My landlord shut off my utilities!

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Find out what you can do if your landlord just shut off your utilities to try to force you to move. #6318EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should read this resource if you rent the place where you live in Washington State. You should read this if your landlord shuts off your utilities to try to force you to move.

  • What to do if your landlord illegally shuts off your utilities.

  • Where to get legal help.

Starting July 23, 2023, residential electric or water services cannot be shut off for non-payment or overdue bills during National Weather Service heat related alert days for the area that you live in. You may also be able to have service turned back on for heat alert days if it was already disconnected for overdue bills.

These new protections will stop shut off at your residence no matter which type of utility service provider you use including:

  • Utilities and Transportation Commission regulated privately owned utilities

  • Power and light Cooperatives,

  • Community water associations,

  • Any private or community owned sewer and water districts or services,

  • City or town owned utilities,

  • Privately owned  utility companies

  • Any Public Utility District

These new protections will stop shut off at your residence for all types of homes including:

  • Apartments on metered utilities

  • Mobile homes and trailers in a mobile home park

  • Rental houses and apartments

  • Homes you own that you also live in

These new protections also stop your landlord from shutting off your electric or water for non-payment or overdue bills during National Weather Service heat related alert days for the area that you live in. You may also be able to have your landlord have the service turned back on for heat alert days if it was already disconnected for overdue bills.

This is how the new protections work. On any day that the National Weather Service:

1. Issues (announces) or says it plans to issue a heat related alert such as:

  • An excessive heat warning

  • A heat advisory

  • An excessive heat watch

  • Or any similar alert

2. For the area in which your residence is located

3. Then you can ask for your electric or water services to be kept on even if you are overdue on bills or already have a shut off due to non-payment.

Your utility company or landlord must provide you with information about how to ask for your services to not be shut off or to be turned back on during heat alert days. Your bill, overdue notice or shut off notice should have this information on it somewhere.

If your services were already shut off for non-payment and you are going to ask for them to be turned on for heat alert days, your landlord or utility provider might require that you start a payment plan to have the service turned back on.

  • The payments for the plan can't be more than 6% of your monthly income unless you want the payments to be higher

  • Even if you choose higher payments, you can only go back into default on the payments if you fail to pay only the amount that is 6% of your monthly income. Your landlord or utility company can't say you defaulted on the plan for failure to make payments for anything above 6% of your monthly income.

Under state law at RCW 59.18.300, it is unlawful for a landlord to intentionally (on purpose) shut off utility service. This includes water, hot water, heat, electricity, or gas, except temporarily to make needed repairs.

In other words, it is illegal for a landlord to shut off your utilities just to try to make you leave.

You can sue the landlord (usually in Small Claims Court) for $100 for each day that you did not have utilities. Read What is Small Claims Court? and How do I Sue in Small Claims Court?

Maybe. If your lease says you were supposed to pay the utilities, but you did not, the utility company might shut off the utilities.

If you have "abandoned" the place—you moved out without telling the landlord and stopped paying rent—the landlord may shut off the utilities.

You should be protected from electric and water shut off for overdue bills or non-payment for days that have a heat alert. To learn more about the heat alert protections, read the section of this resource called "There are new important utility protections for residents in Washington".

If you can safely turn the utilities back on, such as by flipping back a switch, you should. If only your landlord has access to the utilities, try to get legal help right away. See how to get legal help below.

While you are trying to get legal help, you should also write and give the landlord a letter about turning the utilities back on. You can use the form letter below. It might also help to contact your local government agency that is in charge of building codes. Some code enforcement officials might turn the utilities back on for you.

If your landlord shut off the water or electric because you are overdue on your bill, you can ask your landlord to turn the service back on for heat alert days. Your landlord might be able to make you start a payment plan on the overdue amount in order to have the water or electric turned back on. To learn more about the heat alert protections, read the section of this resource called "There are new important utility protections for residents in Washington".

If you need utility assistance, call 2-1-1 or visit their website at search.wa211.org.

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.

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Last Review and Update: Aug 17, 2023
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