AG Curtis Hill: Landlords cannot be held responsible for tenants’ municipal utility bills

Landlords cannot be held responsible for tenants’ municipal utility bills, Attorney General Curtis Hill said in an advisory opinion issued today.

“If a tenant is responsible for payment of utilities under a lease, the municipal utility cannot hold the landlord responsible for payment unless the landlord is a party to the service agreement,” Attorney General Hill said. “The utility cannot deny service to subsequent occupants of the property, and unpaid utility bills do not constitute a lien on the property.”

Further, Attorney General Hill said, a municipal utility that requires a property owner to sign for an account with a tenant so that the landlord is responsible for the tenant’s delinquent bills is acting in a manner contrary to the purpose of the statute. In fact, imposing such a requirement may exceed the utility’s authority under Indiana‘s Home Rule Act.

The Office of the Attorney General issued the opinion in response to an inquiry from state Rep. Woody Burton of Greenwood. He sought guidance on issues related to recently-enacted legislation designed to clarify the responsibility for payment for services provided by municipally-owned utilities to rental properties.