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Utility Liens and Shut-offs

  1. A county owns and operates the utility. (change)
  2. The utility chooses to pursue a water shut-off. (change)
  3. The county has, by resolution or ordinance, adopted the procedures set forth in RCW 35.67.210, RCW 35.67.215, and RCW 35.67.290. (change)
  4. The person using the service is a tenant. (change)
  5. The account is in the owner's name. (change)

Conclusion

According to the information you provided, the utility may not shut off water service to enforce payment of delinquent water, sewer, and storm water charges for the following reason:

  • The utility account is in the owner's name.

Explanation

Public utilities may not deny or terminate service to a tenant if the delinquency was incurred by the owner or a previous tenant and not the current tenant. See O'Neal v. City of Seattle, 66 F.3d 1064 (1995) (Citing Davis v. Wier, 497 F.2d 139 (5th Cir. 1974))

When a tenant receives utility service and the account is in the owner's name, the owner is responsible for payment of utilities. Under such an arrangement, any delinquencies would be viewed as the owner's legal responsibility, even if the tenant has separately agreed to pay the owner for utility charges.

Legal Authority

Disclaimer

Regarding General Use of Information:

These materials are informational and are subject to change without notice. MRSC and SAO have made good faith efforts to provide reliable interpretations of Washington State and federal law relating to utility liens and shut-offs. This information is not intended to supplant due diligence by your agency's staff, and your agency may have established additional requirements that are not reflected in this tool. Always consult your agency's legal counsel, policies, and ordinances before pursuing a utility lien or shut-off. Neither MRSC or SAO or any officer, or employee of MRSC or SAO warrants the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information or interpretation in these materials and shall not be liable for any losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information or interpretation. Neither MRSC nor SAO are legally bound by any information or interpretation set forth in these materials.

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Disclaimer

Regarding General Use of Information:

These materials are informational and are subject to change without notice. MRSC and SAO have made good faith efforts to provide reliable interpretations of Washington State and federal law relating to utility liens and shut-offs. This information is not intended to supplant due diligence by your agency's staff, and your agency may have established additional requirements that are not reflected in this tool. Always consult your agency's legal counsel, policies, and ordinances before pursuing a utility lien or shut-off. Neither MRSC or SAO or any officer, or employee of MRSC or SAO warrants the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information or interpretation in these materials and shall not be liable for any losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information or interpretation. Neither MRSC nor SAO are legally bound by any information or interpretation set forth in these materials.

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This tool was developed by MRSC in partnership with the State Auditor's Office (SAO) Local Government Performance Center.