Utilities & Services
Read Your Lease
Carefully read your lease to see what it says about utilities. Unless the lease states that your landlord pays for a certain utility bill, you should assume that you will have to pay for each utility — electricity, gas and water as well as telephone and cable television. (Phone numbers to call to arrange utility service are listed below).
The statement that the landlord "supplies" heat does not necessarily mean the landlord "pays" for heat.
Use the word "pay" if that's what you mean. If the landlord pays the bills for heat and water, the lease should clearly state "Lessor shall pay all bills for heat and water."
Payment for sewer tax, recycling tax, garbage hauling or other services would be required of the tenant only if the lease states the tenant or Lessee pays these charges. In an apartment building, the bill would be sent to the landlord who would pass the charge along to the tenant in the manner described in the lease. If you rent a whole house, most leases hold the tenants responsible for arranging, as well as paying for garbage hauling. Check your lease. Look in the yellow pages under "garbage" for names of garbage haulers. City of Urbana (384-2342) also publishes an annual list of hauler's rates for those haulers serving Urbana properties.
You are responsible for calling the public utility companies to arrange for any individually metered utility service. Call the public utility companies at least one month prior to your move-in date to make an appointment to start service on the first day of your lease. Following are names (these are not recommendations) of utility companies in the Champaign-Urbanan area. There are other options for utility companies.
|Electricity & Gas
|Illinois American Water Corporation
|(217) 352-1420 or (800) 422-2782
|Typically provided by Cable company
* Internet Services: typically provided by the cable television company Comcast (888-736-6612)or if you buy service for a land line phone, by the telephone companies (AT&T 800-244-4444 or McLeod USA 800-593-1177). AT&T offers television packages as well.
Certain Tenant Paid Utility Payments are Prohibited by Illinois Statute
Illinois state statute, Chapter 765 ILCS, Act 735/1.2 states that a landlord cannot lease a rental unit that has on one tenant's utility meter, service to any area outside of that tenant's rental unit (other apartments or common areas) unless, before entering into the rental agreement or accepting a deposit, the landlord:
- Provides the tenant with a written statement of exactly what is on the tenant's meter and the nature of utility uses, including any not reflected in past bills such as rental of a neighboring apartment that has been vacant, installation of a washer or dryer in the basement, use of the garage for mechanical work, etc.;
- Provides the tenant with copies of the utility bills for the rental unit for the previous 12 months;
- Neither suggests nor requires the tenant to collect any money for utility bills from neighboring tenants whose usage will be included on the tenant's meter; and
- Sets forth in writing the amount of the proposed rent reduction, if any, that is offered to compensate for the tenant's payment of utility usage outside of the tenant's apartment.
Tenant Remedies: A tenant may sue the landlord for damages if the landlord violates any provisions of this law. The amount of the claim could be increased to three times the amount of the utility bills if the landlord's violation was knowing or intentional. Any term or condition in a rental agreement that is inconsistent with 765 ILCS 735/1.2 is void and unenforceable.
When Bills are Paid in the Landlord's Name
Some landlords have master-metered water or heat for which they pay. If you will not be expected to reimburse the landlord, your lease should clearly state:
"Lessor pays all water bills" or "Lessor pays all heating bills."
If the heat is paid by the landlord, speak with current tenants before you sign the lease to be certain that heat is sufficient. Also inquire about the location of the heat controls.
Chapter 765 ILCS, Act 735/1 provides remedies for tenants whose landlords have agreed in the lease to pay for a certain public utility and then fail to pay the bill. If the landlord does not pay the utility bill, the tenant may either:
- Terminate the lease
- Pay the bill to prevent termination of service and deduct from the rent the amount paid to the public utility company
The public utility company is required by state law to post notice of the landlord's non-payment no less than 10 days before service will be terminated. This notice is required at any building with 3 or more apartments.
The law states that upon receipt of payment from the tenant of past due utility cost, service will be immediately restored. In the alternative, the tenant may have the public utility company put the bill in the tenant's name if the tenant agrees to pay future bills. The tenant can deduct the cost of those bills from the rent as long as the lease provides for the landlord's payment of the bills.
