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The first year I lived in Florida, I was amused by the temperatures that Floridians considered “cold” in winter. But I wasn’t laughing when I got my first January electric bill and discovered just how much it costs to heat a Florida home in the winter. More recently, a leak in the pump of our in-ground pool left me with a water bill three times the normal amount. While that bill put a dent in our budget, I was fortunate that I was able to handle it. But I know that’s not always easy if you’re on limited income, or on a fixed income due to retirement or disability.

What happens if you run into problems with a utility bill? What are your rights?

To get answers to some of the most common problems facing customers, I spent time talking with Charlie Harak, managing attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.  He’s also the coauthor of The National Consumer Law Center Guide to The Right of Utility Consumers.

Harak says the first thing to understand is that most consumer protections apply only to gas and electric services. “Water is usually provided by a government provider (municipal and rural electric co-op) which is far less regulated,” he said. Similarly, propane or heating oil that is delivered is typically not regulated.  Furthermore, he says there are no federal laws that specifically address the rights of utility customers. Those rights fall under state laws.

As the NCLC guide explains, gas and electric service is typically regulated by state Public Utility Commissions (PUCs). Services may be provided by Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), government-owned entities (munis), or rural electric cooperatives (co-ops). Among the three, IOUs are often the most highly regulated.

With that background in mind, here are five common utility bill problems, and what you can do about them.

Isn’t there a statute of limitations for very old utility bill debts?

Yes, the statute of limitations may prevent a utility company, or debt collector who purchased one of these old debts, from successfully suing you to collect. That time period is based on state law, and will typically be “the same as the statute of limitations for contract actions,” says Harak. However, it’s not a good idea to ignore calls or letters about an old debt. If the company or collector takes you to court and you don’t show up to raise the statute of limitations as a defense, they may get a default judgment against you. (You can check your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com for judgments or collection accounts resulting from utility bills, and you can see how those may be affecting your credit scores every month for free on Credit.com.)

Third-party debt collectors who collect consumer debts (including utility bills) are regulated under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Anytime a debt collector contacts you about a debt you have the right to receive a debt collection notice by mail (if they called you first), and then to request written validation of that debt. That gives you time to research the debt to figure out whether you owe it and what you can do about it.

If you confirm the debt is outside the statute of limitations, you can write the debt collector explaining that you know the debt is too old, and ask them not to contact you again. (The FDCPA applies only to outside collection agencies, not to companies collecting their own debts.)

At the same time, you may not be able to get service again if you have an outstanding unpaid bill. If you continue to live in that utility company’s service area, you may need to find a way to pay the bill to avoid future problems.

Do I have to pay an old bill for a new address if I am just moving in?

“That would almost always be illegal,” says Harak. “The only exceptions would be if that person was related to you by blood or was a roommate.” But if the bill belonged to someone you didn’t know, you likely would not be required to pay it in order to get service.

What if the bill was from your parents or a former roommate who skipped out on the bill? Ask the utility company for a payment plan. In most states, they would be required to provide you with a way to catch up on the old bill. You may also have to put up a deposit in order to get service again.

What if someone else used my name to get utility service and didn’t pay the bill?

If you gave someone your permission to use your name to get service, the bill is yours and you’ll have to find a way to catch up. If they used your information without your knowledge or consent, however, that’s identity theft. The question is whether you are willing to report it. If you aren’t, the utility or collection agency may continue to try to collect from you.

The steps you’ll have to take to claim identity fraud vary by state.  In Massachusetts, for example, where Harak practices, “the utility companies will let you off the hook if you will name the person, if you will file a police report, or if you’ll go to court and sue that person.”  In other states, he says, you may have to take other steps to try to clear up the false debt—and that is not always an easy process.

Using someone else’s information to get service can also backfire on the person who received service under someone else’s name. “You tend to lose your rights as a customer because you’re not getting service under your name,” he says. If you qualify for some type of assistance, for example, you can’t ask for that help in the other person’s name.

My bill was way up and I can’t afford it. Can I stop them from disconnecting service?

Request a payment plan. These are available in almost every state, and it’s usually very easy to get a payment plan if you have one unusually high bill. “It’s one of the easier problems to solve,” Harak says. If your gas or electric company won’t work with you, he recommends appealing to your PUC.

He does caution that payment plans are better in some states than others. In some, they can’t be fewer than a specific number of months, while in others they can’t be longer than a specific period of time.

Make sure you only agree to a payment plan you can afford. As the NCLC guide points out, in some states you may not get the same advance notice of termination if you fall behind on a payment plan.

Ask about budget billing or “levelized” payments. Those plans allow you to pay a similar amount each month, adjusted periodically depending on your use. I switched to a budget plan with my electric plan after our first winter in our home, and since then my bills have been roughly the same each month, even in the coldest and hottest months.

I am disabled or unemployed and can’t afford it. Can I stop them from terminating my service?

Some twenty states offer protections against service termination if you are ill or have a very low income.  Many states offer protections to certain groups of customers during winter months. In those states, service can’t be shut off or you may be allowed to pay a smaller amount to avoid cut-off during certain months of the year or when the temperature falls below a certain number. (Only a few states offer protections during hot weather.) For example, Illinois residents are protected as follows:

Termination of gas and electric utility service is prohibited: on any day when the National Weather Service forecast for the following 24 hours covering the area of utility in which the residence is located included a forecast that the temperature will be 32° Fahrenheit or below and no electric or gas public utility shall disconnect service during the period of time from December 1 through and including March 31 of the immediately succeeding calendar year unless the utility has offered a deferred payment plan and informed the customer of specific agencies and funds available to them for payment assistance. Source: The Rights of Utility Consumers, page 63.

Lose your job, though, and you may have trouble keeping the electric or gas on. “Protections never hinge on the fact that you are unemployed, other than the fact that you may meet low-income qualifications,” warns Harak. If you do qualify, however, low income discount rates may be available. Contact your utility company and your state utility commission for more information.

There may also be specific protections available if someone living in your home has a serious illness that could be threatened by a shut off; if a young child or elderly; or is disabled.

In Arizona, for example, service can’t be terminated for nonpayment if doing so would threaten the well-being of an occupant of the residence due to medical condition, illness, each, disability or weather. Those customers must be provided with information about assistance and/or required to enter into a payment plan to avoid termination.

In some states, you’ll need to provide documentation from your physician stating that service termination would put your health at serious risk in order to qualify for protection.

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  • Marde Johnson

    My husband and I are getting a divorce, I’m moving out and the bill is in my name and he is staying, will the electric company give him any problems when he tries to put it in his name?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      I believe most utility companies will facilitate this request, but you may want to contact the utility company directly for confirmation and/or discuss your best recourse with your divorce attorney to preclude any problems down the road.



  • Jeanine Skowronski

    You may want to consult a consumer attorney about your claim. Some do offer free consults.



  • Jeanine Skowronski

    We’re sorry to hear about your current situation. The laws regarding how utility companies must provide service can vary by state. You can call your state’s Public Service department to learn what your recourse may be. Also, I’m not aware of utility companies requiring Social Security numbers to verify payment. You may want to take steps to verify that the follow-up phone call was legitimate (it could have been, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check). More info here:



    Thank you,




  • LenaS

    Question: what if my meter was switched with someone else meter and when my housing commission asked for their electricity to be turned off they ended up turning mine off now my housing commission is telling me that I will have to pay back from when I first moved in a year ago is that legal? If so what steps should I take I never heard this before

  • Marcia

    I had a roommate that moved out and left a 2000 dollar light bill that I absolutely can’t pay . Now I an disconnected and don’t know what to do.. The light company will not let me put it in my own name until hers is paid HELP

  • Jeanine Skowronski

    If your bill is outstanding, they may be able to rescind service. You can call them and try to negotiate a payment plan. There are some tips here:


    Thank you,


  • Jeanine Skowronski

    You may want to consult a consumer attorney in your state about your claim.



  • Salem

    I purchased condo from someone and i moved to the condo the electric company says I have to pay for the previous owners bills. what can I do?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      From above: “‘That would almost always be illegal,’ says Harak. ‘The only exceptions would be if that person was related to you by blood or was a roommate.’ But if the bill belonged to someone you didn’t know, you likely would not be required to pay it in order to get service.”

  • MargaretEDavis

    Can a utility company hold a person responsible for a bill that is twelve years old.

  • James Clare

    My Mom Gave My Stepson Permission to use Her Name to get His Electric turned on at his Resident 2 years Prior to Her Passing away, My Sister Moved Into Mom’s House after Her Passing and The Electric Company and My Sister agreed to just Leave the Electric in Mom’s Name, Then My Sister Moved Out and Left with owing about 2 Months of Electric. So Now the Electric Company is Trying to go after My Stepson for the Bill Owed, Can they do that. My Sister left without a Forwarding address, so what can we do about this ?

  • Ellie

    My ex husband was to pay the electric bill upon our divorce a year ago. The electric bill is only in his name. Now the electric company is saying I have to pay his bill in full and assume the debt and put the electric in my name or have it turned off. Why can’t I get it put in my name and they go after my ex husband for the debt owed?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      If your name was not on the account, you shouldn’t be held liable for the debt. You may want to consult a consumer attorney about a claim. Some do offer free consultations.

      Thank you,


  • Peace

    You really should know your rights. Read up about the Public Utility Commission in your state as well as the consumer protection agency. The PUC can be very helpful in utility disputes.

  • Lyssa C

    Question: I am from California. I’m 21 years old. I just recently got my own apartment I went to start new services with pg & e and they said I had a remaining balanced that was transferred FROM MY Fathers NAME TO MINE when he closed his account. (When they transferred this bill I was 16 years old) isn’t that illegal? And what should I do they seem not to work with me at all. I gave them his address but he is not renting he is living with my grandparents. But it’s not fair why do I have to get stuck with a 6,000 bill can’t even open up services for you first home. Please tell me what I can do. They say I am responsible for this bill. But the point is I was 16 years old when it went to my name (with out me knowing till 5 years later). Since when can collection agencies stick your kids with bills. How am I suppose to open service with my kids in my own home now. Any advice is helpful I’m seriously depressed and stressed over this because I just got the call I was approved for my own I then call to start service and bam! I’m hit with this. HELP!

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Lyssa,

      You may want to consult a consumer attorney about what your best legal recourse is.



  • Randie

    My step further turned the power on in my name when he and my mother got deviorce and I j St move back to the area I was never notified that there was a bill until I called to have new service turned on in my name I have got papers sayen I wasn’t living there and have filed a police report. So what’s going to happen are the going to stick me with the bill anyway cause I’m low income and live on HUD right now idk what to do

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      If you are suggesting your stepfather fraudulently used your personal data to get power, you may want to contact a lawyer. (And there are legal aid societies that may be able to help.)

  • cheryl

    I don’t know if this is the correct place are not but our trailer park is on one water line. I have been living hear for a year now, Water included. The land lord is now telling every one the water bill is to much and we will have to pay extra. He said he allowes 45 per trailer and anything over that will be split up and divided so every one has to pay 19.33 extra this month. We are being charged for other peoples water can he do this and if not what can i do about it

  • Joseph Clark

    My husband and I purchased a home two years ago and he set up the electric service in his name. Now we are separated and have sole occupancy of the home. In order to put my name on the service, I had to cancel his account and open one for me even though I was the one paying the bills for the last 2 years. I had to put down an additional deposit and they just sent a reimbursement check to the house, but it’s in my husband’s name. Do I have any recourse?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      That would be a good question for your lawyer or mediator.

