13 December 2010
A: No, you can’t let the utilities be shut off. Your tenant’s actions are a breach of the rental agreement, and must be addressed in compliance with California law. You should immediately prepare and serve a Notice to Perform or Quit-Breach of Covenant notice.
The notice should identify the specific breaches, the failure to place the electric utility in their own name, and their failure to pay the utility charges incurred since taking possession. The notice should be specific as to how they must cure the breach, namely, they must put the utilities in their name, and reimburse you for the amount of utility changes that have been billed and incurred post tenancy.
Note that some jurisdictions may require that you include a statement identifying a witness who observed the breach, as well as the date and time of the breach. In such jurisdiction, you or your manager would suffice as the witness, and the breach would be considered ‘ongoing’ as it continues to occur.
In the event of noncompliance, you would be entitled to file an unlawful detain action to recover possession of the premises. Rarely though is that necessary, as the vast majority of residents will immediately comply.