiday), call the police. Ask them to arrest your landlord under Section 19a-109 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

5. When the police come, they should check the temperature in your home. The police cannot do anything if the temperature is 65°F or above. The temperature will go up if you use a space heater or the stove to keep warm. Caution! Space heaters or stoves can cause a fire, and stoves can be dangerous to use for heat unless they are specially made to do this.

6. Don’t give up! File a formal complaint with the police. Sometimes the threat of arrest is enough to get the landlord to fix your heat.

What if I don’t have gas, electricity, hot water or running water?

If your landlord is supposed to provide these services but does not, your landlord can be arrested. Your landlord must provide the equipment that allows you to have these services and has to provide the services if this is part of your rent agreement. You do not have to pay for these services if other tenants use them or if they are used in areas shared with other tenants.

If you need these services right away:

1. Ask your landlord or manager to provide these services.

2. If you cannot reach your landlord or the problem does not get fixed, call your local housing or health officials – usually contacted through your town hall. Ask them to help you get gas, electricity or hot or running water, whichever the landlord is supposed to provide.

3. If you still don’t have these services and the housing and health offices are closed (because it is after hours, a weekend or holiday), call the police. Ask them to arrest your landlord under Section 19a-109 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

4. Don’t give up! File a formal complaint with the police. Sometimes the threat of arrest is enough to get the landlord to fix the problem.

If you have no services because your landlord did not pay the bill, see below: What if my landlord asks that the utility service be shut off?

If I don’t have heat or other utilities do I have to keep paying rent?

If you ask your landlord to fix the problem, but s/he does not fix it, do not stop paying your rent or your landlord may evict you.

You can:

  • Buy the services you need and subtract that cost from your rent. Make sure you follow the steps below in “What else can I do.
  • Pay your rent to the court. The court can order your landlord to fix the problem or provide services. The court can also order you to get back some of your rent. See “How do I pay rent to the court?” below.

What else can I do?

You may be able to buy the services and subtract the cost from your rent. To do this, call and write your landlord a letter. Describe the problem and the services you do not have. Tell the landlord you want the problem fixed right away.

If the problem is not fixed right away, you can:

  • Buy the most important services you need (like a space heater and fuel) and subtract them from your rent. Make sure you get and keep the receipts.
  • 2 business days after you told your landlord about the problem, go stay somewhere else until the problem is fixed, like a hotel. You do not have to pay your rent while you are in the hotel. And you can sue your landlord for the cost of the hotel, up to the amount of your rent for the time you were in another location. If the same problem happens again within 6 months, you can go to a hotel or other housing right away.
  • End your lease if your landlord does not fix the problem on purpose, and sue your landlord for up to 2 months rent or twice what it cost you to have no services. You can include your hotel and anything you had to buy.
  • If you sue your landlord, ask the court to make your landlord pay for your lawyer.

Note: The law cannot help you if:

  • You or someone in your household caused the problem.
  • The problem is not your landlord’s fault, such as the landlord is waiting for the repairs or a power line is down.

How do I pay rent to the court?

To pay rent to the court, you must call the housing, health or building enforcement agency 21 days before you file with the court. Explain your problem and ask the agency to help.

If you live in a mobile home park, call:

Consumer Action (Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection): 860-713-6135

If the problem is not fixed in 21 days, go to housing court and ask to pay your rent to the court. To do this, you must:

  • Fill out 2 forms: Notice of Suit and Complaint
  • Complete the form for filing a fee waiver if you are low income (so you don’t have to pay a filing fee).
  • Pay your rent using cash or money order – no personal checks.

You may not pay rent to the court if:

  • Your landlord sent you a Notice to Quit because you did not pay your rent, or
  • You did not complain to the housing or health agency, or the Commissioner of Consumer Protection (if you live in a mobile home park) first.

To learn more about paying rent to court, visit: Tenants' Rights: Repairs

Important! Do not stop paying your rent.

Can the court have someone else collect rent in my apartment building?

Yes. If you and other tenants have problems with the landlord, you can ask the court to appoint someone to collect the rent. This person is called a receiver.

Your building must have at least 3 apartments. A majority of tenants must agree. The court will not name a receiver if a tenant caused the problem.

The receiver will:

  • Collect rent
  • Arrange repairs
  • Make sure you have heat, electricity, gas, hot and running water if the landlord is responsible for providing these

You can ask the court to appoint a receiver for free. But it is complicated. Talk to a lawyer. For more information, call Statewide Legal Services.

Can I complain to the Fair Rent Commission?

Yes, if there is one in your town.

The Commission can help you if your:

  • Rent is too high
  • Apartment does not meet health and safety laws
  • Utilities are not available

The Commission can hold your rent and order your landlord to make repairs. The Commission may also tell the landlord to lower your rent. For more information see Tenants' Rights: Fair Rent Commission.

What if my meter measures utilities that are not just for my home?

If your meter has your service and service for other tenants or areas shared with other tenants, then the bill should be in your landlord’s name.

You can:

  • Ask the utility company to put the service in your landlord’s name, or
  • Keep the service in your name and subtract an estimate of the other tenants’ charges from your rent. Ask the utility company to give you a written estimate of these charges. Keep the paper they give you with the estimate. You may need it if you go to court later.

It is better for you to have the bill put in your landlord’s name. If it stays in your name:

  • The bill might get too big and you may owe the utility company more than you can pay.
  • Your landlord may try to evict you for not paying your rent. Then you may have to go to court to prove that the amount you subtracted is a reasonable estimate of the cost of other tenants’ services.