  • Kiote

    Hello, I recently found out via a credit report that I have a very large bill from Wisconsin Electric that has since gone to a collection agency. While it is still unsure to the details, signs lead to a family member using my identity to get the utility as they were the ones living at the address. Of course I would prefer not to send this family member to jail over this and was wondering if it is at all entirely possible that speaking to the utility company to see if they could get the past due bill put in the family members name to have them deal with it? If this is possible, does it get removed from my record as it has went to judgement now over 6 years ago.
    As for the collection itself, I have never once received any sort of phone call or any sort of contact from any party of this bill, neither agency nor utility company. I have lived at the same address for my entire life. There really is nothing aside from the family member connecting me to the address at which the utility was at. Is there anything that I can do as the utility company did nothing to verify the information was accurate in order to get the service?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      You can call and ask. It is a messy situation. But using a family member’s personal data is more common than you might think, and it is a crime. You can read more here: When Your Identity Thief Is… Mom

  • Megan Young Mason

    I recently moved back to an area in Florida where i resided over 14 years ago. The electric company here(FPL) just sent me a bill to my new address stating that I owed them for a past due bill from 13 years ago. This bill arrived after my service was already connected where I was told at that time that all I needed to pay was a $170 deposit which would be billed on my first bill. They claim that if I do not pay the old debt of $560 immediately that it would added to my next current bill. Can they really do this?

  • brittnee blackwell

    i live in sc, i am moving into a new place the power company said i owe a bill from last year and it is outrageous!!! i am for certain i did not owe then anything if i did it wasnt very much and the deposit i paid should have taken care of it,. they are saying i owe 600 on top of the 300 deposite they already put towards it. there is no way because here they dont give payment plans so if that was the case that means i wouldnt have paid a bill at all for 4 months….what can i do i dont know how to proove i dont owe them and i need to get power on i have 2 children.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You need to find out who the regulatory agency is for this power company and contact them to see if they can assist with your complaint. it’s probably the Public Utility Commission of South Carolina. Their website is here: http://www.psc.sc.gov/

  • R

    Has anyone ever heard of the Gas Company FCG pulling the meter off the house before,They took mine over a year ago Last winter I ended up in the Hospital over a week with pnu/flu.Because of the house being cold.I am on Disability also.I called them they told me they don’t handle that department and gave me another number to call.I got the run around.As far as I know my bill was paid up to date with a zero bal.I have lived her for 11 years and my gas was turned off one time because I was behind trying to get caught up. Any subjections

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Do you mean SCG Gas? I can’t find an FCG Gas. If it’s SCG then I recommend you contact the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority http://www.ct.gov/pura/ as it appears they regulate SCG.

  • Katrina UniqueSoul Nicole

    I sold my home In North Little Rock, AR and move to an apartment In Little Rock, AR and there was a miscommunication on the disconnection of service with the apartment complex, but the people that bought the home lived under my name until the service was shut off then had it re-connected under their name… This happened in 2007, I disputed the bill then and though everything was resolved, but when I decided to move back to North Little Rock about a month ago they bring the bill up again and say I owe them when I didn’t even live at the residence. The made me pay $150 of that 8 year old bill before I could get service connected. I filed a complaint with the Attorney General Office of Consumer protection of Arkansas and if nothing is done I plan to sue the Electric company and the people that stole electricity under my name

  • Vanessa

    My apartment complex combines my water bill with my rent however these past 2 months my water bill has been higher then normal they were fixing some pipes in those 2 months aswell so they disconnected our water from 9-6 to fix the issue and I’m always working so there is no reason why my bill is this high. What can I do I called the leasing office and they said they use the meters for every building and split the costs it’s driving me crazy I feel like I’m being robbed.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      These situations can be very tricky and whether you have rights to dispute this bill depends on regulations in your jurisdiction. You can try to find out who regulates this utility (the water provider) that is used and find out if there is some type of consumer protection office you can appeal to. Another option would be to contact your local elected official — your city councilperson for example — and ask them for help. Some have staff members who assist constituents with problems. Other than that, I am at a loss in terms of what to tell you, other than to try to move when your lease is up.

  • Omar Gonzalez

    I payed the utility bill and was to pay ecectric bill can the refund my money

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have you asked them to do so?

  • Dena

    I moved out of Ohio 10 years ago. I apparently owe 400$. I’m back in Ohio and wondering if I have to pay all of this bill or any to have my electric turned on. I’m also disabled.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Most utilities will require you to pay any outstanding bill before they will hook up service. You can check with your state regulatory agency (usually a public utility) to see whether there are any programs available since you are disabled.

  • Ms. Wendy Lee

    What do you do when a person moves in with you because of financial problems and a utility company finds out that person resides with you; and the electric company puts the delinquent bill in your (head of household ) name? Who doesn’t know there is an outstanding debt until it is billed to them as a previous balance?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s a really interesting question – will email you.

  • Nikki Carlos

    I signed a lease to begin living at a new rental location and had NT electric account switched to the new address. On the day I was due to move my items in, the old tenants were still physically living there and other lyrics began moving their stuff out after we know Jed on the door and got out the key. Am I eligible for a credit since the old tenants were using my electric before I moved in?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t quite understand your question but how much time are you talking about? A day? If so, it’s probably not worth pursuing. If it’s more than that, you’ll have to check with the utility company.

  • Sandy Briscoe

    Hi. I was helping some people out and think they are moving out. I rented a house and a apartment, my landlord said I can do whatever I want with the apartment and so I fixed it up with my own money and rented it out. I turned the bills on so that I can rent it to this guy all bills paid. He moved out and we let a family move in and told them that they had to get the bills in their name and even added it to the lease, its been 3 months and they are always coming up with a reason they cant get them in their name. They always pay on time and everything but the past month they didn’t pay the bills and now they haven’t paid the rent and I believe they are skipping out on us. What can we do to get them to pay the bills? We didn’t make them pay a deposit, they have broke windows and trashed the place. What can I do about all of it?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s the downside of being a landlord. You can take them to court, but even if you get a judgment against them there is no guarantee you’ll ever see a dime. But if you do want to pursue it, you’ll want to investigate state landlord tenant laws and perhaps even talk with an attorney.

  • Justin Peplinski

    So our landlord stole our rent money while fixing the av we had no proof it was him and so we were forced to move out bc the 700 dollars was not replaceable we moved out and call the get the service shut off and someone the email got lost or whatever and the service continued he’s living there now and I was supposed to get my deposit back I have proof through another bill we moved out and they want to charge me 96 dollars out of my deposit for power he used?! Help!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Justin – Unfortunately it sounds like a complicated situation and I don’t know of a straightforward answer. Generally, when it comes to these kinds of disputes I recommend you find out which agency regulates that utility and contact them. I’m not sure what kind of utility you are talking about, but if it’s electric it’s often a public utility commission or if it’s water it may be a municipality…

  • Linda Plouffe

    They shut my water off 5mths ago and yhey wony turn it on even aftrr I told them I had Sergey and I also have a child. What could I do

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Linda – Have you tried to find out which regulatory agency regulates this utility (your municipality, for example?) You can then reach out to them. If you aren’t sure, try calling your local elected official — your city councilman or councilwoman, for example. They often have staff members who can help constituents find this kind of information.

  • snow0425

    Hi, I was married the utility bill of fpl was under my husband name, 3 years later fpl send me a bill stating that because i live on the property i am responsible of the bill and it don’t matter if the bill is under my ex husband name. I said to the lady that in that case my mother in law, the kids and every person that reside in the house is responsible for the payment.
    any advised please. for that reason my credit history with fpl is ruine

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Will you call the Florida Public Service Commission and see what they say? We would be interested in their response: 1-800-342-3552. What part of Florida are you in?

  • Bre

    **Crossing my fingers hoping someone is still monitoring this thread**
    I could really use some advice, thanks in advance if you can help me.
    My husband walked out on our (4) kids & I last week. All the utility bills are in his name.. I got a letter today (well, he did) from our electric company that is a 10 day shut-off notice. The letter says I have to come up with 12k by 9/4 or my electric will be shut-off. Before he left he claimed the bills were all paid up to date (obviously not true). I don’t know what to do. I am on disability & there is no way I will be able to pay this. I plan to call the PUC – but I don’t even see how I can afford a payment plan on this amount. (I’m in Pa if it makes any difference). At this point I’m thinking it may be cheaper to just move, not that I want to. Any ideas?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Bre —
      Sorry to hear you are going through all this. Utilities are often handled on a state or local level, and some have assistance programs. You might try to find out how yours is regulated and try to contact the agency in charge. However, the bigger picture is trying to provide for your family. You may want to reach out to your local legal aid society for help. And you may want to check into local resources for emergency help during this transition.

  • James c

    I get Ssi and ssdi in ohio I have a previus balance for both gas and electric n looking to move they want me to pay it all off before they turn on service do they have to since I’m on Ssi without balance being paid

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You’ll need to talk with the regulatory agency for that utility in your state. There is no federal protection that would apply, that I am aware of, so it will depend on state laws and regulations.

  • Matt Hill

    My roommate skipped out on the bills and lease. The utility company will not put the electric in my name until the debt is paid. He owed like two months back. The utilities were in his name only, but we are both on the lease. What can I do?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      What an incredibly frustrating situation!

      Can you afford to bring the utility accounts current? Otherwise, you’ll have to find out who regulates utilities in your locality (there are not federal rules regulating them) to see what your rights might be. And you may be at risk of having the power cut off in the meantime.

      • Matthew Hill

        I called another utility company, FPL one I’ve used in the past and a very large company with good customer service. I told them my situation, and assumed I got an honest response because they don’t offer service in my area. The person I spoke with told me that if my name is connected with the house in any way (used the address, called from the house phone, etc.) I could be held responsible for the power bill. They can’t put it on my credit report, but if the power is cut due to lack of payment, another account can’t be opened by anyone associated with the address. Even the home owner would have to pay the bill and then take the tenant to court to be reimbursed. The only option I have is to pay the bill and take my roommate to court and sue him for the payments.

  • Carlos Youknowme

    I bought my house a year and a half ago. Fourteen months after we moved in, I received the first communication from the city regarding a sewer bill – 14 months worth. 7 bi-monthly bills that because of their admitted billing error didn’t come out (the envelope contained seven bills in one!) and it was an issue affecting more than just me. Lots of customers apparently didn’t get a bill. I was never aware, though, that was a bill I should be looking for or saving to pay later. So another notice comes apologizing for the error and says you’ll start to receive a normal bill soon, please pay it. A few weeks later, another past due notice to the tune of $500, and still no current charge summary. Do I have any rights to dispute the charges? Are utilities allowed to collect debts that they never sent a bill for when they were due? And if so, what’s the limitation? Can anyone claim a right over something I use and retroactively demand a payment infinitely into the past?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Are you saying they are trying to bill you for sewer services incurred before you bought your home? Sorry it’s a little difficult to follow the scenario you are describing.

