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When the Lights Go Out

Alameda City Attorney’s office enforces tenants’ rights.

Ed and Bill are roommates and students who share an apartment on the West End. Their one-year lease just expired and their landlord, Henry, has been making comments about them moving out soon. However, they have no desire to leave and they have told Henry that as well.

Alameda Post - Landord Tenant dispute, tenants' rights

A few weeks later, they woke up and discovered that they had no electricity. Henry was responsible for paying the utility bills, so they called him to find out what was going on. No answer. Unsure of what to do, they decided to call the electric utility company, who informed them that their power was cut off due to a failure to pay the bill.

What could Ed and Bill do?

They called the Alameda City Attorney’s Office for help. They learned that in the City of Alameda, it is illegal for a landlord to cause a tenant’s utility to be interrupted, no matter how it happens—including failure to pay the bill. The same goes for any other “housing service,” such as trash pickup, laundry, or parking. Owners who violate tenants’ rights and the law can face thousands of dollars in fines. (Owners are allowed to disrupt services only when providing maintenance or repairs in good faith and in compliance with all applicable housing laws.)

The City Attorney’s Office spoke with Henry about the law, and soon the power was restored and further shutoffs were prevented.

If you have a complaint in the City of Alameda or a question about the law, contact the City Attorney’s Office at 510-747-4775, or email [email protected]. The office enforces the law and educates the public on issues including tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, and consumer protection. We also provide mediation services in situations where both parties need help working things out.

The names and facts have been changed, but this story is similar to cases we have handled.

Rico Fenix is a paralegal at the Alameda City Attorney’s Office. 


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