In Philadelphia a rental property owner can be liable for a tenant’s unpaid gas bill. In fact, PGW can place a lien against the property. Nationally it is rare for a gas company to do this, but common place for city owned utilities like sewer or water service. PGW is owned by the City of Philadelphia and the City does tend to over advantage themselves when it comes to rental property landlords. As Philadelphia’s only natural gas provider, it appears the City felt it can do what it wants.
And that’s why PGW has lost an important class action lawsuit. The City might have a reputation of trying to rip out the pockets of landlords; but when it comes to the courtroom; they are not always so lucky. And that’s where much of Philadelphia’s bad reputation comes from regarding their approach towards landlords...the fact that they lose in fair court rooms.
A big lawsuit PGW lost was regarding how it unfairly it billed property owners for their tenants debt. Another problem with PGW is the lack of effort in properly informing the property owner of the increasing debt, until it is too late. A tenant requests, benefits and agrees to the utility service. Not the landlord. But when the tenant refuses to pay the amounts they owe, PGW places the debt on the property owner and under informs the property owner that the debt even exists - until it is way out of control and beyond an easy thing for a property owner to pay. By the time a landlord might find out, the tenant’s debt, is now the landlord’s and it can be in the thousands. It’s unfair holding a property owner responsible for another person’s debt.
Enter the PGW Landlord Cooperation Program (LCP)
Now PGW is held by the Landlord Cooperation Program. Landlords can register their rental property in the LCP and PGW can’t lien their residential rental property while they are under the protection of the program. If a rental property isn’t in the Landlord Cooperation Program PGW can still place a lien against it.
Again, Philadelphia has the reputation of not being landlord friendly unless you know how to navigate them; and the LCP is no different. The problem is that PGW has big pockets and they don’t just let go. They might have bigger pockets than those groups that stand to keep them in check. At least that’s how it appears as one courtroom decision wasn’t enough. It does feel like the City is just waiting till the opposition runs out of money. So the City does keep maneuvering with as many loopholes as they have been able to come up with and to get away. Their attitude seems to be: “hey, you don’t like it, sue us!”. And so they also require you to have had a valid Philadelphia Rental License through the time period. And they check, looking for anyway they can burden the property owner with the tenant’s debt. For information on Philadelphia Rental Licenses read: What licenses do I need to own a rental property in Philadelphia?
Of course a property owner can’t register their own personal residence in the program. Also the program excludes properties that the owner is or is legally required to be the customer of record, or for non-residential zoned properties.
If you made it this far in this article; then you might want to take a moment to know who you can thank for keeping PGW and the City in check: Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR) and the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia are two that took the City to task.