      • Carlos Youknowme

        I apologize for being unclear. No. The bills were incurred during my ownership of the property. My complaint is that all my other utilities have provided me with some sort of agreement, a service, a contract, a bill etc. The sewer bill (which never occurred to me was something unto itself) came as a shock. Not a communication of any sort for over a year and then suddenly a past due notice for a service I never was made aware of. I don’t think that’s fair. If my water or electric or gas was not working I know who to call, because we have an agreement. It seems wrong that some company can hold all the cars on something like this and not at the very least be held responsible to send a bill or a notice of some kind to customers if they have some sort of billing error – which they apparently had and affected many more than just myself. I just was the unlucky soul who bought a house while they were in the middle of it so I never realized a bill was missing.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          That does sound like a mess. Unfortunately consumer protections here are often lacking. You’ll have to find out who regulates that provider and find out if there are any consumer protections. If not, perhaps a local consumer media outlet may help by bringing attention to your plight–no doubt others were affected. I wish I could be of more help but it really varies by state/locale.

  • Tammy Marie-chapman Newton

    started cable phone and internet service in February and was promised a visa card and for my bill to be at a certain amount. unfortunately I have been charged over every month and also have not received the visa card. Is there a number that I can call to turn in the company for stealing from me?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Most utilities are governed by state or local authorities. Your best bet may be to contact your state attorney general’s office and ask for advice.

  • tammy

    I started cable phone and internet service in February and was promised a visa card and for my bill to be at a certain amount. unfortunately I have been charged over every month and also have not received the visa card. Is there a number that I can call to turn in the company for stealing from me?

  • Becca

    My boyfriend has had back surgery and has lost his job, home, and insurance because of a back surgery at work. He has since then paid any and al debt for utilities and has been apporved for an apartment of his own again and now has a baby on the way. When he called to get confermation that he could get the electric on in his name for approval of the apartments they then told him that someone put him as secondary on his account and said that he is now also resonsible for paying thus very large bill. With him tecieving a small work comp check and trying to get a place for him and his soon to arrive son…this is nearly impossible. He never had knowlege of someone putting him on their bill and never agreed to that…what should he do and who should be paying this debt and can they really keep him from getting the elcectric on in his name at his new place?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      If someone added him on their bill without his knowledge that’s identity theft and it would be helpful for him to get a police report to show he’s an identity theft victim. But if it’s a relative or someone he knows well that may not be his first choice.

      The electric company is a regulated utility but who the regulator is depends on where it is located. I recommend he starts with his public utility commission and see whether they can help. Your state public utility commission is a good place to start.

  • Daniel Dini

    We really need help over here! We moved in a year ago on a four person lease and we’re told that utilities was included but when the gas was shut off after ONE FULL YEAR of no notice or bill, We reread the lease only to discover all tenants are responsible for utilities separate and are responsible for setting up an account. I opened an account in order to have gas again but received there’s bill charging me for the whole year. Im in the process of attempting to collect from the tenants who will not pay at this point nor would they have before. I cannot be responsible Aline for that amount? Also Why am I being charged for usage before I even opened account. Someone is responsible for the meter never being shut off before opening an account. Is national grid just trying to pin the amount on me without proof? This is an apartment complex with separate meters per unit. Is this the owners prob legally?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am not sure I understand your situation. Are you the owner of the property? Then yes, in some jurisdictions you may be held ultimately responsible for utilities. You may need to contact the agency that regulates the utility or a consumer law attorney–unfortunately regulations vary and I am not aware of a comprehensive list for all of them.

  • Randy

    I have a townhouse with 2 tenants that couldn’t get along. The man had the FPL bill in his name and then stopped paying it and his rent. The Electric was turned off and I had him sign a Lease Termination agreement to get him out instead of going through an eviction process. Now the other person that was living there who paid him half the power bill wants the power turned on in their name, but FPL is saying that they need to pay all the money owed. FPL wasn’t in their name and they paid the roommate their half. Now FPL is putting this to Premise Research (whatever that is) and won’t put the power in her name … It’s near 100 degrees every day lately, so kind of a big deal. What can I do to assist in the situation?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I would suggest your tenant contact the Florida Public Utility Commission for advice: http://www.psc.state.fl.us/

  • SK

    I live in Rhode Island and have a very high bill from National Grid that will be handled in a bankruptcy case to be filed next month. My daughter just moved in with me and started service ( I never had service at this address). She just got her first bill and MY old debt from a former address is on HER account. Can National Grid do this?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t know for certain. The Rhode Island Public Utility Commission states that the procedure for disputes is as follows:

      “The first thing to do if you feel you were billed incorrectly, or have any other inquiry
      about your bill, is to contact the utility company (contact numbers will be listed on your
      bill). Utility companies are obligated to thoroughly investigate the matter and report
      results to you. If you are dissatisfied with the response, you may then request a
      supervisory review by the utility. If the billing dispute cannot be resolved after a
      supervisory review, you may then contact a reviewing officer at the Consumer Section of
      the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers at (401) 780-9700. “

  • Press Productions

    My water bill was extremely high one month due to a leak in the in-ground irrigation system, but I was not the cause of the leak. I rent my house from a realtor, should I, the tenant, or the landlord be responsible for the charges?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Laws vary by state. Your best bet is to check landlord-tenant laws for your state. Unfortunately, we do not have that information.

  • Jessica Harrison

    We have had our account opened for over 30 years and today we received a bill that they had added a 500 dollar deposit onto us. How is this even legal..they are saying its because we got behind on our bill but we made payment arrangements with them..has anyone else ever heard of this

  • NotAFanofPeoplesGas

    Gerri- the problem I’m having is very unusual. Can you advise me? My fiance recently ran his TransUnion credit report. He found that he has a People’s Gas account for his former apartment that is delinquent. He says that when he and his friends moved into an apartment together in 2013, he called the company to set up cooking gas, though he knew he and his 20something-year-old guy friends would never be cooking. He started setting up the account over the phone, but answered his security questions incorrectly and was told that he had to bring 2 forms of ID to an office in IL in order to open the account. He didn’t have 2 forms of ID and decided that he and his roommates did not need cooking gas. So he told the Peoples Gas rep to forget it and hung up the phone. But we find out now that he was being charged without his knowledge.
    We called Peoples Gas when we saw that he had a balance and they told us that the account is listed as “Held” due to pending identity confirmation. They also said that the apartment was NEVER provided any gas- that the fees are for “service fees” and then late fees on top. They told us to fax out current lease (he hasn’t lived in that apartment since October 2014 the charges are still going up) to them with a letter stating what I’ve just told you. It has been more than a month and THEY haven’t contacted us but we DID receive a TransUnion report saying they did an investigation and found nothing wrong with the report. We didn’t ask TransUnion to file an investigation- it must have been Peoples Gas?
    My fiance NEVER received a bill or contacted in any way regarding an account that was opened with them in the year that he lived there. Can this be legal? To start billing someone for service fees if they decided not to open an account and then to not contact them about it once they decided to bill him anyway? It feels to us like they just took advantage of the fact that they had his name and SSN. Fortunately the bill is just under $500 (could be worse, right?) but we’re not as concerned with that as with this thing being on his credit report or 7 years. And it seems really suspicious to me that PEOPLE’S GAS would contact TransUnion and have them do an inspection on his behalf- my fiance didn’t even have an opportunity to tell a TransUnion rep his side of the story! On the TransUnion report it lists the gas account as “OPEN” but when we spoke to a People’s Gas Rep THEY say that his account is listed as “HELD.”

    Can a utility company do this? I would have thought that at MOST the utility company should have sent a bill to the “Current Resident” of the apartment unit or to the owner of the apartment building if they had a bill they wanted to charge to someone. But not to the person whose identity wasn’t established and who didn’t want an account created! What if this had been a case of identity theft!? Anyway, sorry for the rant- Do you know how we should handle this situation? Peoples Gas just keeps telling us to “call back next week” but we want this removed from his credit report as soon as possible. We don’t even care if he has to pay the service fees and the late fees for the time that he actually lived there, we just want someone within the company acknowledge that if they weren’t so careless all of this could have been avoided and my fiance’s credit history wouldn’t be damaged for the next 7 years…. Thank you!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It does seem unusual but it also doesn’t sound like it’s on his credit report yet, and it does sound like they are investigating so it’s hard to tell if there is any actual damage to him financially.

      Did this happen in Florida? If so, he may want to contact the Florida Public Service Commission to find out if they have any suggestions, or hang tight to see how they handle it.

  • Debra

    Please answer me quickly! When my husband and I recently purchased a home I applied for electric service in his name and social security number only. We did however call and ad my name as a contact on the account due to some property purchase paperwork that they needed and they would not speak to me about it. When we received our first bill it had an “adjusted amount” of $238 on it. When I called the company they said that in 2005 I had an account with them and did not pay my final bill and that it was turned over to collection in 2006. I don’t have records, nor am I positive that I cleared that up so I am not trying to not pay the outstanding bill, but they insist it is paid with our first bill which already included a $200 deposit making that first bill $590. My question is, is that legal to put my bad electric bill debt from a former address on a new address bill that is under my husbands name? I ask them to separate it out and set up a payment plan and they said no. Thank you

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      There is no uniform federal law that would prevent this so instead it becomes a matter of state law and contracts. Where do you live and which utility is this?

  • Spike

    What is the length of time to be billed for a utility? In California if it matters. Our neighbors didn’t realize that they were billed seperately for gas and electric, and the electric company somehow failed to ever send them a bill for 5 years! They recently got a bill for 5 years of service to the tune of $16,000.00 The electric company admits they somehow never noticed they were not sending out bills to my neighbor. What options do they have?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Not good. They need to call the regulatory agency to see what their rights are: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Is he willing to file a police report and/or identity theft affidavit? It sounds like a case of fraud but in order to get himself off this bill he’s probably going to have to be willing to document the misuse of his SSN.

  • http://www.roxannedavisphotography.com shutterbug_1018

    I live in Ohio. My husband and I are separated, and I have filed for divorce. We have been living apart for over 10 years, but he has continued to pay all of the utility bills for the apartment where my daughter and I live, and they are all still in his name, but he always been very late paying the bills and has huge past due amounts on them. We went to court last week, and I received a temporary support order. I agreed to the amount of support he would pay, and that I would be responsible for the bills from that point on.
    The issue is, the electric company (Ohio Edison) is saying the I have to provide them with an affidavit saying when he moved out, etc. in order for them to switch the account to my name, and not be responsible for he past due amount. My name is not, and has never been on any of these bills, so how can they hold me legally responsible for them? I am afraid that if I tell them how long ago he moved out, they will try to say I am responsible to pay it. I don’t understand this, because he has never said he would not pay what is owed.
    What can I do to make sure they switch the account to my name and not make me pay his debt on them?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Shutterbug —
      Utility regulations are typically made at the state or municipal level. You can check with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for guidance on where you can go for help.