If the utility company refuses to put the bill in your landlord’s name, you can appeal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). For more information see Rights of Utility Customers.

What if my landlord tells the utility to shut off my service?

CL&P, UI, SCG, CNG and YG and private water companies cannot shut off your service at the landlord’s request, unless:

  • The landlord gives the utility a statement signed by you agreeing to have utility service shut off. You should never agree to have your utility service shut off while you still live in your apartment or home.

or

  • The landlord provides the utility a signed, notarized statement that there are no tenants in the house or apartment. If the landlord is not the utility customer, the utility must send you a notice at least 9 days before the shut off.

If you get a notice that your service will be or has been shut off at your landlord's request, call the utility and ask them to turn your service back on. If the utility bill was in your name before the shutoff, it should stay in your name. But if the landlord or someone else is responsible for the bill, do not agree to have the bill put in your name.

To find out how to fight the bill or appeal to the PURA, see Rights of Utility Customers.

What if my gas, electricity or water is shut off but my landlord is responsible for the bill?

A utility cannot shut off your service if your landlord is responsible for the bill, unless the company mails you notice by regular mail 13 days before or by certified mail 7 days before its plan to shut off service. The notice must include:

  • the date of the planned shutoff,
  • phone number and address of the utility company and the PURA, and
  • what you can do to avoid a shutoff.

Separate Meter: If your apartment or house has its own separate meter that only covers your utility use, the utility can require you to put service in your name. If you do this, they cannot charge you a security deposit, and you do not have to pay any of the back utility bills owed by your landlord.

Shared Meter: If your apartment or home has a shared (master) meter that covers more than your utility use, you have 3 possibilities:

1. If all tenants agree in writing, service can be put in everyone's names, with an agreed upon plan for dividing the bill and responsibility for payment. If at least one tenant is making his/her payment under this kind of plan, service cannot be shut off. Any tenant or the utility can end this arrangement at any time, for any reason, by requesting in writing that it be ended.

2. You can get service in your name and only pay the part of the bill estimated to cover your service. The utility company can give you this estimate. The landlord is responsible for any portion of the bill that you did not pay because it was not for your utility service.

3. If you do not agree to either option above, or you agreed but then told the utility you wanted to end the arrangement, the utility cannot shut off your service. It can sue the landlord and ask the court to appoint a “receiver” who would collect rent and pay the utility bills.

Note: If you pay the utility company under any of the above options, you can deduct the full amount of your payments from your rent.

To find out how to appeal to the PURA if the utility does not follow these rules, see Rights of Utility Customers.

What if the utility doesn’t follow these rules or I do not agree about the amount of my bill?

To find out how to appeal to the PURA, see the appeal section of Rights of Utility Customers.

Can I weatherize my rented home or apartment?

Yes – some things can be done without your landlord’s permission, and more can be done if your landlord doesn’t tell you that you can’t do it. Your landlord can only be charged for weatherization if he or she agrees to pay the cost.

Weatherization can:

  • Make your home more comfortable,
  • Let you use less energy, and
  • Lower your energy bills.

To do any kind of weatherization, even weatherization you can do if the landlord doesn’t give you permission, first you must send your landlord a certified letter with return receipt requested. Describe your plans for weatherization. Keep a copy of the letter.

If your landlord does not approve of your plans, he or she must let you know in writing within 20 days.

Weatherization you can do without your landlord’s permission includes:

  • removable weather-stripping around doors and windows,
  • removable storm windows, and
  • insulation for your hot water heater.

More weatherization can be done if the landlord agrees or doesn’t tell you that you cannot do it after sending a letter describing your plans.

Can I get help to pay for weatherization?

Free weatherization and conservation help is available for low income homeowners and renters. If you need information to apply, call or visit:

  • Your local Community Action Agency. Call Infoline: 2-1-1 to find your local agency.
  • Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund program for CL&P and UI customers, called Home Energy Solutions – Income Eligible. CL&P: 1-800-388-9727; UI: 1-877-947-3873.
  • Municipal electric company customers:
    • Bozrah - 860-889-7388
    • Groton - 860-446-4000
    • Jewett City - 860-376-2955
    • Norwich - 860-823-4514
    • South Norwalk - 203-866-3366
    • Norwalk Third Taxing District - 203-866-9271
    • Wallingford - 203-294-2263

How to Apply for Energy Assistance

If you need information to apply for energy assistance, call or visit:

  • Infoline — Call: 211 or www.infoline.org
  • Department of Social Services Energy Hot Line: 1-800-842-1132
  • Your local Community Action Agency
  • Energy Assistance website: www.ct.gov/staywarm

If you are deaf or hearing impaired and need help, call:

  • Infoline (TDD) --1-800-203-1234
  • Relay Connecticut – Call: 711 (English and Spanish) or Visit: www.relayconnecticut.com.
  • Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired Call for interpreting and other services. TTY / voice: 860-231-8756 or 800-708-6796

Where can I get help with a utility or landlord problem?

For a problem with a utility contact:

Consumer Assistance Unit (DPUC)
10 Franklin Sq., New Britain, CT 06051
Call: 1-800-382-4586 or 860-827-2622
www.ct.gov/dpuc

Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC)

10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051
Call: 860-827-2900
www.ct.gov/occ

This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with CT Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in Connecticut as of November 2011. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only. Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.