GeorgiaLegalAid.orgGeorgia

Water and Electric Service in Rental Property

Authored By: Georgia Legal Services Program® LSC Funded

FAQ

Can a Landlord with an Apartment Complex with Only One Water Meter Bill Tenants for Water?

Yes, the owner of a residential apartment complex may charge tenants for the water they use and water used in the common areas, as well as for the waste-water (sewer) service. The landlord may use metering equipment or use an economic allocation methodology to determine the quantity of water that is provided to each tenant. The law does require that the total amount of the charges to the tenants of such a building shall not exceed the total charges paid by the landlord for water and waste-water service for such building plus a reasonable fee for establishing, servicing, and billing. The terms of the charges should be disclosed to the tenants prior to entering the lease. The Georgia law that permits this practice is O.C.G.A. § 12-5-180.1 which read as follows:

(a) The owner or operator of a building containing residential units may install equipment or use an economic allocation methodology to determine the quantity of water that is provided to the tenants and used in the common areas of such a building; and the owner of such a building may charge tenants separately for water and waste-water service based on usage as determined through the use of such equipment or allocation methodology.

(b) The owner or operator of a building containing residential units may charge tenants separately for water and waste-water service, provided that the total amount of the charges to the tenants of such a building shall not exceed the total charges paid by the owner or operator for water and waste-water service for such building plus a reasonable fee for establishing, servicing, and billing for water and waste-water service and provided, further, that the terms of the charges are disclosed to the tenants prior to any contractual agreement.

Can the Water Company Refused to Establish Water Service for a New Tenant Because a Prior Tenant Failed to Pay the Water Bill?

No, a public or private water supplier may not refuse to supply water to any house or apartment complex, which uses a separate water meter for each unit, because of the indebtedness of a prior owner, occupant, or tenant for water service previously furnished to that property. The water supplier is to seek payment of unpaid charges first from the person who received the service. Georgia law provides at O.C.G.A. § 36-60-17 that:

(a) No public or private water supplier shall refuse to supply water to any single or multifamily residential property to which water has been furnished through the use of a separate water meter for each residential unit on application of the owner or new resident tenant of the premises because of the indebtedness of a prior owner, prior occupant, or prior lessee to the water supplier for water previously furnished to such premises.

(b) For each new or current account to supply water to any premises or property, the public or private water supplier shall maintain a record of identifying information on the user of the water service and shall seek reimbursement of unpaid charges for water service furnished initially from the person who incurred the charges.

(c) A public or private water supplier shall not impose a lien against real property to secure unpaid charges for water furnished unless the owner of such real property is the person who incurred the charges.

(d) A public or private supplier of gas, sewerage service, or electricity shall not impose a lien against real property to secure unpaid charges for gas, sewerage service, or electricity unless the owner of such real property is the person who incurred the charges.
 

Can a Landlord Disconnect a Tenants Utilities in an Effort to Force the Tenant to Move?

No, it is unlawful for any landlord to knowingly and willfully disconnect the heat, light, or water service to a tenant until after the final decision in a dispossessory proceeding brought against such tenant. A landlord who improperly interferes with a tenant's utility service can be fine up to $500. It is unclear whether this fine is criminal or civil in nature. Some courts will award the tenant the $500 and other courts will order payment of the fine into the court registry. It is unclear whether there has ever been a criminal prosecution for the disconnection of utilities or whether such would be warranted under the statute. Georgia law at O.C.G.A. §§ 44-7-14.1 provides:

(a) As used in this Code section, the term "utilities" means heat, light, and water service.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any landlord knowingly and willfully to suspend the furnishing of utilities to a tenant until after the final disposition of any dispossessory proceeding by the landlord against such tenant.

(c) Any person who violates subsection (b) of this Code section shall, upon conviction, be assessed a fine not to exceed $500.00.

Susan Reif
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: December 2003

 

Last Review and Update: Jun 14, 2002