Should I turn on the power in my name for a new tenant moving in? Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals.

Dear Landlord Hank,

I have a new tenant moving in on Saturday and coming here from out of state.

The tenant is saying that with the move, all the driving, etc., they haven’t had time to contact the power company to open a new account in their own name.

They asked if I could keep the power on until next week. They said they would open a new account and pay me for power used.

This seems understandable. What do you think?

Dear Landlord Bill,

I know you’d like to be a nice guy here and help out a struggling new tenant. But, this is a big red flag.

Your lease should require the tenant to initiate a new account for electricity, in their own name. It should require this at the beginning with the first day of the lease, and require that power be on during the entire tenancy.

In many states, once the tenant moves in and the power is on, you as the landlord can’t just turn it off because the tenant hasn’t gotten around to opening up their own account or any other reason.

If this went to court the tenant could say you had a verbal agreement to supply power, etc.

Make sure power is off prior to the tenant moving in, or the lease start date. Sometimes these are two different dates. Or, make sure the account is active and NOT in your name.

I’d think in this case the tenant would have loads of time to contact the power company while driving or at least being in the vehicle.

I don’t know any power companies that don’t start service easily and often with just a phone call. That is, unless applicant has poor credit, then normally a deposit is required up front.

Don’t get suckered in here. Be firm and insist that tenant abide by the lease and have power on in their name at start of lease.

No legal advice intended.

About the author Landlord Hank:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.

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