There are two circumstances where tenants frequently ask to see copies of utility bills:
- The lease states that the utility will remain in the landlord's name, and the tenant will have to reimburse the landlord each month; and
- The tenant didn't put the utility in his name by the 3-day deadline and is now being charged for the utility bill to reimburse the owner for paying it.
When you read your lease, you'll see that we are not required to provide copies of utility bills, repair bills, HOA bills, or other types of bills where you are responsible for reimbursing the landlord. All we have to do is provide you with a letter or an invoice with the amount of the charge. There are several reasons for this:
- These bills almost always contain personally identifying information of the landlord, such as his address or phone number, sometimes even a portion of his social security number. In order to provide the bill, we or the landlord would have to manually go through the bill and redact these portions of the document to protect the landlord's privacy and prevent identity theft. This is time-consuming and not a reasonable request. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that we or the landlord would accidentally miss the redaction of some information, placing the landlord's identity and privacy at risk, which risks our own liability.
- The landlord has already paid the bill out of his pocket, so he needs to be reimbursed in a timely fashion. The landlord shouldn't be suffering by not having his money while the tenant demands additional documentation before making payment. This is especially true when the situation has been caused by a tenant not switching the utilities into their name because the entire situation is their fault. Clearly, the landlord shouldn't continue to suffer and not get his money while additional demands are made by the tenant for documentation.
- Our staff's time is valuable. We spend most of our time getting repairs done, collecting rent, and getting vacant properties rented. If we have to divert our attention to try to collect additional documentation and then redact private information in order to send it on to a tenant, our clients and other tenants are suffering because we aren't able to focus on getting their houses rented or repaired. Again, especially if the situation was caused by a tenant not getting the utility switched into your name by the deadline, this is especially unreasonable, as the blame for the entire situation is on their shoulders, to begin with.
For these reasons, among others, we do not provide copies of utility bills, repair bills, HOA bills, or other similar bills that may contain the landlord's personally-identifying information. By entering into the lease with us that says a letter is all that is required, you are agreeing upfront that you may not demand copies of these bills.
It is important to note that if you withhold payment while demanding a copy of the bill, you will receive a late fee and be subject to eviction. Therefore, it is important to pay what you owe, on time, to avoid late fees and eviction on your record.