Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, an interruption in electricity service is a big deal and a major inconvenience. These days, electricity is something we simply can’t live without.
But what are your rights when it comes to electricity service? This is something everyone should be educated about, and we’re here to help with that.
In this article, we will outline the Texas laws regarding when it is and isn’t okay to disconnect residential electricity, and what you can do if it happens to you.
For the most part, it is not legal for a landlord to disconnect your electricity. There is a very small legal window for landlords to do this, and it only applies when they pay for the electricity themselves and receive repayment from their tenants.
Let’s look further into when your electricity can and cannot be turned off, and what details go into that.
A landlord may threaten to turn off utilities if a tenant is late on rent or as retaliation for some other problem, but if the electricity account is in the tenant’s name, the landlord has no legal means to do so.
Texas Property Code states that a landlord cannot turn off your electricity as a punishment or retaliation for non-payment of rent.
If tenants are behind on their rent and not willing to work with the landlord to make restitution, the only legal course of action for the landlord is to begin eviction proceedings — NOT to turn off utilities.
The exception to this code is if it is necessary to turn off the electricity due to extenuating circumstances.
For example, if your home needed work on its wiring systems, your electricity would have to be turned off until the repairs were completed.
Also, if construction were being done on your building, that could lead to the power being shut off for a while.
Finally, in the event of an emergency such as severe weather or other threats to public safety, electricity companies may decide to turn off service temporarily as a precaution.
In each of these cases, your electricity is only off for the amount of time necessary and then restored as soon as possible.
There are specific instances when a landlord may turn off the electricity of a tenant-occupied property.
As of September 2013, if the account is in the landlord’s name and is being submetered or allocated to the tenant’s property, the electricity can be turned off only in cases where the tenant has failed to pay that specific bill.
The landlord may not turn off the electricity as retribution for unpaid rent or other expenses.
In other words, if you pay your landlord directly for electricity and your rent has not been paid but your electricity bill has been paid in full, your landlord cannot turn off your electricity.
Even though the law states that landlords do have the option to turn off electricity for nonpayment of services, there are strict rules about how it will happen and what conditions must be met.
The following steps must occur before a landlord may turn off the electricity:
The date that the shut-off will occur
Where the tenant can make payment
The amount that must be paid; and
Other important details
If the tenant still doesn’t pay the electric bill after these actions occur, the landlord must deliver another notification at the same time service is interrupted outlining steps to correct the problem.
The landlord also must provide notice that they cannot evict the tenant for nonpayment of the electricity bill when service has been interrupted until two business days later.
Fortunately, there are extenuating circumstances in which landlords are not allowed to turn off electricity, even if it’s in their name and nonpayment has occurred.
Unless there is a dangerous condition or the tenants themselves have requested disconnection, the electricity cannot be turned off if the following conditions are in place.
Tenants who are going through a serious illness that requires electricity for treatment or comfort cannot legally have their electricity turned off due to nonpayment.
If you will become ill or more ill due to an interruption in electricity, you can have a …
… provide a written statement to the landlord or representative that says the interruption of electric service will present a danger to your health.
When specific extreme weather conditions are met, it is illegal to turn off your electricity.
… the electricity must be left on no matter the payment status.
There are also emergency situations, such as severe Texas winter storms, where the government may issue a moratorium on utility shutoffs.
A landlord is not allowed to interrupt electric service to a tenant who gets (or will get) energy assistance for a billing period during which the landlord receives a …
… that the assistance provider is forwarding sufficient payment to continue service.
If a landlord has ignored the statutes and turned off electricity when he or she legally should not have done so, there are ways for you to have service restored.
You may file a sworn complaint with a Justice of the Peace in the property’s precinct establishing the violation.
You must also state under oath the facts of the charges before the JP court.
If the Justice of the Peace believes the allegations made, the JP may issue a writ of restoration of the utility services without a hearing. This will be temporary pending a final hearing.
The writ is served to the:
If the landlord doesn’t request a hearing within seven days of service, the justice may hold the landlord accountable for court costs.
Either party may appeal the judgment on the complaint.
If a landlord does terminate service without cause, you are eligible for possible compensations. These include:
If there are delinquent rents or other amounts that you owe the landlord, these funds will be deducted from the recovery.
We at Gexa Energy hope you never have to deal with a landlord-tenant dispute when it comes to your energy charges.
We also want to provide you with the ability to find a low price electricity plan for your home or business that will help prevent you from getting into such a situation in the first place.
At Gexa, we let you compare and shop for electricity plans and choose the one that’s right for you. You may want to:
And best of all, our plans are 100% green!
Contact us today and find out why our customers stick with us.
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This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not act upon the information provided without first consulting with an attorney.