Chapter 765 ILCS, Act 735/1.2 also states that a landlord cannot change from landlord-paid, master-metered utilities to tenant-paid, individually-metered utilities during the term of the lease. If the change is made when the lease is renewed, the law requires the landlord to give the tenant a minimum of 30 days notice of the change.
No landlord shall cause or request utility service to tenants to be interrupted, discontinued, or terminated in an occupied building (i) by nonpayment of utility bills for which the landlord has assumed responsibility by agreement or by implication or (ii) by tampering with equipment or lines.
A landlord's violation of this law entitles the tenant to an abatement of rent for the time that utility service was terminated. In addition, the landlord may be held liable for damages up to $300.00 per tenant or $5,000.00 to be divided by the total number of tenants affected.
Reimbursement to Landlord for Utilities
When a utility is master-metered and the lease requires you to reimburse the landlord for a share of the utilities, it is best if your share is a fixed percent that is stated in your lease. Chapter 765, Act 740/5 states that no landlord may demand payment for master metered public utility services without first providing the tenant with a written copy of the formula used for allocating the utility payments among the tenants. Total payments made to the landlord by all tenants in the building may not exceed the sum billed by the public utility company. The landlord must also make available to the tenant, upon request, a copy of the public utility bill for any period for which payment is demanded.
It would be wise to include in the lease a clause that describes your payment responsibilities. For example:
Lessee shall reimburse Lessor ___% of the monthly Ameren IP power bills for the building. Lessee shall not be liable for any portion of late fees on a bill unless Lessee is at fault for late payment to the Lessor. Payment will be due to Lessor within 10 days of Lessee's receipt of a copy of the actual bill from the power company.
Complaints about reimbursing landlords for utility costs are not uncommon. If the heat must be turned up higher than you desire in order to provide enough heat for all of the apartments in the building, each tenant shares the cost of this excess. When one tenant fails to report a water leak, all tenants pay the cost. Also, the power company charges commercial, rather than residential rates at properties that have two or more apartments served by only one gas or electricity meter. You will not be able to avoid these problems if you agree in the lease to reimburse the landlord for any public utility.
Some new apartment buildings have a provision in their leases that tenants pay any amount over a set "cap" such as $30 per month per person. Don't believe anyone who tells you the cost won't go over the cap. If that were the case, the landlord would not have put the cap into the lease. Tenant Union has received quite a few complaints from tenants of some complexes about excessive charges, including charging students who have rented one room in an apartment for heating the empty rooms. Consult with Tenant Union about any such lease provision.
In addition to utilities, some landlords will require you to pay for services or assessments -- garbage hauling, sanitary assessment and sewer benefit tax, pest control, lawn care, snow removal recycling tax and perhaps even hallway cleaning. Some Urbana landlords have also started charging tenants for the city's rental registration fee.
Charges for these items are more the exception than the rule, although an increasing number of landlords charge sanitary and sewer taxes. Check your lease before you sign it so you'll know what agreements you've made. If you will be reimbursing the landlord for a share of the cost of these services, does your lease state the specific percent that you will be paying or a specific dollar amount? Does the lease require the landlord to show you the actual bill for the whole amount so you'll be able to tell whether total payments from all tenants exceed the amount of the real bill?
The laws regarding "utilities" apply only to public utilities (gas, electricity, water) and not to services such as trash hauling or lawn care. Therefore, you must be sure that the lease protects your concerns about how to calculate payments to a landlord for "services."
If you live in Urbana, the recycling tax is a city tax and the landlord cannot charge you more than the amount charged by the city. The charge is $2.50 per month per apartment (or $2.50 monthly for a single house). Your landlord may charge the tax to you ONLY IF the lease states that you pay the landlord for the recycling tax.
Urbana Rental Registration Fee
Urbana city code requires all landlords to pay to the city a rental registration fee. The city code prohibits a landlord from charging the fee to tenants unless the lease states you will pay the fee. City code also prohibits the landlord from charging you any amount higher than the actual amount the landlord pays to the city. So the landlord cannot add on administrative costs of any kind. The actual cost for one year is:
$65 per building plus $16 per unit which breaks down as follows:
|Number of Units in Building
|Annual Cost per Unit
|Monthly Cost per Unit
If you will be renting a house, the rental registration fee is $55 per year.
The fee for a duplex is $70 if both units in the duplex are rentals.