Utilities during a turnover–what if there’s a gap?

Or, what happens if the tenants conveniently “forget” to set up the gas bill in their name? This happened to me during my last turnover. My new tenants, previously apartment dwellers who were only responsible for an electric bill, set up the electric bill in their names, but not the gas bill. Of course, I had told them that they were responsible for both gas and electric bills (which aren’t provided by the same company in my area), and it was stated on the lease as well. However, assuming that everyone was set up properly, I had no idea that they hadn’t set up the gas bill in their name until the first bill came. To me…. I’m listed as the owner of the property, so when a tenant terminates their service (when moving out), the bill defaults to me unless someone else sets up service in their name. It was confusing at first, because I initially received a bill for only a few days, right around the first of the month. I assumed that the old tenants (who moved out early), simply terminated service on the 27th, and then the new tenants started up on the 1st. So, I paid the bill, which was only about $3. Not worth hassling the tenant over. However, the next month, I received a bill for an entire month… which made me realize that the new tenants hadn’t set up service yet. I initially thought to pay it and then collect the money from my tenants to cover it (since it was in my name… I didn’t want any late payments associated with my name). However, I made a call to the gas company, and, as a landlord, had the ability to move the account over to their name(s) as of the day that I called. The tenants themselves would have to call to get service in their name retroactivly, from the date that they moved in. By not paying the bill that was sent to me, that amount carried over to their billing statement after they switched service over.

Of course, my new tenants weren’t trying to pull anything, they had simply forgotten to make the call. I brought them the bill that came to me, explained the situation, and they promptly called the gas company. At least, I assume that that’s what happened, since I haven’t received any more bills…

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