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Utility Cutoff for Landlord's Failure to Pay Utility Company If a utility company disconnects service or gives written notice that service is about to be cut off because a landlord who is supposed to furnish utilities has not paid the utility bill, then the landlord is liable to the tenant regardless of whether the unit is "all bills paid," submetered, or mastermetered. If this happens, you can terminate the lease in writing and move out within 30 days of receiving the first notice, as long as the landlord has not presented evidence that the utility bill has been paid prior to your termination. So be sure to give your notice in writing, date it, and keep a copy. If you properly terminate the lease and are planning to move, you may deduct your security deposit from your last month's rent (if you have not paid it yet) and sue for actual damages (such as moving expenses), court costs, and attorney’s fees. See "Warning." Rather than terminate the lease, you can try to avoid the cutoff by reconnecting the utility in your name and deducting the amounts paid to the utility company from your rent. If you live in an apartment complex, you may have to organize most of the tenants of the complex in order to be able to negotiate successfully with the utility company. If the landlord has failed to pay the utility bill because she is closing the premises, she may still be liable to you. See "Condemned or Closing Property."


Landlord Cannot Remove Own Property A landlord CANNOT remove doors, windows, locks, doorknobs, or any other appliance (such as a refrigerator or stove) supplied by the landlord because you are behind on the rent. If the landlord improperly removes such property, you may obtain a court order to have the property returned or terminate the lease. See "Warning." In either case, you may also recover actual damages, one month's rent plus $1,000, plus reasonable attorney's fees and court costs, less any past due rent owed by you as the tenant.

Landlord May Remove Some enant Property If you fail to pay rent, the landlord may have a lien (a right to possess until payment) on all of your "non-exempt" property found in your apartment or house, but only if this is stated in your lease. The landlord's lien gives the landlord the right to peacefully take your property and to sell it after a proper time period and notice, to satisfy the rent out- standing. The landlord can enforce a landlord’s lien without taking any formal action in court ONLY if it is spelled out in the lease, and the lease provision is underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print. The land- lord cannot sell or dispose of the property unless this is also written in the lease. However, the landlord is allowed to remove all the contents of an apartment or house, without a specific lease provision, when a tenant has abandoned the premises. There is no specific limit on the amount of non-exempt property the landlord can take. Nevertheless, if the landlord takes property (valued at market prices) worth significantly more than the rent owed, you may have a wrongful seizure suit. The landlord also cannot take property for any other charge. Government-owned or gov- ernment-subsidized housing programs generally forbid landlord's liens.


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