  • Tytan

    I have had a collections agency trying to get me to pay a hefty past due bill for a home I wasn’t even living in at the time. I was renting a room and moved out after a few months. I did get a state license with that address but the utility was not in my name. But since I’m the most recent name attached to being at that address they are trying to collect from me even though the bill isn’t in my name. I explained that I didn’t live there at the time of the lapse but they won’t stop harrasing me.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have you disputed the bill with the collection agency in writing? (This is a bill collector and not the utility right?) You can send them a certified letter telling them to stop contacting you and if you do, they can only contact you to let you know about legal action they are taking. Not to say that won’t stop them from taking legal action but if they don’t have any proof you had an account it doesn’t sound like it would be the smartest move on their part…

  • Kim Clements

    my electric service, of 15 yrs, in which I have always paid my bill and never been disconnected, has decided I need to pay a $500 deposit on the account to secure the account because I pay a week late every month. Is this allowed? I do pay a week late…and I pay a late fee. I cant help that my car payment and ins and electric are all due at the same time. I cant afford an extra 100 a month for 5 months and a 300 bill! I am so frustrated.!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Find out who the regulatory agency is for this utility (it might be the public utility commission – it depends on where it is located) and contact them for help.

  • Pamela Staab Johnson

    What if I called them to disconnect service ‘months ago’, and they ‘refused’… saying that they could not/will not disconnect service until the residence was sold?? That is what I am and have been going through… Even though I signed up for a ‘service’ they refused to diconnect this ‘service’ … telling me that I will be “forced” to pay them at least $40 per month until my residence (which is and has been in forclosure for almost a year!!) is sold!! I also tried to get my recently deceased Mother’s water shut off, and they refused to shut it off until the place is sold!!. What ‘right’ do they have to do this???

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Pamela —
      Utilities are typically regulated at the state or municipal level. See if you can find a regulatory commission and/or a local official to point you in the direction of regulators. Being powerless to keep a balance from mounting sounds frustrating and unreasonable.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t know what the statute of limitations is for this debt. But often these kinds of debts can continue to accrue interest. And if you want to get service now they may require you to settle the bill first. Similarly, we often hear of situations where they try to attach a bill to former occupants as a condition of getting service. I’d suggest you check with the regulatory agency that regulates this utility to find out what your rights are. If you have trouble getting information from them let us know.

  • BradTN

    I am an attorney in TN. I am working on a pro bono case in which my client was wrongfully accused of a crime and evicted after she was arrested. Her landlord was also her uncle. While she was still in jail, some other relatives moved into the home and ran up the utility bill, which was still in the client’s name. I believe the family members knew what they were doing. The client has a very low IQ and a history of being taken advantage of by her family. Her social worker and I are having a really tough time finding her housing because the utility says she owes them over $700 for the utilities, this is a huge amount of money for her. She has lost everything. Any thoughts on how to resolve this issue?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Brad – Reaching out to you by email.

  • Sharon Feline

    I live in Illinois. I have a roommate and the utilities are in my name. My roommate is staying and I am moving. I do not wish to leave the service in my name because by not living there I will have no control over my credit. My roommate has had ample time to take care of putting the utilities in his name. I have requested the utility to disconnect the power to get my name off of the account but they tell me it is illegal for them to do so. I can’t think that just because I once lived here and am going elsewhere that I can be forced to leave this service in my name forever….Help

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I agree. Can you be more specific about what utilities you are talking about? Regulations vary significantly depending on whether it is cable, water, electric etc.

      Have you tried to get your rommate to switch them over to his name? Can you sit down with him and insist he make the phone calls with you there? If not, have you tried contacting the regulatory commission for that utility provider?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    If you didn’t have an agreement about what to do if a child moved in beforehand, the best you can do is negotiate one now. Decide if you’d rather pay or move out. (And there probably are some additional utility costs associated with a 3-year-old.)

  • Justin

    Need help. We live in Kentucky My mothers boyfriend didn’t pay the electric bill that was in his name without her knowing it and KU took the meter out. Can another spouse or family member have the electricity turned back on in there name?? Any help would be very great full

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Maybe, maybe not. If your mother was living in the home at the time and continues to live there you may find that they pressure you to pay off the balance for the service she received while she was living there. If that’s the case you may be able to work out a payment plan. You may want to contact the regulatory agency for this utility (often the state public utility commission but not always) to find out her rights.

  • sarah

    I recently moved out of the apartment that my ex-boyfriend and I had. He is going to continue to live there. all of the utilities are in my name. If I drop the service from my name will I be charged a fee/will that hurt my credit? Also, will he still have to pay a deposit to get the utilities in his name?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      We don’t know the terms of your agreement with the utility, so as far as the cancellation policy is concerned, you will need to talk with them. Similarly, they may run a credit check on him and he may have to pay a deposit – but that depends on their policies.

      Please be sure to get written confirmation of your cancellation and keep it indefinitely.

  • Bruce Bersch

    I have a bad bad credit record which hinders me from getting good interest rates or even qualifying for many things. After slowing down and taking a look into how this happened I figured it out. When you get service with an internet company, utility, cell phone etc. then you cancel service owing nothing, they almost always come up with some made up “last bill” just to stick it to you one more time and when you refuse to pay for it, it goes on your record.

    I just want to know how other people address it especially when your time is precious and the company in question is going to take up a lot of your time in the dispute process. I mean like just recently I had electricity with TXU and it was the nights free plan with a $150 early termination fee. After seeing how they manipulated the pass through charges from Oncor I figured out nights weren’t as free as I thought. My bills were consistently averaging 10+ to 12 cents per KHW and for a small 1000 sq ft condo in the south in winter, $200 – $250 mo was just unreasonable so I asked if I could switch to a different plan BUT would owe $150 termination fee! I said no problem, I’ll find another provider and went with Reliant. My 1st Reliant bill came in at about 6 cents a KHW LOL!

    Now I had paid ahead on my TXU bill and the final bill showed my credit to be $236. My check shows up in the mail for $195. They have great accountants I guess…bill error in our favor we win! Now I get to waste valuable time getting back the $41 they stole from me…great. So not only did they require a $280 deposit , charged the crap out of me compared to other providers in my area and charged me $150 termination fee (even if I was switching plans within their own company), but they shorted my final credit by $41! How low can you go!

    AT&T was the same story. I paid up my DSL and cut it off before the new billing cycle yet they sent me a final bill of $70! I just looked at it remembering the conversation I had with the rep telling me there wouldn’t be a final bill since I am moving to a service area they don’t go to and I was paid up till Dec 25th. After a few weeks passed by I get a letter from a collection agency for $70. I refuse to pay it and I get the hit on my credit record. We need better checks and balances in the system so honest people don’t have to deal with the extortion practices doled out by these companies.

    Any advice is appreciated because I deserve a higher credit score and businesses need to quit gaming the system because they know we can’t retaliate in kind. Now small businesses that have to face off with us in person would have a harder time ripping us off but these mega corporations are like faceless entities that know they can do this stuff and get away with it because people are too busy to dispute them and they are in an office somewhere that covers up their identities.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Bruce – We hear a lot of complaints like yours about “final bills” from utility providers, cable and internet services etc. My best recommendation is that you file a complaint with the regulator (such as the FCC or the utility regulator) as well as with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is looking into these practices. You can also try talking with a consumer law attorney to see if you have a case for credit damage. If you do, they may owe you for the harm to your credit.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I’m sorry don’t really understand the situation nor do I know what types of consumer protections exists in this case. You may want to look into state landlord tenant laws in your state.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Are any of these agreements/terms in writing?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    bjm —
    It is a tougher problem than you might think, because utilities are regulated at state or municipal levels. We wrote about a similar problem here (cable rather than electric, but principles and advice are the same): How a Stranger’s Unpaid Bill Kept Me from Getting Cable.

    Good luck getting this taken care of.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Cathy —
    Wow — what a mess!

    Utility regulations vary from state to state, even locality to locality. You’ll need to contact a lawyer to figure out how to proceed.

  • Helena Barker

    We recently went into an agreement for a lease purchase home. When going to turn in electric, the borough (who is the suppliers), said we had to pay previous tenants bill! Pretty sure that’s not right!???!! This is in weatherly pa. Doesn’t the bill go with the person??

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Is the guest house occupied? I can’t point to specific consumer protections but you could try to demand payment from the landlord and, if necessary, go to small claims court.

  • AJ

    No, the debt is taken over by their estate and has to be paid by the inheritors.

  • Lee

    Hi can anybody help me. I am currently about to go bankrupt and have a large gas bill outstanding which I want to add. If I do add it to my bankruptcy will the gas company cut off my gas ??????? Hoping someone can help and hopefully I’ll understand

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Lee – Discuss this with your bankruptcy attorney. Generally utility providers cannot shut off service because you file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy code says a “utility may not alter, refuse or discontinue service” to a debtor who files for bankruptcy. However, you must provide adequate assurance that you will be able to pay in the future. Again, your bankruptcy attorney can help you navigate this.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It doesn’t sound right but we don’t have a simple answer for you unfortunately. Municipal water utilities are typically owned by local government and if you can’t resolve a problem with them you’ll usually need to get help from your local political representatives (councilperson for example). It’s impossible for us to know what regulations apply to all utilities across the country unfortunately.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t know – the procedures vary so much by locality I have no idea what it is for that utility. Please contact the California Public Utilities Commission: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/ I hope they are able to help!

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am going to email you – please check your email.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Jennifer —
    You can find statutes of limitation here: Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State. You may also find this post useful: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date? Good luck in getting this straightened out.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    No – you should not be responsible for the bill of the unrelated previous tenant. You didn’t say what kind of a utility this is – electric? water? gas? cable? Complain to a manager and if that doesn’t work see if you can find out who the regulatory agency is and file a complaint with them.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    First with regard to the bill, you need to pay it or make arrangements to pay it or you will be dealing with collection agencies, and may have trouble getting power in your name. Then you can try taking your friend to small claims court but it may not be easy to collect even if you are successful. Even with a judgment it can be difficult to collect these kinds of debts.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Contact the water company immediately to find out what the options are for keeping her water on. Unfortunately I don’t know the protections available in all jurisdictions.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It doesn’t sound like you should have to pay the service charge but I don’t how what the regulations are as they vary widely in different communities. You might want to try filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or contacting the agency in your state that regulates the utility. If you withhold payment you risk your credit, and I am not sure it will be worth it.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Tammie – I am afraid I am not familiar with the requirements for qualifying for Section 8 housing. I suggest you visit portal.hud.gov for more information.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    That’s a fair and legitimate question. I wish I had the answer!

    • darlene


      • Christine Mesa De Campos

        Yes and a petition for all LowIncome individuals to pay onlya 30 percent of ther income bc Utities are outrageous in Wa. State but snohomish has a 60percent discount as well as Pierce but Lacey and lympia are robbing the poor and requiring outrageous $500 dollar deposits

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Linda – I am sorry to hear of your mother’s death and the issues it has created. I suggest you talk with an attorney familiar with state landlord tenant laws. You may need to follow specific procedures to shut off the utilities and evict them.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    With regard to Ameren – are you in Missouri? If so you may want to contact the state utility commission: http://psc.mo.gov/

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Mandy – I’m not sure what what your responsibility is for this since it was never shut off. I would recommend you find out which agency regulates this utility and contact the regulator. It may be your state public utility commission. If you can’t figure it out, contact your local elected official (your city commissioner, for example) and ask them where you can get the help you need. Unfortunately, since this is very localized I don’t know which agency you would need to contact.

