Utilities After a Foreclosure

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi
Reviewed May 2017

1. Who Pays Utilities After the Foreclosure

If your old landlord paid for your utilities, then the new owner must pay for the same utilities. If a bank is the new owner, it has to follow the same rule.26 In Massachusetts, usually tenants only pay utilities if they have agreed in writing to do so.27

You only have to pay utilities if:

  • Water – If your apartment has a separate water meter, you agreed in writing to pay for the water, and the owners filed a certificate complying with the water law.28
  • Heat and hot water – You and the old owner agreed in writing that you would pay them.29
  • Electricity and gas – Your unit has a separate meter and you agreed in writing that you would pay.30

For more information about utilities and who should pay for them, see Chapter 6: Utilities.

2. What to Do if the Utilities are Shut Off

If a utility the old landlord used to pay gets shut off, or the utility company sends you a notice that they may shut-off service:

  • Notify the new owner right away.
  • Tell the new owner she must pay the bill and restore service or stop the shut-off.
  • Contact the utility company. Ask them to restore the service, or not shut it off. Tell them your building was foreclosed. Give them the new owner’s name. Most utility companies will not shut off services if you are in a foreclosed building.
  • If the utility company does not help you, call the Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) hotline. DTE will contact the utility company if they have not followed the law.31

    Outside Boston: 800-392-6006

    Boston area: 617-305-3531

  • You can also ask the court to order the new owner to pay the utility bills.

To learn more about preventing utility shut-offs, see Chapter 6: Utilities.

Endnotes

26 . The definition of “owner” in the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code is: “Owner means every person who alone or severally with others: (1) has legal title to any dwelling, dwelling unit….” 105 C.M.R. §410.020. It is the owner who must supply the occupant with heat, hot water, electricity and gas unless the occupant agrees in writing. 105 C.M.R. §§410.180, 410.190, 410.200, 410.201, 410.354, 410.355.

27 . 105 C.M.R. §§410.180, 410.190, 410.200, 410.201, 410.355. If no such written agreement exists, the owner is legally responsible for the cost of heat and hot water even if the tenant orally agrees to pay for them. Young v. Patukonis, 24 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1987). See also 105 C.M.R. §410.354 (Property owner must pay for electric and gas bills unless there are separate meters and a written agreement saying tenant must pay).

28 . Landlords may bill tenants separately for water if all of the following requirements are met:

  • Landlord has installed submeters that measure actual water used in your apartment;
  • Landlord has installed low-flow fixtures;
  • Your tenancy started on or after March 16, 2005
  • Previous tenant was not forced out;
  • There is a written rental agreement that spells out water bill arrangements; and
  • Landlord has filed proper certification.

If the landlord has failed to follow any one of the above requirements, she cannot bill you directly for water. 105 C.M.R. §410.354 (D).

29 . 105 C.M.R. §§410.180, 410.190, 410.200, 410.201, 410.355. If no such written agreement exists, the landlord is legally responsible for the cost of heat and hot water even if the tenant agrees to pay for them. Young v. Patukonis, 24 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1987). See also 105 C.M.R. §410.354 (Property owner must pay for electric and gas bills unless there are separate meters and a written agreement saying tenant must pay.).

30 . 105 C.M.R.§410.354.

31 . See 220 C.M.R. §25.04 for the process utility companies must follow before terminating services to a tenant.

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