Texas Residential Landlord Laws

Utility cut offs
Can you do it?
When can you do it?
Which utilities can you cut off?
How do you do it?
Liability if done wrong?
What happens if utilities are shut off for a landlord's failure to pay?

Utility Cutoff Law

Explanation of the Law

Can you do it? Yes, in some cases, but it must be done very carefully. Whether or not you can shut off a tenant's utilities depends on how they are setup, who is paying for them, how they are paid for, and under what circumstances they are being shut off.

When can you do it? As a general rule of thumb, utilities can only be shut off in the event of real repairs, construction, or emergency. Utilities paid for by a tenant directly to the utility company can only be shut off in the event of real repairs, construction, or emergency. If a landlord provides water, wastewater, gas, or electric services to tenant as part of the lease, these utilities can only be shut off in the event of real repairs, construction, or emergency. However, a few exceptions apply for electrical service.

Which utilities can you cut off? Electrical service, if provided by the landlord and in the landlord's name, can be shut off if the tenant is delinquent in paying rent. What matters most is whether the electrical service is individually metered or not. If the electrical service is individually metered for the unit, and the service connection is in the name of the landlord, then service can be interrupted if the landlord complies with the service disconnection rules proposed by the Public Utility Commmission of Texas. The rules are many and they cover many different situations. You should contact at attorney for guidance before proceeding with an electrical service cut off under these rules.

If the electrical service is not individually metered, and the service connection is in the name of the landlord, and the tenant is at least 7 days late in paying rent, then service can be interrupted only if the landlord delivers proper notice to the tenant. Written notice must be given at least five days before the proposed shut off date and contain the earliest date of the proposed shut off; the amount of rent owed to stop the shut off from happening; and the name and location of the individual to whom or the location of the on-site management office where the delinquent rent may be paid during the landlord's normal business hours. The interruption cannot begin before or after the landlord's normal business hours, and the interruption cannot begin on a day, or on a day immediately preceding a day, when the landlord or other designated individual is not available to accept rent and restore electrical service. Electrical service must be restored by the landlord within two normal business hours of receiving full payment for delinquent rent from the tenant.

How do you do it? If seeking to perform an electrical service shut off as listed above, you must provide proper written notice to the tenant at the proper time and arrange for a proper shut off time. To avoid potential liability we can draft utility shut off notices for you that fully comply with Texas law.

If you are seeking a utility cut off for repairs, construction, or emergency it is also important to provide advanced written notice to all tenants effected by the cut off. Notice should contain the reason for the cut off and the proposed dates and times of service interruption. To avoid potential liability we can draft utility shut off notices that fully comply with Texas law.

Liability if done wrong? It is crucial that you contact an attorney to guide you through the process because an improperly performed utility cut off can be very costly for a landlord. A tenant may: 1) either recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease; and 2) recover from the landlord an amount equal to the sum of the tenant's actual damages, the greater of one month's rent or $500, reasonable attorney's fees, and court costs, less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.

What happens if utilities are shut off due to the landlord's failure to pay? A landlord who agrees to furnish and pay for water, gas, or electric service to the tenant is liable to the tenant if the utility company cut offs service to the tenant's dwelling or gives written notice to the tenant that such utility service is about to be cut off because of the landlord's nonpayment of the utility bill.

The tenant is provided many remedies that should be exercised immediately upon receiving notice of a utility shut off due to landlord non-payment. The tenant may: 1) pay the utility company money to reconnect or avert the cutoff of utilities and deduct from the tenant's rent, without necessity of judicial action, the amounts paid to the utility company to reconnect or avert a cutoff so long as a receipt is provided to the landlord; 2) terminate the lease if the termination notice is in writing and move-out is to be within 30 days from the date the tenant has notice from the utility company of a future cutoff or notice of an actual cutoff, whichever is sooner; 3) if the lease is terminated by the tenant, deduct the tenant's security deposit from the tenant's rent without necessity of lawsuit or obtain a refund of the tenant's security deposit pursuant to law; 4) if the lease is terminated by the tenant, recover a pro rata refund of any advance rentals paid from the date of termination or the date the tenant moves out, whichever is later; 5) recover actual damages, including but not limited to moving costs, utility connection fees, storage fees, and lost wages from work; and 6) recover court costs and attorney's fees, excluding any attorney's fees for a cause of action for damages relating to a personal injury.

The landlord's liabilities cease once the tenant receives written evidence from the utility company that all delinquent sums due have been paid in full, and at the time the tenant receives such evidence, the tenant has not yet terminated the lease or filed suit under this section. For this reason it is important for both landlords and tenants to act quickly. The landlord must act quickly to remedy the delinquency and the tenant must act quickly to exercise their rights and remedies before receiving notice that the delinquency has been cured by the landlord.