  • sue

    Hi I reacently moved n transfered my fpl account, n also signed up for their auto pay, we lived at our previous add for 5yrs..before that we lived at a residence for bout 10 months transfering our utilitys to each add..but now that fpl has access to our account, they now claim we owe 200$ from 6 yrs ago..can they collect? n automatically take it out of our acct? I recieved a letter from fpl not a collector..this is the first time iv heard from them about a bill from then

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It’s possible they could try to hold you responsible for that amount though I am not sure if they can take it directly out of your account. I’d check the agreement you signed with them and then contact your state utility commission that regulates them.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Paying on a bill does not mean that a creditor is not allowed to take action, and laws governing utilities vary tremendously from locality to locality. We suggest you get in touch with a lawyer (or legal aid) to see what your options are.

  • Steve

    I have a question if someone used my name for the bill but the bill had there bank account information, and he didn’t pay the bills will that effect me or him?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes, if the bill was in your name they could end up trying to hold you responsible and/or it could wind up on your credit reports as a collection account.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry I have no idea what your rights are in Canada, nor do I know how to research them.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    That sounds ridiculous. Based on the complaints we get I suspect some utilities are strong-arming consumers into paying bills they are legally liable for. I would suggest you file a complaint with the regulatory agency that regulates this utility company, and also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Let me know what happens.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It’s hard for us to say what’s going on but it sounds like some kind of mistake. The first thing I would suggest you do is to contact your state utility commission (or similar regulatory agency) to find out if they can help. You may also need to get an attorney involved, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Do you mean someone is using utilities that are still in the name of someone who died? If the bills are being paid it may not create any problems but if they bills aren’t paid, it can create big problems for the person who is living there or for those who subsequently try to get service.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t know either, but perhaps there is assistance available from your electric utility? You can start there and also contact the state utility commission to see if there are programs that help those determined to be disabled.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry I have absolutely no idea. You’ll need to contact your state utility commission to see if they regulate that.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Ask the utility if you can start service in your name. You may have to get beyond the first person who answers the phone or contact an agency that helps families afford heat in winter (some utilities have these as well). But, if we are understanding you correctly, what you are proposing is to start paying on an account that has gone bad.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Can you try the steps I outlined for Jamie?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    That probably varies by utility company.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts


  • Jamie

    I paid my final bill and closed my account. Then I moved from that place and did not open a new FPl account anywhere.

    Apparently there were two weeks after I closed the account for which I was billed but not aware. I had been in automatic bill pay and did not realize I had ‘opted out’ of the automatic bill pay when I closed the account before I moved. Two months later I got a bill from a collection agency saying FPL was still owed the remaining balance, which was the first I had heard that there even was a remaining balance.

    I have perfect credit, never a late payment, never a collection agency report and I have worked diligently to achieve such a status. After I received the collection agency bill I logged into my FPL account and paid the remaining balance, but I am nervous about caling the collection agency and acknowledging this ‘debt.’

    I called FPL to comlain that I never received a final bill, but FPL says they sent one. The addresses on file are correct so I don’t know why I never received a final bill, but I’m thinking they never really sent it because I was enrolled in their paperless bill program originally. What’s more, i never received an email that a bill was due, I never received a warning notice, a late notice, etc. The bill was due, apparently, on Sep 15 and I received a notice from the collection agency on Oct 25th.

    When I called FPl they treated me like I was scum and told me “this is what happens when you don’t pay your bills.” That was from a supervisor! I asked if I could come into their office to speak with someone about this and they said they don’t have an office. I asked to speak to a higher up and they said there are no higher ups.

    I cannot have my credit ruined because of this… What do I do!?!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Jamie – I don’t have a simple answer for you, but the first thing you need to do is to let the collection agency know what happened. They have no idea unless you tell them.

      You may want to send them a certified letter disputing the collection account. Keep it very simple and to the point – you don’t need to provide them with all the details above. Just state that you were never notified that there was a balance and that when you were made aware of it you paid it immediately. (Provide your online confirmation number from the payment as “proof”?)

      Hopefully it will not show up on your credit reports. Be sure to free annual credit reports – maybe in about a month. And in the meantime, here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

      If it does show up, come back here and comment and we’ll suggest options.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Call the utility providers and see what they say. Hopefully she hasn’t left a large bill that will create a problem for you!

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Talk to your new landlord. Typically, it would be the responsibility of the tenants moving out to arrange to have utilities shut off. In some cases, a landlord may choose to have the utilities kept on between tenants. But just hoping someone forgets to shut off the utilities before you move in is a risky strategy. Best of all would be finding a way to pay the debt before mid-November.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t understand your question. Did you move out and leave the utilities in your name?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    It’s really something best worked out within the family.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Boris —
    You hate the phone, and your brother has presumably paid both the activation fee and the monthly difference in charges for the new phone. (And phone upgrades aren’t really “free” — the higher monthly charges pay for them over time). Would your brother want to buy the accessories from you? Or is there a way to get a phone like your original one?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Sorry to hear you got stuck with someone else’s bills.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler


    Yes, it is often the case that you must satisfy previous outstanding utility bills you owe to the same company before you can get service again. If you can’t afford to pay it right away, they may be required to offer you a payment plan. But that really depends on whether that service is regulated or not. You can check with your state utility regulatory organization for more details.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Ugh! Have you tried contacting the regulatory agency – probably your state public utility commission??

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Tell him to call the agency that regulates that utility. It may be the state public utility commission. They should be able to advise him on his rights here.

  • Nikki McGinnis

    Hello, I’m having a problem with my landlord. She is supposed to pay the water bill but it’s in our name and we just found out she hasn’t been paying it. What do we do about this? We were wanting to move because we need more space but we don’t want some large bill following us that we’re not responsible for. Any suggestions on how to handle this?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      We’re having a little trouble trying to understand. Why is the bill in your name if it is the landlord’s responsibility?

  • ellie

    Please help!!!!! My sister and i recently moved out of a flat we’d stayed in for a year. It was such a stressful year that it was only when someone came to read the electricity meter and was looking for someone by a different name did i realise we had only been paying gas and not electricity to npower. However, the electricity account was in someone elses name so we had not got the option to have an electricity account at the property when we signed up online. The landlord now wants proof that bills have been paid before releasing our deposit and i’m worried he will keep the deposit as we have no proof we have paid the electricity because we haven’t. Can anybody please help let me know where we stand on this?? I’m so scared as we can’t afford to not get our money back/pay a whole years worth of electricity in one go.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Ellie – I am sorry I don’t have a simple answer for you. It’s understandable that the landlord doesn’t want to get stuck with this bill, and if you haven’t paid it he may.

  • chris

    my watter sewer company is charging me for a month of services even tho I only moved in the last week of that bill cycle when I questioned them about it they said they do not pro rate can they do this?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Honestly, I don’t know. You’d have to find out how the utility is regulated and contact the regulator. It varies so much by state and/or municipality it’s impossible for me to say.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Ugh. You can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission although when I did that I didn’t find them particularly responsive. Document everything of course and monitor your free credit score so if, heaven forbid, balance gets turned over to collections you can fight that.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    First of all, filing a fraud dispute is the right way to address this but I agree that the idea that you have proof of your address from ten years ago will likely be hard to prove.

    Have you tried to find out which agency regulates this utility? (Such as the public utility commission?) If so then I would suggest you contact them to see if they can advise.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately I don’t know enough each company’s policies or consumer protections in each situation to speculate. I’d suggest you talk with them and see what you can work out. It sounds like they want to keep you as a customer. Your other option would be to contact the agency that regulates them such as the public utility commission – you should be able to find that information on their website somewhere – and reach out to them to find out what your rights are. The only other option is to continue waiting for a possible disconnection which doesn’t sound like a good idea.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Reese – It depends on what kind of protections exist in your state. You first need to find out what kind of service this is – county or municipality, for example – then find out who regulates it. You can then contact the appropriate regulatory agency. (Unfortunately this varies widely across the country and I don’t have a comprehensive directory.)

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Kathie – Unfortunately this is a situation where assuming could prove to be expensive. I don’t know the extent of your obligations, but I certainly assume that you could be held responsible from the time you purchased the condominium. I’d suggest you find out what they expect you to pay and then if they are trying to hold you responsible for bills before you purchased the place contact your public utility commission.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Emily – Unfortunately your father did use your name for a period of time and that’s a form of identity theft often known as “family identity theft.” The person you spoke with should not have been rude, but should have instructed you on how to fill out an identity theft affidavit. You can do that if you don’t want to be responsible for the bill but that may create problems for your father. I’d suggest you read this next:
    When Your Identity Thief Is… Mom

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Mercedes – Ultimately the gas company wants to be certain that the bill gets paid and since it is the landlord’s property, he or she may ultimately hold responsibility even if the utility is in your name. If you were to move out and leave the bill unpaid, it is possible that he could be stuck with the bill. (It depends on the jurisdiction, but that is sometimes the case.) In addition, if you are having trouble paying your utilities, the landlord may be worried about collecting rent on time.

    Have you looked into whether there are financial assistance programs available? You may want to contact your local credit counseling agency (NFCC.org) as they may be able to help you get your finances back on track, and they are often aware of the various financial assistance programs available in a community.

  • S.andersen

    Hello. We moved from an apt last year, and 11 days before i moved, i sent a written request to stop gas service in my name with pgw gas. The apt complex management told me in writing was the best way to make sure pgw takes me off of the service. 6 months later, i recieved a bill showing i was still on the billing and was being charged someone elses service at that apt. I called pgw, amd said they needed to remove me from that service, i had sent a letter in june, and why was it still now in my name? They said they never had a letter but would remove me right away. I asked for an itemized bill showing what had been charged in the months since i moved. One never was sent to me, even now. They did send a nasty collection letter. I called, and had a very difficult conversation with a cs rep who as soon as i said i had not lived there for 8 months and had requested in writing and over the phone to have my name off the service from july on, this cs rep began yelling that i owed that money and i better pay that money and i am not going to get away with not paying and its too bad if i dont “think” i lived there at that time,mand he became verbally so hostile and kept screaming over me every time i tried to speak, so i waited, amd then he said, so, would i like to put it on visa or discover? I said, sir, i have been recording your rant be ause you are way out of line, and then he began shrieking that i was really going to get it now, that he had just notified the feds that i was in violation of federal wiretapping laws and they were on their wayy to arrest me as we speak, (i checked, with a lawyer, i was never in violation), and then the cs rep screamed i was never again going to be allowed to ever call that company again, did i understand? I had better not ever call there again, because he had my address. …….yes, he said all that. I filed an i formal complaint with the public utilities commission. The investigator asked for all manner of papers and information, the issued a determination of favor for the company, because the company said they had not recieved the letter i sent in june. I sent proof of my lease that ended in the old apt and proof i had moved into the new apt here in town. Pgw insists if i really had moved to another apt, then why didnt i have my gas service transferred to the new apt. I presented proof my new apt is all electric. I requested, for the sixth time, for a detailed monthly breakdown of how much was billed to me each month, and pgw refuses. The p.u.c. Said that pgw showed a total bill so no itemization was needed by me. I am of course filing a formal now. This is crazy. What did i do wrong? I have used gas, water, phone, amd electric utilities for 35 years, and NEVER ran into anything like this.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That is nuts. It sounds like you took all the right steps. Have you checked your credit reports to see if it is listed there? If it is, then you should be able to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (And it’s crazy that you should have to do this, but if you move again I’d suggest sending your letters via certified mail or with proof of delivery.)

