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Shutting Off Electricity

Submetered and Master-Metered Houston Rental Units
Electricity should be a priority when you are conducting a Houston apartment search. If utilities are in the rental property owner or apartment manager’s name and the resident of the Houston apartment for rent is charged for these services separately from the rent, the rental property owner or apartment manager may shut off the electric service only for the apartment resident's non-payment of the electric bill and only by following the rules adopted by the Public Utility Commission:

If the resident of the Houston apartment for rent has not paid the submetered or master-metered electric bill within 12 days of it being issued, the rental property owner or apartment manager may give the apartment resident notice stating the rental property owner or apartment manager intends to shut off the electricity if it is not paid. This notice must either be mailed or hand-delivered to the apartment resident at least five days before the shutoff and contain the words “termination notice” or similar language. The notice must contain an address where the apartment resident can go during normal business hours to make arrangements for payment of the bill and reconnection of service to their apartment. Such matters should be of utmost importance during your Houston apartment search.

Electric service cannot be disconnected on a day, or on a day immediately preceding a day, when management personnel are not available to receive payments and reconnect the service. As soon as the apartment resident pays the delinquent electric bill, and it is during the rental property owner or apartment manager's normal business hours, the rental property owner or apartment manager must restore services to their apartment within two hours.

There are three instances when a rental property owner or apartment manager is prohibited from disconnecting Submetered or master-metered electric service:

1. If the disconnection will cause an apartment resident to become seriously ill or more seriously ill. The apartment resident must have a physician or other public health official contact the rental property owner or apartment manager before the date of disconnection and provide a written statement;

2. If the rental property owner or apartment manager receives notification from an energy assistance provider promising to pay the delinquency; or

3. If the previous day's highest temperature did not exceed 32 degrees F and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours. Also, if the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for any county in the electric utility's service territory or if such an advisory has been issued on any one of the preceding two calendar days.

All Bills Paid Rental Units
In an All Bills Paid rental agreement, the rental property owner or apartment manager has the right to shut off the electricity only when the apartment resident owes rent and only by following the procedures in Section 92.008 of the Texas Rental property Code.

If the apartment resident is at least seven days late in paying the rent, the rental property owner or apartment manager may give the apartment resident a notice stating the rental property owner or apartment manager’s intention to shut off the electricity if the rent is not paid. This notice must be hand delivered or mailed at least five days before the rental property owner or apartment manager intends to shut off the electricity, and must state:

1. the earliest date the electricity may be shut off,

2. the amount of rent the apartment resident must pay to avoid the shut off, and

3. the name and location of the individual to whom or the location of the on-site management office where the delinquent rent may be paid during the rental property owner or apartment manager's normal business hours.

The shut off must not begin before or after the rental property owner or apartment manager’s normal business hours, nor begin on a day, or on a day immediately preceding a day, when the rental property owner or apartment manager or other designated individual is not available to receive the rent and restore electrical service. As soon as the apartment resident pays the delinquent rent, and it is during the rental property owner or apartment manager's normal business hours, the rental property owner or apartment manager must restore services within two hours.

Apartment Resident Pays Utility Company Directly
If the apartment resident pays the utility company directly, the rental property owner or apartment manager may never shut off any utility services for nonpayment of rent.

Apartment Resident Remedies for Illegal Shut Off
If a rental property owner or apartment manager or a rental property owner or apartment manager’s agent violates any of the rules for shutting off electrical service, the apartment resident may:

  • either recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease; and
  • recover from the rental property owner or apartment manager actual damages; the greater of one month’s rent or $500; reasonable attorney’s fees; and court costs, less any delinquent rent or other sums for which the apartment resident is liable to the rental property owner or apartment manager.


Property owner fails to Pay Utility Company in an All Bills Paid Rental Unit
If a rental property owner or apartment manager fails to pay the utility company for utility services in an All Bills Paid unit, Section 92.301 of the Texas Rental property Code addresses a apartment resident's remedies if the utilities are disconnected or notice is received from the utility company stating the utility service is about to be disconnected. The apartment resident's remedies are as follows:

1. Pay the utility company the amount owed in order to reconnect or avert the shut off;

2. Terminate the lease with a written notice within 30 days from the date the apartment resident has notice from the utility company of a future shut off, or notice of an actual shut off, whichever is sooner;

3. Deduct the amount paid to the utility company to reconnect or avert the shut off from the rent, without the necessity of judicial action;

4. If the apartment resident terminates the lease, the apartment resident can deduct the security deposit from the rent, without judicial action, or obtain a refund of the deposit;

5. If the apartment resident terminates the lease, the apartment resident can recover a pro-rated refund of any advance rental payments;

6. Recover actual damages including, but not limited to, moving costs, utility connection fees, storage fees, and lost wages; and

7. Recover court costs and attorney fees.

If the apartment resident deducts money from the rent after paying the utility bill, the apartment resident must provide a copy of a receipt from the utility company showing the amount paid to reconnect or avert the utility cut off.

NOTE: The apartment resident loses the above-mentioned remedies if, before the apartment resident terminates the lease or files suit, the rental property owner or apartment manager provides the apartment resident with written evidence from the utility company that all delinquent sums have been paid.

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