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Landlord-Tenant: How to Deal With Utility Lockouts.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | January 16, 2012

Image from massrc.com

No. 789

If you are a tenant who is having a dispute with your landlord, here is some information you may need to know.

A landlord cannot force you out by refusing to pay the utilities.  In Pennsylvania, we have a statute which requires a utility to give you the opportunity to pay one month’s utilities to keep the service. Contact the utility directly and send them a copy of the statute below.  If you don’t get immediate satisfaction, call the Public Utility Commission (PUC). You can also deduct it from the rent. Here’s the text of the law, found in 66 Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes:

§ 1527. Right of tenants to continued service.

        (a) Application for continued service.--At any time before
     or after service is terminated by a public utility on account of
     nonpayment of charges by the landlord ratepayer, the affected
     tenants may apply to the utility to have service continued or
        (b) Payment of charges by tenants.--A public utility shall
     not terminate service or shall promptly resume service
     previously terminated if it receives from the tenants an amount
     equal to the bill for the affected account of the landlord
     ratepayer for the billing month preceding the notice to the
     tenants. Thereafter, the utility shall notify each tenant of the
     total amount of the bill for the second and each succeeding
     billing month and, if the tenants fail to make payment of any
     bill within 30 days of the delivery of the notice to the
     tenants, the utility may commence termination of service, except
     that no termination may occur until 30 days after each tenant
     has been furnished notice of the proposed termination as
     prescribed in section 1528 (relating to delivery and contents of
     subsequent termination notice to tenants). The tenant or tenants
     shall make payment to the utility on account of nonpayment of
     charges by the landlord ratepayer by check or money order drawn
     by the tenant to the order of the utility or by cash. In all
     cases, the tenant shall provide, upon request, reasonable
     identification to the utility. For the purposes of this section,
     "reasonable identification" shall include, but not be limited
     to, a driver's license, photo identification, medical assistance
     or food stamp identification or any similar document issued by
     any public agency which contains the name and address of the
        (c) Disposition of payment by utility.--Upon receiving any
     payment, the utility shall notify the landlord ratepayer who is
     liable for the utility service of the amount or amounts paid by
     any tenant and the amount or amounts credited to the landlord's
     bill for each tenant pursuant to this section. Tenants
     requesting continued utility service under this section, except
     those individually subscribing for service under subsection (d),
     shall not be considered utility customers but shall be
     considered to be acting on behalf of the landlord ratepayer, who
     shall remain liable to the utility for service provided after
     notice to tenants. In the event that the tenants fail to satisfy
     the requirements of subsection (b) with regard to the first
     billing month period preceding notice to the tenant, the utility
     shall refund any moneys received from a tenant to that tenant.
     Any payments made by the tenants shall be applied first against
     the bill for the billing month preceding notice to the tenants
     and then against bills for service rendered subsequent to the
     bill. Upon termination of service to the tenants for failure to
     pay the utility bill for service in full for any subsequent
     month or upon voluntary discontinuance of service at the request
     of the tenants, the utility shall immediately refund to the
     tenants any amounts paid to the utility for the billing period
     for which payment in full was not remitted.
        (d) Agreement for individual service.--Any tenant of a
     residential building or mobile home park who has been notified
     of a proposed discontinuance of utility service pursuant to
     section 1523 (relating to notices before service to landlord
     discontinued) shall have the right to agree to subscribe for
     future service individually if this can be accomplished without
     a major revision of distribution facilities or additional right-
     of-way acquisitions.
     (July 2, 1993, P.L.379, No.54, eff. 60 days)

        1993 Amendment.  Act 54 amended subsecs. (a), (b) and (c).
        Cross References.  Section 1527 is referred to in sections
     1523, 1525, 1528, 1531 of this title.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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