  • Angry ex

    Do I have any legal recourse for my ex wife using my SSN for her utility’s after six years of divorce

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s identity theft and it is a crime. The question is whether you want to file a police report. If you don’t it’s going to be difficult to get the bill taken out of your name. You can see if the utility will accept an identity theft affidavit from you. But that still may mean her utilities will be cut off and I don’t know if that will create problems for you (if you have children together, for example).

      At a minimum you should place a freeze on your credit reports so she cannot use your information going forward.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I’m really sorry to hear what your family is going through. I am not sure I understand what you are saying happened, however. If the utility bill remained open in your name then you were legally responsible for it. Even if he agreed to pay for it it was still your responsibility. If, however, you cancelled it and he used your information to reopen the account then it sounds like a case of identity theft. If that’s the case you should consider reporting it to the police and get an id theft report to file with the utility. Your state public utility commission may have additional information for victims of domestic violence.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Please accept our condolences. Generally, when someone dies the debt falls to cosigners, and if there were none, to the estate. That means that if your mother left any assets creditors may try to collect from her estate.

    Unless your siblings or you cosigned the account you probably aren’t responsible for the balance. However, if you need to continue service at the house, or if any of you were living in the house, you may have to pay off the balance in order to continue service or switch it over to one of your names. Your public utility commission can probably give you more information about your rights and responsibilities in this situation. I am not an attorney, so for legal advice on the probate process in your state, we recommend you contact an attorney.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am at a loss here. Can you get something from the utility stating that there is no outstanding bill?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Regulations about rentals vary by state and often by municipality. We’re not lawyers, and unfortunately we can’t give legal advice. Logically, it seems that if the former tenant did not disconnect, he is still being billed. Perhaps that will help him remember to take care of it, or have a friend or family member do so. Another option is to continue to call his cable company until you get the help you need. You might also consider using social media, being careful to state facts accurately. In some cases, that gets a quick response.

  • Yuri Mori

    I have a question. So a friend of mine, Her father passed away. She called to pay and set up new accounts for the utilities to be put back up. And the Electricity company told her that she did not have to pay because that was her father bill and she is not responsible for it because it is not under her name. So they start up a new account. and a few months later they send her a closed transfer bill stating she has to pay for a past account. Can the company do that after telling her that she did not have to pay for the past account?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It’s really an issue of whether she was responsible. Did she live in that house? Was it a joint account? If not then the electric company can probably try to collect from the estate but not from her personally.

      I’d suggest she contact her state utility commission for help. They know the rules and regulations in her state.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    This is a case of identity theft so treat it as such. Get a police report and file and identity theft affidavit with the utility and the collection agency (which you can find online). Alternatively, if your auto or homeowner’s insurance companies offer id theft resolution services, you can enlist that company’s help. It would also be a good idea to place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Utility regulations vary a great deal by jurisdiction (sometimes even within the same state or county). Your best bet would be to check with a lawyer. Maybe there’s a compromise somewhere.

  • Martylafl

    I called the electric company (CPS San Antonio) and told them I was moving out May 22, 2013 due to military orders. They came and read the meter on the date I told them and sent a bill. But after I was in my new city 2I kept getting bills past May 22. I made multiple calls, and sent letters…now they say they DIDN’T receive my phone call to shutoff service (Then why did they read my meter the day I moved?) Now they want me to pat for electricity from May 23 to July 2. They are ruining my credit and I could not purchase a vehicle recently. My credit score has now dropped from 693 to 602 as a result of their fradulent billing. They refuse to work with me and did not even reply to the last letter I Fed-exed (Cost: $12)to their President, Doyle Beneby. What is my recourse to get this false unpaid bill removed off my credit record? I wonder how many other military they rip off this way? Shameful. (Lesson learned, get cancellation in WRITING, don’t trust phone calls)

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It’s possible. Where I live, for example, the owner is liable for unpaid water bills. It is hard to say for sure because utilities are regulated by a patchwork of state and local regulations. You’re going to have to find out who regulates that utility and check there.

  • Jonathan


    I live in Florida. I have been in a lease since Oct. 2013. The water was the only thing left in the landlords name. Are water bill is usually $10 a month since Oct. we did not receive a bill in Feb. when I contacted them about the bill they said it was returned to them for some reason. so I asked for the amount owed they said it was $400. this being so much I asked them how and they said it was a leak. so I had them come out and check the meter. they signed off that the meter is accurate and no leaks detected. I contacted them
    and they said the meter had themjust
    been replaced. they are paying to say we used over 80,000 gallons in a month. it doesn’t add up. we had the bill changed into our name and it followed us. what do I do? I know we dint use that much water and I feel it is a mistake on there part. help me please.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am really sorry I just don’t know what your rights are here. I don’t know if it is a landlord-tenant issue (since it is in your landlord’s name) or a utility issue. I would suggest you contact one of your local legislators – depending on where you live that may be city council or county commissioner – and see if they have a staff person who helps with constituent issues. Unfortunately there is a patchwork of state and local regulations that cover utilities and landlord-tenant issues and I am simply not familiar with all of them.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Derrick —
    If you can afford to pay it, you probably should. If you can’t, then it is going to be tougher. Since it sounds like the town provides the service, you would likely be fighting City Hall. A consumer law attorney should be able to advise you about your rights in this situation.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t believe that’s true since you didn’t have an agreement with them but you’ll need to consult someone locally to clarify your responsibility. It’s probably not a regulated utility, so I am not even sure who to recommend you contact – a consumer law attorney perhaps?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Contact your local legal aid office. They may be able to help.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    If the landlord turned it off then my guess the utilities are under the landlord’s name? They may have rights under landlord/tenant laws. I would suggest they contact legal aid asap to find out. You can also try reaching out to the state utility commission.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am not sure what your rights are here. I would suggest you contact the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center for help. http://www.fcc.gov/guides/getting-broadband

    Will you let us know what they say?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    You will have to contact the agency that regulates the utility – in many states that is your state public utility commission – to find out what consumer protections there are for someone who is disabled or caring for a disabled child in the home. If there are none, I’d suggest reaching out to local community organizations to find out if there is someone who can help with this bill. Hopefully one way or the other you can get some relief.

  • Anton Chevantosky

    I purchased and moved into my first house, a previously-owned home. I forgot to establish an account with the gas company. The gas company never turned off the gas (the meter is in the garage) and now, nine months later, I realize I have never been billed. Is the previous owner on the hook for the nine months? Better question: Should I just let this sleeping dog lie?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      There is a record that you purchased the house and are receiving the utilities, so you may wind up being surprised with a large bill – and possible disconnection if you can’t pay it. I’d suggest you try to get it switched over to your name.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Frida – this is a little tricky because he lived in the house and as a result benefited from that utility bill. (The gas company may try to get him to pay for that reason.) Nevertheless, I would suggest he do a couple of things.

    1. Check his credit reports to find out if his roommate used his info for any other bills.

    2. File a police report stating he was the victim of ID theft.

    That should help his case.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    A Social Security number is not required to create a valid contract, or to send an account to collections. Has the debt collector sent you any kind of written notice of this debt? Under the FDCPA they must. And then you have the right to dispute it and request written verification.

    If you do think you may owe it, then you need to resolve it or the balance may continue to grow. If the collector can’t provide adequate proof of the debt, then you may want to try to negotiate with them to remove it if you pay it. (They aren’t required to do pay for delete deals but sometimes do when there is a legitimate dispute over the validity of the debt.)

    Finally, you don’t mention how old these debts are. Don’t forget to check into the statute of limitations before agreeing to pay them. Learn more here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties you’re going through. The very first thing I suggest you do is to call the water company and find out if they will work with you.Ask them if they have a program to prevent shut-off for active duty military. Since it sounds like you are still married, if they do have such a program, it should help. Also explain that you have an infant in your home. There are sometimes programs that prevent shut-off for the elderly, disabled or in homes with very young children.

    If the water company is not helpful, you have to find out how it’s regulated and call the agency that regulates it to see what consumer protections might be available. (See my answer to Jen below, that talks about public versus private utilities).

    There are also organizations that help military spouses and families with financial assistance. I don’t know of a good comprehensive list, though, so you may have to do a little digging.

    I hope you are able to find the help you need to get this fixed quickly.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    There are certainly no federal regulations that I am aware of that would protect you here. Your local water utility is likely either regulated by your state or a local government entity. If it is a privately owned utility, then it is likely regulated by the state and you can check with your state public utility commission to find out what your rights are, or to file a complaint. If it is a publicly owned water company then there is likely a local government that regulates it. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but water companies don’t fall under uniform regulations.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Maybe – contact your utility company asap and find out what the procedures are. Also keep in mind that they may be able to hold you liable for any balances he doesn’t pay because you live in the home and are his spouse. Your state public utility commission may be able to provide you with more information about your rights in these circumstances. Sorry to hear what you are going through and hope things turn out OK for you.

  • lyles

    what can I do if I have been divorced for two years and find out that my ex wife still has the power in my name and has moved and had it transferred still in my name

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      The best idea would have been to close all joint accounts before the divorce. You can find out what other accounts might also have your name on them by requesting free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies. But know that a divorce decree does not supersede credit agreements made before the divorce, so it’s important that any joint accounts (or accounts in one ex-spouse’s name that the other is using) be closed and reopened in the name of the person who uses the account.

      Here are some Credit.com resources that may be useful to you:
      My Divorce Ruined My Credit and I Want My Free Credit Reports.

  • Eric

    I have a friend in California. Whom her son lived with her and the electric bill was in his name and moved out without paying the bill for so many months. He is refusing to help his mom pay the bill. The electric company won’t turn on the electricity in her name. Does she have any rights?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    If you opened the account in your name, it shouldn’t matter where you lived.

  • robin rodriguez

    Gerri I put a utility bill in my name for a friend and she didn’t end up paying the bill is there any way to get that bill transferred into her name and off my credit.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Unfortunately, this is the drawback of putting your name on the line for someone else. If they default, you’re responsible for the debt (if the account was in your name.)

  • mizzmisha

    Hello, I stayed with a friend for a few months because I was homeless and I was never added to their lease nor any bills that had to do with them and their house. I received a closing bill from our electric company saying that they were going to be adding their bill to my account next month. I was NEVER added to their lease nor bills. So what do I do about this matter? We have all called the electric company and they told us that I have to prove that I wasn’t a resident there. I have some proof BUT the old address I was staying at also has a delinquent bill in someone else name. So does that mean they will tagged their bill to my name also?? what do I do about this matter?

