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Utility Problems with Landlords

December 2019

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

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. If your landlord is responsible for heating, they must provide fuel or pay the heat bill.

Gas, electricity, and water: Your landlord must provide 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.

Los propietarios deben proporcionar los equipos para servicios públicos en buen estado de funcionamiento incluyendo calefacción, electricidad, plomería, y agua corriente fría y caliente. Si alguno de sus servicios públicos no funciona, pídale a su propietario que le arregle el problema.

Calefacción: Su propietario tiene que proporcionarle equipo de calefacción que pueda calentar su casa a un mínimo de 65°. Si el equipo de calefacción no calienta su hogar a 65°, el propietario debe reparar o reemplazar el calentador que no funciona. Si el propietario es responsable de la calefacción, él debe proporcionar el combustible o pagar la factura de la calefacción.

Gas, electricidad o agua: Su propietario debe proporcionar los equipos necesarios para estos servicios.

Usted no tiene que pagar por servicios públicos utilizados por otros inquilinos o utilizados en áreas compartidas con otros inquilinos.

What should I do if my utilities aren’t working?

1) Ask your landlord to fix the problem.

If you ask in person, try to make sure there is a witness with you.

If you ask in writing, keep a copies of any letters, emails, or text messages that you send.

Describe the problem and tell the landlord that you want the problem fixed right away. If you write an email or letter, you should write it in this format:

Dear [Landlord's name],

My furnace isn't working. The temperature in my apartment won’t reach 65 degrees. 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 and subtract the cost from my rent.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

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

2) Call code enforcement.

If your utilities still aren’t fixed after you ask your landlord to fix them, call 2-1-1 and ask for the phone number of your town’s Code Enforcement office. In some Connecticut towns, there is a Health District office, rather than an individual code enforcement office. For example, in a town like Ansonia, a tenant would call the Naugatuck Valley Health District office. Call either the Health District office or Code Enforcement and file a complaint. If you live in a mobile home park and Code Enforcement does not respond quickly, call the Department of Consumer Complaints at 860-713-6100.

3) Call the police.

If the Code Enforcement office or Health District Offices are closed or they won’t help you, call the police. The police will check your home’s temperature and any other utilities that aren’t working. The police may call your landlord and tell him or her to fix the problem. If they don’t call or if your landlord won't fix the problem, tell the police you want your landlord arrested for violating Connecticut Law 19a-109.

Remember: The temperature in your home will go up if you use a space heater or the stove to keep warm before the police come. This can make it hard to prove how cold it was in your home.

Other options if your utilities aren’t working

Fix the problem yourself.

  • You can fix the problem on your own and subtract the cost from your rent. First, you must tell your landlord that you plan to do this and give them the chance to respond. If they agree, make sure to save a written record of your conversations with the landlord (such as emails or screenshots of texts messages showing dates and times).
  • Buy what you need, like a space heater, oil for the furnace, or propane for the hot water heater. You can also pay someone like a plumber or electrician to fix the problem. Be sure to keep your receipts.

Remember: If you spend money on heaters or furnace repair and you take it out of your rent, make sure to save receipts as proof of what you spent in case your landlord tries to evict you for non-payment of rent.

End your lease.

If your landlord doesn’t fix the problem, you can end your lease and sue your landlord for up to two 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, which can be found in most courthouses.

Stay somewhere else.

  • Write your landlord a letter telling him or her that you’ve moved out and that you won’t pay rent until the problem is fixed. Keep a copy of the letter. If you stay somewhere else, you only have to pay rent to your landlord for the first two days after you told them 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 (found in most courthouses).

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.

How to pay rent to the court

1. Fill out these two court forms to ask for a hearing. The housing court clerk can give you the forms and help you fill them out. You can also find the forms online at www.jud.ct.gov/webforms.

2. Sign the forms in front of the court clerk, a notary, or a lawyer.

3. File the forms 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 the legal aid article, Fee Waivers, for more information). Pay your rent to the court instead of your landlord until your hearing date.

4. 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: If you got a Notice to Quit because you are behind on rent, you can’t pay rent to the court.

Paying for utilities

Do I have to pay for utilities that I don’t use?

You only have to pay for the 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 1-860-827-2622.

What if I get a utility bill when utilities are supposed to be included in my 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 bills to the court.

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

If your utilities are in your 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.

Weatherizing

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

You may be able to do other kinds of weatherization, like install energy efficient appliances, if your landlord agrees.

Send your landlord a letter telling him or her about your plans. Use certified mail with a return receipt requested, and keep a copy for yourself. You can continue with your plans if your landlord says it’s ok or doesn’t reply in 20 days. You will have to pay for the weatherization unless your landlord agrees to pay.

Weatherization help is available.

Weatherization is free for people with low income. Call 2-1-1 for more information. It is also available for a low cost:

If you have a problem with your utility company, contact the Department of Public Utilities at 1-800-382-4586 or 860-827-2622, or visit their website at https://www.ct.gov/pura.

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