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Renters, you do have rights and you can cut your utility bills!
READ YOUR LEASE CAREFULLY
Clarify anything that you don’t understand with your property manager. A few utility-related questions to consider while reviewing the lease:
- Which utilities are you responsible for paying? Depending on the lease, your utility responsibilities may include electric, gas, water, sewer, internet or Wi-Fi, cable, trash or recycling. Will you pay the landlord or the utility for service? If you’re paying the landlord, will utilities be wrapped into the rent payment, or is it a separate payment? How will the amount you owe be determined? Some landlords use third-party billing services to charge their tenants for utilities. These services are not regulated the same way as the regular utility companies are, and often provide no information on why your bill is a certain amount.
- Will you be charged for utility usage in common areas? Renters are sometimes inappropriately charged for utility costs connected to the laundry room or hallway lights. Per Illinois’ landlord-tenant law, if your landlord intends to charge you for energy use in common areas, they have to take several steps, including notifying you in writing what areas of the building are served by your meter. If you see a line about community utilities on your lease, ask your landlord to clarify before signing anything.
- If you are responsible for setting up utility service at your new unit, ask your property manager what companies service the unit. Some services, like gas, electric and water, are determined by the utility’s geographical territory. For example, if you live in northern Illinois, your electric service provider is likely Commonwealth Edison, or ComEd. If you live in Southern Illinois, Ameren likely provides electricity to your unit. For other services, like internet and cable, you may have a few options depending on your location. However, ask your landlord about their preferred provider. For example, your unit may already be wired for cable service through Comcast. That doesn’t mean you have to choose Comcast for your cable service, but it might be the easiest option.
WHAT YOUR LANDLORD CAN’T DO
Your building owner cannot:
- Ask the utility to shut off service — or not pay the bill in an effort to disconnect your service.
- Cut off service by tampering with equipment or lines.
- Disconnect your utility service if you are late paying your rent; this is called an illegal lockout.
- Make you pay for service to other tenants’ units or outside your unit. (More detail on this page.)
Source: Illinois Legal Aid Online