The Law

§ 92.008.  INTERRUPTION OF UTILITIES.  (a)  A landlord or 
a landlord's agent may not interrupt or cause the interruption of 
utility service paid for directly to the utility company by a tenant 
unless the interruption results from bona fide repairs, 
construction, or an emergency.
	(b)  Except as provided by Subsections (c) and (d), a 
landlord may not interrupt or cause the interruption of water, 
wastewater, gas, or electric service furnished to a tenant by the 
landlord as an incident of the tenancy or by other agreement unless 
the interruption results from bona fide repairs, construction, or 
an emergency.
	(c)  A landlord may interrupt or cause the interruption of 
electrical service furnished to a tenant by the landlord as an 
incident of the tenancy or by other agreement if:
		(1)  the electrical service furnished to the tenant is 
individually metered or submetered for the dwelling unit;
		(2)  the electrical service connection with the utility 
company is in the name of the landlord or the landlord's agent;  and
		(3)  the landlord complies with the rules adopted by 
the Public Utility Commission of Texas for discontinuance of 
submetered electrical service.
	(d)  A landlord may interrupt or cause the interruption of 
electrical service furnished to a tenant by the landlord as an 
incident of the tenancy or by other agreement if:
		(1)  the electrical service furnished to the tenant is 
not individually metered or submetered for the dwelling unit;
		(2)  the electrical service connection with the utility 
company is in the name of the landlord or the landlord's agent;
		(3)  the tenant is at least seven days late in paying 
the rent;             
		(4)  the landlord has mailed or hand-delivered to the 
tenant at least five days before the date the electrical service is 
interrupted a written notice that states:
			(A)  the earliest date of the proposed 
interruption of electrical service; 
			(B)  the amount of rent the tenant must pay to 
avert the interruption;  and
			(C)  the name and location of the individual to 
whom or the location of the on-site management office where the 
delinquent rent may be paid during the landlord's normal business 
hours;
		(5)  the interruption does not begin before or after 
the landlord's normal business hours;  and
		(6)  the interruption does not begin on a day, or on a 
day immediately preceding a day, when the landlord or other 
designated individual is not available or the on-site management 
office is not open to accept rent and restore electrical service.
	(e)  A landlord who interrupts electrical service under 
Subsection (c) or (d) shall restore the service not later than two 
hours after the time the tenant tenders, during the landlord's 
normal business hours, payment of the delinquent electric bill or 
rent owed to the landlord.
	(f)  If a landlord or a landlord's agent violates this 
section, the tenant may:
		(1)  either recover possession of the premises or 
terminate the lease;  and 
		(2)  recover from the landlord an amount equal to the 
sum of the tenant's actual damages, one month's rent or $500, 
whichever is greater, reasonable attorney's fees, and court costs, 
less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is 
liable to the landlord.
	(g)  A provision of a lease that purports to waive a right or 
to exempt a party from a liability or duty under this section is 
void.
§ 92.301.  LANDLORD LIABILITY TO TENANT FOR UTILITY 
CUTOFF.  (a)  A landlord who has expressly or impliedly agreed in 
the lease to furnish and pay for water, gas, or electric service to 
the tenant's dwelling is liable to the tenant if the utility company 
has cut off utility service to the tenant's dwelling or has given 
written notice to the tenant that such utility service is about to 
be cut off because of the landlord's nonpayment of the utility bill.
	(b)  If a landlord is liable to the tenant under Subsection 
(a) of this section, the tenant may:
		(1)  pay the utility company money to reconnect or 
avert the cutoff of utilities according to this section;
		(2)  terminate the lease if the termination notice is 
in writing and move-out is to be within 30 days from the date the 
tenant has notice from the utility company of a future cutoff or 
notice of an actual cutoff, whichever is sooner;
		(3)  deduct from the tenant's rent, without necessity 
of judicial action, the amounts paid to the utility company to 
reconnect or avert a cutoff;
		(4)  if the lease is terminated by the tenant, deduct 
the tenant's security deposit from the tenant's rent without 
necessity of lawsuit or obtain a refund of the tenant's security 
deposit pursuant to law;
		(5)  if the lease is terminated by the tenant, recover a 
pro rata refund of any advance rentals paid from the date of 
termination or the date the tenant moves out, whichever is later;
		(6)  recover actual damages, including but not limited 
to moving costs, utility connection fees, storage fees, and lost 
wages from work;  and
		(7)  recover court costs and attorney's fees, excluding 
any attorney's fees for a cause of action for damages relating to a 
personal injury.
	(c)  When deducting for the tenant's payment of the 
landlord's utility bill under this section, the tenant shall submit 
to the landlord a copy of a receipt from the utility company which 
evidences the amount of payment made by the tenant to reconnect or 
avert cutoff of utilities.
	(d)  The tenant remedies under this section are effective on 
the date the tenant has notice from the utility company of a future 
cutoff or notice of an actual cutoff, whichever is sooner.  However, 
the tenant's remedies under this section shall cease if:
		(1)  the landlord provides the tenant with written 
evidence from the utility that all delinquent sums due the utility 
have been paid in full;  and
		(2)  at the time the tenant receives such evidence, the 
tenant has not yet terminated the lease or filed suit under this 
section.

Call us for assistance in all your landlord tenant dealings. We will guide you through the process, explain the documentation used, and protect your interests. While we deal with the legal issues in your case, we fully understand the pressures and anxieties that you have to deal with on a day to day basis. For this reason, we are committed to providing you with a helping hand as well as excellent legal representation.

Contact an Austin Real Estate Lawyer at the Law Office of Justin Copeland Today

At the Law Office of Justin Copeland we believe a client's representation is only as good as the relationship with his or her attorney. This relationship is best developed through open communication. For this reason, the Law Office of Justin Copeland is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Mr. Copeland personally returns all of his phone calls. Contact us today to setup a free consultation.

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