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Under the PUC rules for submetered or mastermetered services, an apartment landlord may not disconnect electric services if that shut-off will cause a person living at the residence to become seriously ill or more seriously ill. To show this, you must: (1) have the person’s attending physician or similar health official (including nurse practitioners or registered nurses) call or contact the landlord by the stated date of the shut-off; (2) have the physician submit a written statement to the landlord; and (3) enter into a deferred payment plan for the utilities. Also, a landlord may not shut off services in extreme weather (e.g. temperatures below 32 Fahrenheit, or during a heat advisory).

If the landlord disconnects utility services in violation of these rules, a tenant may either recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease, and the tenant also may recover actual damages, one month's rent or $500 (whichever is greater), attorney's fees, and court costs, less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord. You should also contact the PUC to report the violation by calling 1-888-782-8477 or by writing to PUC - Customer Protection, P.O. Box 13326, Austin, TX 78711-3326. The landlord may not be liable if the interruption of utilities is a result of actual repairs, construction, or an emergency; however, a reduction in the next month's rent should be requested. If the landlord is shutting off utilities because she is closing down the premises, she may still be liable to you. See "Condemned or Closing Property."

If you have questions about your landlord’s billing methods for subme- tered or mastermetered electric services, you have the right to inspect your landlord’s billing from the utility company for the current month and preceding 12 months, as well as the calculation of the average cost per billing unit (kilowatt hour) for the current month and 12 preceding months used in assessing tenant billings. If you have a dispute with your landlord about any bill, your landlord must immediately investigate your complaint and report to you her findings within 30 days. If you are dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, your landlord must inform you of the PUC complaint process and give you the address and telephone number of the PUC’s Office of Consumer Protection (1-888-782-8477; PUC - Customer Protection, P.O. Box 13326, Austin, TX 78711-3326).

3. Separate Contract with Utility Company It is unlawful under any circumstances for a landlord to interrupt a utility for which you pay the utility company directly, unless the landlord is making repairs or there is an emergency; however, a reduction in the next month's rent should be requested. If the landlord improperly interrupts such a utility service, you may terminate the lease or obtain a court order to restore the utility. In either case, you may also recover actual damages, the greater of one month's rent or $500, plus reasonable attorney's fees and court costs, less any past due rent owed by you as the tenant.


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