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Utility Problems with Landlords

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

Utility Problems with Landlords

Landlords must provide working equipment for utilities, including heating, electricity, hot and cold running water, and plumbing.  If any of your utilities don’t work, ask your landlord to fix the problem.

Keep paying your rent on time even if your apartment needs repairs!

  • Heat-Your landlord must provide equipment that can heat your home to at least 65°.  If your furnace won’t heat your home to 65°, your landlord must fix or replace the broken heater, provide fuel, or pay the heat bill if he is responsible for it.
  • Gas, electricity, or water-Your landlord must provide the equipment for these services.  You don’t have to pay for the utilities used by other renters or used in areas shared with other renters.

If your utilities aren’t working…

STEP 1: Ask your landlord to fix the problem

Call, ask in person, or write a letter.  If you call or ask in person, make sure you have a witness.  Describe the problem and tell the landlord you want the problem fixed right away.

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Dear Landlord,

My furnace isn’t working.  The temperature in my apartment can’t get to 65°.  Please fix the furnace immediately. 

If you do not fix this problem, I will have to buy or get services to fix the problem myself.   

Send the letter certified mail with return receipt requested or hand deliver it to the landlord. Keep a copy for your records.

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STEP 2: Call code enforcement

If your utilities aren’t fixed after you ask your landlord, call Infoline 211 to find the phone number of your town’s Code Enforcement Office.  Call Code Enforcement to file a complaint.  If you live in a mobile home park and Code Enforcement does not respond quickly, call the Department of Consumer Complaints, 860-713-6100.

STEP 3: Call the police

Call the police if the Code Enforcement Office is closed or won’t help you. The police will check your home’s temperature and check on other utilities that aren’t working. The police may call your landlord and tell him to fix the problem.  If they don’t or your landlord refuses to fix the problem, tell the police you want your landlord arrested for violating Connecticut Law 19a-109.

Remember!  The temperature will go up if you use a space heater or the stove to keep warm before the police come.

Other options if your utilities aren’t working…

  • Fix the problem yourself and subtract the cost from your rent. First, you must tell your landlord that you plan on doing this.
    • Buy what you need, like a space heater, oil for the furnace, or propane for the hot water heater, or pay someone to fix the problem, like a plumber or electrician.
    • Keep your receipts.
  • Stay somewhere else.  First, you must write your landlord a letter telling him that you’ve moved out and won’t pay rent until the problem is fixed.
    • If you stay somewhere else you only have to pay rent to your landlord for the first 2 days after you told him about the problem.
    • You can sue your landlord for the cost of a hotel up to the amount you would have paid in rent. If you need help go to a Court Service Center. 
  • End your lease.  If your landlord doesn’t fix the problem, you can end your lease and sue your landlord for up to 2 months rent or double what it cost you to buy the services or pay for a hotel. If you need help go to a Court Service Center.
  • Pay your rent to the court.  If your landlord doesn’t fix the problems within 21 days after you file a complaint with Code Enforcement or the Department of Consumer Complaints, you can start a lawsuit. Once you start your lawsuit, you will pay rent to the court – not to your landlord. Keep paying your rent to the court until your case is over.

1. Fill out 2 court forms. The Housing Court clerk can give you the forms and help you fill them out.  Or you can get the forms at www.jud.ct.gov/webforms.

  • Notice of Suit (JD-HM-19), and
  • Complaint (JD-HM-35)

2. Then:

  • Sign the forms in front of the court clerk, a notary, or a lawyer
  • File them with the Housing Court clerk.  If you don’t have enough money to pay the filing fee, ask the clerk for a Fee Waiver.  See our article, Fee Waivers.
  • Pay your rent to the court instead of your landlord until your hearing date
  • Go to court on your hearing date and tell the judge what happened. The judge can order your landlord to fix the problem and pay you back some of your rent. 

Important! You can’t pay rent to the court if you already got a Notice to Quit because you are behind on rent.

Paying for utilities…

Paying for utilities you don’t use.  You only have to pay for utilities used inside your apartment. If your meter includes areas outside your apartment, like public hall lights or another apartment, the bill must be in your landlord’s name. Call the utility company and say that you have a “shared meter” and you want the bill in your landlord’s name.  If the utility company won’t do it, call the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at 1-800-382-4586 or 860-827-2622. 

Getting a bill when utilities are included in your rent.  You can subtract all utility payments you make from your rent.  You don’t have to pay a utility security deposit or any of your landlord’s back bills. Keep proof of any bills you pay.  If your landlord tries to evict you for not paying your rent, show the court the bills.

Utility shutoffs if the bill is in your landlord’s name

If your utilities are in the landlord’s name and you get a shut off notice, call the utility company and tell them to keep your service on. DO NOT agree to have the utilities put in your name.  If your landlord shuts off your utilities while you live there, call the police. 

To get help paying for utilities call Infoline 211.

Weatherizing

You can always

  • Install removable weather-stripping around doors and windows, storm windows, and insulation for your hot water heater.  You have to pay for the weatherization unless your landlord agrees to pay.

You may be able to

  • Do other weatherization if your landlord agrees, like install energy efficient appliances.
  • Send your landlord a letter certified mail, return receipt requested, telling him your plans.  Keep a copy.  You can go ahead with your plans if your landlord says it’s ok or doesn’t reply in 20 days. You have to pay for the weatherization unless your landlord agrees to pay.

Weatherization help is available

  • Free for low income people, call Infoline 211
  • At low cost from CL&P, 1-800-286-2000 or 860-947-2000 and United Illuminating, 1-800-442-5004

If you have a problem with a utility company contact the Department of Public Utilities at 1-800-382-4586 or 860-827-2622 or online at www.ct.gov/dpuc.

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 9/2014. 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).

For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.

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Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only.
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