Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Massachusetts

Tenant moved in in Oct put the utilities in her boyfriend at the time name. He left and stopped paying. She had a high bill and could not negotiate with the utility company because the utilities were not in her name. I agreed to put the utilities in my name and she agreed to pay the payment plan of 193. I have given her a 14 day notice to quit for non payment. In the event she does not vacate can I shut off the gas and electric. I cant afford to pay for this if she does not pay rent. Is she breaking a verbal agreement.

Asked on 5/29/13, 4:36 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Alan Pransky Law Office of Alan J. Pransky

You can not shut off the utilities. If you do, you will be committing a criminal act. You have the right to sue her for the money to pay the utilities.

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Answered on 5/29/13, 6:26 am

Adam Phipps The Law Office of Adam Phipps

You are in a particularly poor position. You need an attorney fast. Here is why: If you shut off the utilities not only might you be arrested, you will face criminal charges, PLUS the tenant will automatically get 3 months rent plus attorney's fees as an award for your misconduct (called self-help). I have dealt with many landlords who would rather roll the dice without having a clue what the law is because they think the court will side with them because the tenant was morally wrong, that is just flat out wrong! Also, a landlord's ability to pay is irrelevant when it comes to providing utilities. The law says, if you CHOSE to lease an apartment to someone, you guarantee that tenant that it is a habitable apartment and fully complies with the state sanitary code.

Most attorneys charge an hourly fee for landlords with a retainer upfront and can walk you through the process with an overall cost of somewhere between 1500 and 5000 depending on how complex the eviction process with your facts are. Now, let's assume the rent is 1,000 a month and you make one mistake by say, turning off the gas/electric; you go to court, the tenant gets 3,000 plus the hourly rate of their attorney (generally anywhere from 200-450 per hour) and the attorney's fees often dwarf the judgment so conservatively figure on 3000.00 plus another 8000.00 for attorney's fees.

Get a lawyer.

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Answered on 5/29/13, 8:20 am

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