  • Swolf42

    What can I do when my landlord hooked the basement and hallways electric to my fuse box

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Cathy – What is frustrating here is that they asked you to go to their offices and bring the person that has the SS# with you. Rather than calling them, it may be in your best interest to send them written notification so that there’s no question that you’re reporting the account as fraudulent. Send the written notification certified return receipt requested and keep detailed records in the event Comcast later comes after you for unpaid bills and equipment charges.

    Ultimately, however, this is really a case of identity theft. In which case, we’d encourage you to report the theft immediately by following the steps outlined in the following resource:

    5 Things to Do Immediately If Your Identity Is Stolen

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Clara – I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s death and the difficulty you’ve been through. You need to talk with a bankruptcy attorney right away. Simply trying to transfer the accounts to your name is not likely to help. You may be able to discharge these debts in bankruptcy and start over again. Plus it sounds like it would really help for you to have someone to talk through your situation with. The attorney may have other suggestions for you to get back on more solid financial footing.

  • Samantha Johnston

    Okay so my electric company BGE shut off my electric because my sister owes them $2240ish and she refuses to pay they are trying to hold me accountable for her debt when I wasn’t around except the last 2 months which I even told them credit to my a new account and ill pay it off they Refuse to turn my service on in my name I even left and let a friend move in to keep bills paid and they refuse to turn it on in my friends name and basically have said that they won’t if I still live there they wanna send an investigator to the residence but my stuff is there due to the fact I’m staying at a friends temporarily I don’t know what to do I need major help Please

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Samantha – You need to contact your state public utility commission to find out what consumer protections there are in your state. Generally you aren’t responsible for the utility debt of someone else but there are instances where family members who share the same home must pay the bill that’s in arrears in order to get service reinstated.

      • Samantha Johnston

        I have looked into some stuff and tried everything nothing is working because of the electric company I have not been able to residue in my home for 2 months i don’t know what else to do I am at a loss with the whole situation

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s possible that as the owner you also agreed to be personally liable for those debts. It depends on the contract. I’d suggest you request a written copy of the contract you signed. If they are unwilling to produce it you may need to get your state attorney general’s office or a consumer law attorney involved.

  • albo6317

    I wasn’t billed for ten years for my electric bill while I was living in the house. The electric company now says I owe them over $8000,00 for back electric bill charges. Is there a statue of limitations with something like that?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It depends on regulations in your state. I would suggest you contact your state utility commission for more information.

  • Teresa

    My husband and I recently filed bankruptcy. I declared a past bill with our current utility company. The bill was paid up-to-date, with a recent payment of 388.00 at the beginning of August. The utility company is now sending a bill at the end of the month for a total of 800.00 plus. They closed our current account applied some of the money from the 388.00 for a deposit, and the rest toward arrears of previous months. I have proof with the previous account that we had paid every penny up! Is this legal?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Teresa – If the company is trying to collect debt discharged in bankruptcy, then they are likely breaking the law. Did you file for bankruptcy with the help of an attorney? If so, the you need to talk with your attorney asap. If not, then I would suggest you talk with one now.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not sure but I know where you can probably find out. Try the Texas Consumer Complaint Center: http://www.texasccc.com/

  • Morgan Rachelle

    Hello, Me my husband and our 6m old daughter are trying to get a apartment and we both have to be able to have an electric bill in our name and he had a roommate and he put it in his name and when he moved out he figured his roommate would put it in his name but now my husband has a 1300 old power bill that haunts him! Is there anything he can do? We live in IL

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Morgan – Unfortunately, if the bill was in his name then he is responsible. He should try to find out if the utility company will let him pay the past due amount in installments. If they are uncooperative, he may want to contact your state public utility commission for assistance.

  • Peggy

    I purchased property and now the city will not turn on my water because they two families lived there before me and did not pay their water bills.. ( They rented) I purchased. Debt is over 10000.00 , I do not have that kind of money and my children need a home. we need water.. What can I do ?

    • Deanna Templeton

      Peggy – $10,000 for a water bill sounds excessive — even more so when it’s not your bill. If the city refuses to work with you and is holding you responsible for a debt that doesn’t belong to you, I’d first contact a consumer law attorney to see if there are any consumer protection laws that would protect you and your children in situations like this. (I’d assume the there would be, and it may even fall under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but a consumer law attorney would know for sure.) To find an attorney in your area, visit http://www.NACA.net.

      Another option is to file a complaint directly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov In fact, I’d suggest doing both.

      Please do keep us posted and let us know how things turn out.



    • Credit.com

      Kathryn — When you dispute an item it takes 30 days for the bureaus to investigate the dispute. If they are unable to verify the dispute they have to remove it from your credit report. If the issuer sends an update and re-reports the information, it can end up back in your credit report.

  • Tae

    I have been paying the gas bill at my deceased father house. I have not been able to call and speak to the co regarding the bill or services. So over the winter months were I could not pay the entire bill, I paid partial payments as I could. The gas services has been turned off despite the regular partial payments that I have been able to make. The gas co has refused to speak to me because I’m not authoriazed about the account and getting services restored. I recently called to have new services turned on in my name. The gas co told me they refuse to turn on new services untill I pay the previous bill. They said this was based on my credit report reflecting I have resided at the home previously. Is this legal?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It may be legal depending on the utility regulations in your state. If you were a complete stranger who bought the home and then asked to have utility service turned on, they couldn’t require you to pay his bills. But since you lived in the home, this may be allowed. Contact your state public utility commission for clarification. (They should also be able to help you understand your rights to keep service on in cold winter months,)

  • Franklin

    I’ve been paying power bill at deceased mother house. Power company cut off power before due date and won’t turn it back on till I put bill in my name. Can they do this?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Perhaps. The rules on these kinds of situations vary by state, though generally there is often less consumer protection than most consumers expect. Contact your state public utility commission for more information on the rules in your state.

  • brittany

    I live in ohio. My husband recently moved out of our home. Our electric bill was in his name.he paid the bills ea month..or so i thought. Our power was shut off today i called the company they sais i have to pay 1300 dollars before turned back on. I have 3 little boys under 5 . Can i turn jt completly off in his name and gef new service under mine?!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It is possible that they can turn off the service for non-payment., However given your situation with your young children hopefully they will work with you to either give you financial assistance for those bills or to allow you to pay that amount under a payment plan. Ask them for help, and if they don’t offer any, contact your public utilities commission for help: http://www.puco.ohio.gov/puco/

  • http://stickyutilitybillproblems Patricia Muzik

    Is there a chance that someday, someone else could take over our electricity instead of all of the monopoly companies?

    • Credit.com

      There’s always the possibility that some other big company might move in and take up shop –when that might happen is anyone’s guess though. At this point, we’re a bit stuck with the utility companies that are zoned for our individual areas unless someone makes a move and pushes for change. Often, change comes from taking an active role in getting the message out to the masses and being heard. If it’s something you feel strongly about, why not share your message and create a movement? You might find that there are a lot of people out there that agree with you and are willing to support your cause and push for change.

  • Helen

    On April 3, 2013 comcast hooked up internet and cable in my home. On April 4, 2013 it was cut off because my kids father not myself had an outstanding account with Comcast. I asked the person how I could be held responsible for another persons debt and a representative named Jasmine said because Comcast doesnt care who pays them as long as get their money. Where I live in Richmond VA you can only have Comcast or Dish Network. Im not paying someone elses debt.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You were not on his account, right? Was your service at the same address as your father?

    • OBKB

      I know it’s been a year since this post, but, sometimes businesses can bother someone to get their money forever lol! If they are still bothering you, here is the law. In Virginia, if you were not married to him or not married to him when he incurred his debt, you are not responsible for it. From your comment, it appears that you two never married, so, you’re safe…unless you both live at the same residence the debt was incurred. Then they can deny you service until he pays. He doesn’t live with you, right? (even if he does, say no)

      For anyone else in Virginia who is curious about the laws on debt after marriage: Marriage is considered an economic partnership. All debt incurred after you and your spouse marry will be equal responsibility, regardless of whose name the debt is in. Do not marry someone who is fiscally irresponsible. They don’t have to be rich, but, they should pay their debts and be smart enough not to live above their means. Also, if you are rich or have enough to live comfortably, get a pre-nup. No exceptions.

  • Eddie

    My friend owned a restaurant in 2004. When he closed it, he notified Progress Energy of its closing and asked they end service and close the account. He recently checked his bill and discovered that the power remained on for three months and he has been charged over $1000 on his credit report. The bill has since been sold to another collection agency who has re-aged his account making it only a year old and is still reporting as bad credit on his account. How can he find the collection company that owns his account now and how can he have them remove the outstanding bill from his credit report?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I discuss how long collection accounts can be reported in this article: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

      It sounds like this account is too old to be on his credit reports at this point. He should focus on getting the collection account off his credit reports. Instructions can be found here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes If the collection agency is indeed manipulating dates in order to report it longer than it should, he should talk with a consumer law attorney.

  • Lisa

    6 years ago I moved to another state and left the electric on in the home that I sold with the understand with the other people that they would get it turned on in their name within 10 days. They never changed the name on the account. Now I am stuck with a $789.00 bill. I have to get electric turned on in my name now but I am stuck with this bill. I have contacted the people and they refuse to pay it. What can I do. I am on SSI and I can’t afford to pay this. Are they any agencys that could help me get this paid? I am so worried I’ll be homeless because I can’t pay for this electric bill and I have a 6 year old. I have to live in public housing because of my income, and the power has to be in my name. Help please!

    • Gerri Detweiler


      That is just awful. Try to be nice and this is what happens! The short answer is that you should have disconnected it or at least should have checked in 10 days to make sure it was switched over. As long as the account remained open and in your name it was your account. However, you may be able to get the utility company to work with you to resolve it for less than the full balance or let you pay it off over time. Ask to speak to their financial assistance office. If they won’t help you, find your state public utility commission (they should have a website) and find out what options are available. If necessary, contact your state representative (the elected official who represents you) and ask them for help. Hope you are able to find a solution.

  • Jennifer

    Can a utility bill under someone else social be transferred to the lught bill under my social in Florida? The light bill was under my father in law’s social security. My family and I moved and I opened a light bill under my social, but my father in law would give me the cash and I would pay it with my bank account, which it is the one I used for my new light account. Now an investigator put the debt that was in my father in laws social under my new light bill which is under my social and wants me to pay it. Also she is telling me that nothing is going to happen to my father in la’s credit.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jennifer – I am not sure that they can put his bill under your name like this, but in some states that is permissible if the person who didn’t pay the bill previously is living there. I’d suggest you contact the Florida Public Service Commission to find out what your rights are: http://www.psc.state.fl.us/

  • holloway

    Is it legal for a utility company (electric) to make a spouse liable for a bill that was in the other spouse’s name, just becaused they lived there together at that time?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes, my guess is probably though it depends on the laws in your state. You can contact your state public utility commission for more information.

