GARY ALLEN LAW
Massachusetts Landlord Responsibilities for Heat, Hot Water, and Electricity are Regulated by the Sanitary Code
Landlords are obligated to provide hot and cold running water, heating equipment in winter, and to maintain the electrical wiring in residential rental property.
If you need repairs to any of your utilities, you should make a written repair request to the landlord.
The question of who PAYS for the electricity, the heat and the hot water is a different question, and depends on your rental agreement, and the setup of your rental unit.
In general terms, the Sanitary Code states that the default arrangement is that the landlord is responsible for all utilities unless there is a written agreement stating otherwise. That means if you have an oral agreement to rent, your landlord cannot require you to pay for utilities.
You and your landlord can agree in writing that you will pay for your own electricity, heat or hot water, but only if the landlord can give you separate controls so that other people aren’t getting a free ride.
The landlord cannot force you to split the cost of utilities with other apartments, but it is OK if you split the bill with roommates who are on the same lease as you. The same goes for heating oil and hot water: If there is an oil tank or hot water tank only for your rental, the landlord can ask you to sign a contract to be responsible for the heating costs, but not if the tanks are shared with other apartments or providing hot water or heat to common areas like basements, shared laundry areas or hallways.
What if You Suspect Someone Else has Access to Your Electricity or Hot Water?
If you rent an apartment in a small building (for example, like a three-family), and you pay your own utilities, you should check to see if the electricity stays on in the basement when all of your fuses are turned off. Look for light bulbs or electric appliances in the basement (like a washer or dryer) that shut off when you turn off the power to your fuse box. If your fuses control hallway or basement electricity, call your health department and ask them to inspect for “Cross Metering.”
This same problem can apply to natural gas-fired furnaces or hot water heaters. If you think may be paying for utilities being used by other people, contact Attorney Gary Allen for an evaluation of your situation and what remedies may be available to you.