Landlord Responsibilities Power Outage
When you have a power outage at home, it can be a frustrating experience. This is true for tenants and landlords, and both sides usually want the problem resolved as quickly as possible.
When a power outage happens at your rented property, it is essential to know your responsibilities (and your landlord’s). This comprehensive guide will educate you on precisely what your landlord is responsible for in the event of a power outage and how to ensure your rights are met.
Understanding the Cause of a Power Outage
The first thing to do is get a clear understanding of the cause of the power outage because this will steer your course of action to resolving the issue.
There are several reasons your power can be out. Still, the most common are supply issues from the utility company, localized problems with the building’s electrical system or non-payment of bills from the tenant.
Utility company issues
When the utility company is to blame for a power outage, it can occur because of equipment failure, scheduled maintenance to the local supply or extreme weather conditions causing damage to the supply network.
When any of these reasons are to blame for your power outage, the responsibility lies with the utility company, not your landlord. Your landlord may have little influence or control over the situation.
Property Electrical System Issues
If there is an issue with your property’s electrical system, this can cause an outage, and this is an issue that does lie with your landlord. Many things could go wrong with a property to force the electrics to break or cut off, but some common reasons include faulty wiring, damaged panels or overloaded circuits. All of these must be investigated by a qualified electrician and expensed by your landlord.
Of course, there is always the possibility of a tenant not paying their bills and eventually being cut off by the utility company. This isn’t something that a landlord is responsible for sorting, as it’s a financial contract between you as the tenant and the electricity company as a supplier.
Landlord’s Responsibility to Communicate in Power Outage
When a power outage happens, open and honest communication is vital between all parties. If a landlord is responsible for rectifying the issue, they should always keep tenants informed about the situation. This includes the cause, resolution process, and timescales for the problem to be resolved.
Encouraging Tenant Inquiries
A good landlord should encourage the tenant to be open and feel comfortable making inquiries. This is true of any situation and not just a power interruption. They have a responsibility to service you and respond promptly and politely.
Providing Regular Updates
As things progress with a solution to your power restoration, your landlord should stay in touch and provide regular updates. This can be as simple as a text message, an email or, alternatively, by phone. The important part is that you should receive updates from them and not have to chase for a progress report.
Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs in Power Outage
As mentioned briefly above, if the power outage is due to any damage to the property (either through disrepair or accidental weather damage), your landlord is responsible for the fixes and costs.
This will typically be through a licenced electrician. The landlord can carry out certain simple work themselves, but it is only small, simple fixes they are allowed to undertake.
As a paying tenant, you expect to have your power restored as soon as possible, as the property will not be deemed habitable without it. Within a day, any foods stored in your fridge and freezer will begin to perish, so power must be restored within hours where possible.
There are other safety hazards of not having power, such as no lighting at night and trip hazards.
While waiting for your landlord to repair the issue, it might be a good idea to get yourself a generator so you can still power the main appliances in your apartment.
Ensuring Quality Repairs
Most local regulations require that a licenced professional carry out any complex electrical work. Your landlord can change a socket or a cracked light switch, but any wiring work or similar will need to be undertaken by an insured contractor.
Ensure your landlord can provide certificates and paperwork for the electrical repairs, so you know you’re safe.
Providing Alternate Accommodation
If the power is going to be out for an extended period of time, a landlord has a responsibility to provide safe and habitable accommodation for their tenants. As you will have limited heating, cooking, washing and food storage facilities, the time frame for providing alternative housing is relatively short.
There isn’t a universally accepted time-frame for a landlord to provide alternative accommodation. However, yοu can check your lease to see if this is covered and if there are any terms and conditions around responsibilities for providing alternative accommodation for a power or utility outage.
Temporary housing could be anything from a hotel room paid for by your landlord to another vacant property that they have under their management. Short-term rentals are also an option if your house will be uninhabitable for more than a couple of days while the repair work is carried out to restore power safely.
The choice of temporary housing is likely at the landlord’s discretion, and you can’t choose the hotel, or short-term let yourself. It has to be of an acceptable, safe and clean standard for your needs.
Rent Abatement or Reduction
You may also be entitled to a rent reduction or abatement due to the situation, this could be where your home is still habitable, but living conditions are compromised. Unless specifically stated in your contract, this is likely to come down to the point of negotiation between you and your landlord.
Handling Utility Company Issues
Should the issue be a problem with the utility company that isn’t rectified in a short period of time the landlord will have to intervene. If it is a temporary outage caused by an unexpected storm or works then the landlord won’t have much time to react. However, should it be an ongoing issue, it becomes the landlord’s problem, as the property they are renting to you has become uninhabitable.
Reporting the Issue
Once it becomes clear that this is more than a temporary short-term issue (a period of hours to a day) your landlord should report the matter to the utility company for you and act as a liaison to fix the problem.
Advocating for Tenants
If the fix isn’t routine or becomes more complex, the landlord should act as an advocate for their tenants to the power company. This could involve escalating the issue to their customer service department, raising it with upper management, getting external assistance from local regulators, or even an independent attorney.
Addressing Non-Payment Issues
If you, as a tenant, have not paid your utility bills and the supply is cut off as a result, then your landlord has a legal responsibility to follow a set of procedures. This could include providing notice for the tenant to move out, bringing in outside help to mediate the issue, or even supplying a notice of eviction.
It would be best if you remembered that as a tenant, you are contractually obliged to pay your utility bills to keep the property in a good and habitable condition.
In situations where the utility contract is indirect (to the landlord and not the power company), the landlord must provide notice of non-payment in the first instance. They should also clearly provide timescales and consequences to the tenant regarding when to pay and what will happen in the event of non-payment. This notice should comply with all local regulations and laws and cannot make unreasonable demands.
Mediation and Resolution
If direct communication is not working well to resolve the issue, tenants and landlords may bring in 3rd party help in the form of legal mediation to resolve the issue. This is also true when the landlord needs to appropriately carry out repairs to give safe and reliable electricity to a property.
If providing notice and undergoing mediation cannot resolve the issue of non-payment, then your landlord may be within their rights to serve a notice of eviction. The legalities of an eviction notice change by local jurisdiction, so it is advised that you get a qualified local attorney to help you if you are faced with this.
You should now know the facts about what you and your landlord are responsible for in the event of a power outage. Remember that it is your landlord’s responsibilities in a power outage is to provide safe, habitable and fair-value housing for your rent – and this definitely includes a reliable electricity connection.
On the other hand, you as a tenant have the responsibility of paying your bills, and reporting any issues to your landlord in good time to not cause further damage to the property.
Most disputes can be solved with open and reasonable communication, but if things are not resolved promptly, here’s some ways to get revenge on your landlord