  • Jennifer Hanke

    Is it illegal for an electric company in FL to REFUSE setting up a payment? I transferred service to a new residence, had two accounts open, was paying new account in full and making small payments on the old. We moved because I could not afford the electric at old location.. anyway, they have now transferred the balance from the old account to the new one, and have given me 4 weeks to pay it! I have called and advised that I can pay 500 now, with the rest 255 in 7 days on my next payday, yet they refused to work with me. Took the its not my problem attitude. I have been reading over that statues for FL, and I almost think they are breaking the law, or just plain out lying to me on this. I a combination billing clause that says one customer cant be billed on one account for two services, and also that I only have to pay the regulated charges to stay connected, then it also seems that most states require that the companys work with you. This is the second time I have had trouble with Progress Energy of Florida in a year. The last one was because they decided to add an additional 150 to the deposit on the old account, I then called and they split it over 3 monthes. I just cant see how a utility company can REFUSE to set up a payment plan. I work for a telcom myself and we work with our customers, this is just down right nasty and manipulative.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry, Jennifer, I don’t know the answer to your question. But if they are a regulated utility then I would recommend you contact the Florida Public Service Commission, and if they won’t help, your state elected official.

  • Tonya

    We live in NJ and teh gas Company ElizabethTown gas is refusing to turn service on in my fiance’s name because they called the landlord and told the landlord that he MUST provided all the indivduals taht reside in the apt. The gas company states that because i live with him that he will be responsible for paying my debt and now that we got the Baord of Utilities involved they called and said he can not have service turned on in his name until he pays my debt and his sister’s debt because she owed money when he lived with her over $2,000. Then they say he only has to pay my bill and 5 months of his sister’s to get service turned on . We have been without gas since we moved in JULY and we have 4 children. The Board states that they have tried but the gas company insists he must pay for others debt and he has 3 brothers and sisters that have lived in the state. we have a fear that they will add on their debt too. WHAT CAN WE DO. We need the gas on ASAP!! is this even legal???

  • destiny

    I have an outstanding light and gas bill in my name from my mom who used my name without me knowing ..and now I’m getting approved for section 8 housing. N they said that i would be dis approved unless the gas company give me a statement saying dis was fraud … do you think they give me the statement? My mom is even willing to say she did use my name.n.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I have moved this discussion over to the Credit.com forums. You’ll find my answer posted there.

  • Dana

    My subletter over the summer (whom didnt sign a lease or anything acknowledging his presence there) signed up for services with a company and then disappeared. He never disabled the company’s services, and so the bills are coming to my house but in his name. I have no way of getting a hold of him and now the bill is over $1000! Am I liable?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Are you talking about utility services? You may or may not be liable, but even if you aren’t, you may not be able to get those services at your address until the bill is paid.

  • nathan smith

    aps shut off my power because i went to switch it into my name parents have passed away aps wont turn us on untill we pay parents past due balance of 1,360.00 its that high because the equilaer program was taken off i ended up in the ER because the heat in my house got me sick my wifes meds were melted my insulan is bad and they shut us odd on the 20th then 2 days after that we get a notice saying it will be disconnected on the 24th with the heat here in arizona i feel like i will die soon.

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


      I am sorry to hear about your parents death and about the struggle you had to keep your utility services on. You have a couple of issues going on here. The first is whether the utility company can require you to pay your parents bill. The second is whether you are protected due to your medical issues.

      That is a matter of state regulation. I am not an attorney and can’t give you legal advice. However, looking at the Arizona Administrative Code, I did see the following section:

      R14-2-211. Termination of Service
      A. Nonpermissible reasons to disconnect service. A utility may not disconnect service for any of the reasons stated below:
      1. Delinquency in payment for services rendered to a prior customer at the premises where service is being provided, except in the instance where the prior customer continues to reside on the premises.
      2. Failure of the customer to pay for services or equipment which are not regulated by the Commission.
      3. Nonpayment of a bill related to another class of service.
      4. Failure to pay for a bill to correct a previous underbilling due to an inaccurate meter or meter failure if the customer agrees to pay over a reasonable period of time.
      5. A utility shall not terminate residential service where the customer has an inability to pay and:
      a. The customer can establish through medical documentation that, in the opinion of a licensed medical physician, termination would be especially dangerous to the health of a customer or a permanent resident residing on the customer’s premises, or
      b. Life supporting equipment used in the home that is dependent on utility service for operation of such apparatus, or
      c. Where weather will be especially dangerous to health

      It is possible your service should not have been terminated. I would suggest you contact the Arizona Corporation Commission for help.

  • kathleen greene

    I was living in New York with my husband and working for a 3rd party gas company. I left my husband, who was also employed by the same company, and reloated to NJ, obviously my employer was well aware I was no longer living in the household. I called and left a message with them that I was no longer living there and my name should be removed from the bill. 2 years later I received a collection notice for over $1,000.00. 8 months later they have not provided the verification of the debt which i have asked for repeatedly. I recently copied the actual gas company on a certified letter sent to the collection agency and they are providing the verification (supposedly) for the debt. Can I be held responsible for this debt? and is the verification provided by the gas company valid given they are not the ones collecting the debt?

    • Gerri Detweiler


      This is a tough situation. Because you notified them by phone that you wanted to be removed from the account, it sounds like it’s become an issue of your word against theirs. Though who would think that they would have to send a certified letter to close the utility account right?

      As for the collection agency, it is required by law to validate the debt if you request it in a timely fashion. It sounds like you did that, and the collection agency did not respond is required by law. So it may make sense for you to talk with a consumer law attorney. While it’s a bit convoluted, if the collection agency did break the law, then you will be entitled to $1000 in statutory damages. Worst case, you can use that to pay this debt off and get rid of it! (If you do work with a consumer law attorney, make sure you talk with them about getting the item removed from your credit reports.)

  • k a w

    So I recently found out that somehow ComEd electric (excelon company) has moved my parents account over to my name without my knowledge or consent. And to make things worse the account has a past due balance of $3500. 2 days ago they shut off my electric to my current residence because of this. I called them and told them that this other account is not mine and I never agreed to pay it. However they say that there is nothing they can do. Somehow the account got under my name/ SSN and until it is current $ they will not turn my power back on. They said that they will forward it to the investigation dept and if they find out that in fact that is not my account and I do not live there than they will remove it (takes 30-45 days). However it is my parents home and thru their investigation in public records they probably will find some kind of bill/ creditor that has that address as my place of residence. The last time I actually lived there was years ago.

    What do I do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I’d suggest you contact your state public utility commission and ask them how to get help with this problem. Have you talked with your parents to make sure they didn’t use your information to get service? (It does happen, unfortunately.)

  • becky boot

    We purchased property from someone who recently passed away/ now we want to move to the property/ the elec comp. sayes we have to pay a total of 1000.00 before we can hv electric!!! this is outragiest!!! we shouldn’t be responable for the previous owners bills! what can we do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Becky – I agree. That does sound outrageous and it doesn’t sound right to me either. I would suggest you contact your state utility commission and ask for advice/assistance. Let me know what happens OK?

  • Julie eaton

    Hi I have a comment to make I was supossed to get an apartment that thre landlord was.supposef to give me I gave him the money the whole nine yards and he gave me the lease telling me the apartment was mine that I can have itt and.he seen my husband who heppened to be black with our birachial duater who.wad 2 at the time now she is 6, well to make a long stoty short I had turned the electric on under my name thinkng I got the apt and then I had to go throygh a hassle with shutting off the electric under my name cuase he denied me after he said the apt was.mine so here I am thinking they turned off the servive cuase they told me they did know there saying I owe over 300 dolleres for a bill I never usef I went to file out a disput packet sennt it.in with a letter from the landlord that I never lived there they are still giving me a hard time telling mee.reguardless im still responsible to pay the wgole bill to get it turned on under my name I told thrm im on a dissability I dont have all the money up front to payy for this all at once they said they dont care know my landlord I havre right know wants me to switch the electric to my name and know I dont know what to do what can I do have any addvice I cant be sitting in the dark wiyh no electric and.i have a kid and the fact that I might be pregnant at the age of 32and a half going on 33 in a couple months I jyst dont kneed.dss involved and my kkid is going to be going to elementry school in sept any suggetions help I greatley apprchiate ifif u get backk to me

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


      It sounds like a real mess and I don’t have a simple solution for you. Is the electric service a public utility? If so then you need to contact your state public utility commission to see if they can help. You’ll find a listing of state utility commissioners here: http://www.naruc.org/Commissions/?

      I hope they are able to help you get this straightened out.

  • teria lynn

    Okay so why is it okay for the company to allow someelse to use your name i have a bill from when i was 12 ! Why cant i press charges on the company for just allowing someone to use my social shouldnt they know my age by that?

  • http://www.p2proofreading.com John Albers

    I too own a home in Florida. We don’t bother heating it in the winter and don’t need to worry about water bills because we’re living off a well. But that means our electrical bill is high. This month, after having my old meter replaced by FPL by their new digital meters, my electrical bill was 500 kwh higher than it’s ever been in summer. There is nothing in our household any different than their was last year, but they say our usage has skyrocketed. Is there a way to see if their meter is not operating correctly, has been designed to not operate correctly, or to diagnose the source of the power drain in the house?

    • J

      Check your water heater. Most common unexpected high electric bill is from a defective water heater. If ur good like me you can replace the elements, if not a new energy efficient heater is a good investment.

  • Carrie Dammstad

    That is why I do not use cable tv. I only have over the air channIels. I find enough interesting programs to keep me entertained. I do buy dvd’s with the money that I save from the cable companies. I would consider cable tv if they did not force me into a 2 yr contract. I do not have a guaranteed income so I choose not to give them a guaranteed income. When they offer me a reasonable pay as you go I will consider cable. It offends me to see a family using food stamps on one hand and on the other paying a cable company for a service they no longer can afford. Isn’t this a back door way of getting free money from our taxes? And isn’t it a cheap shot to use the poor. Shouldn’t these families be using that money for their children – not making some rich cable tv owner richer?

  • Dave Miller

    Cable TV Ripoff: “Direct TV” Bought a used house for myself. Wanted internet service only until the house was livable. Installer showed up with satelite dish and modem for tv. I showed him my tv which was a 13 inch unit. “No internet service now, it will come later” so I was told. After the installer left I turned the tv on for 5 minutes. I said to myself “This is crazy and not what I want.” Immediately I turned everything off and disconnected the modem. What do I do now?? The next day I called “Direct TV” office, after several “sorry wrong number, I can not help you.” I made connections with someone who said.”We have a 24 hour limit on cancelations and you are 7 hours late. It will cost $450.00 for early disconnect. This 35% of my monthly income. OUCH!!!! They had my credit card number and when I objected, They left know there was nothing I could do.

    • T DEATON


    • teebaby

      Your first mistake was ordering Direct TV. Any services associated with AT&T will be over priced, over billed and substandard. They constantly rip off their customers and lie when they’re called out on it. I am not speaking as a customer. I’m speaking as a former employee who refused to lie and cheat customers out of their hard earned money. I quit/was let go, whatever you want to call it, because I did not think it was right to play games with people. As a former customer, I now understand why I had so many problems with my service. My bills never made any sense either. If you decide to stay with any of AT&T services you will see what I mean very soon. They have all kinds of sneaky little tricks to inflate your bill. Of course, your service will be down at least 10 – 20% of the time but they won’t reimburse you for your lost service or the frustration and time spent trying to correct the problem. Good luck getting a qualified technician on the phone. You’ll get transferred and disconnected a hundred times before that happens.

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