Change The Name On Your Utility Bills When You Move Out

Add “change the name on your utility bills” to your post-breakup checklist or you’ll end up like reader Noah, who had to pay a $140 cable bill for three months of service his ex-girlfriend used after he moved out. Why? Because the bill was in his name, and if he didn’t pay up, it was his credit report that was going to suffer.

He writes:

I broke up with my girlfriend a few months ago and moved out all my belongings from the apartment we shared. Being a shared apartment, we tried splitting things down the middle: she paid for the cat’s vet bills while I paid for the Time Warner internet bill — hell, that seems rational to me. The thing about signing up with an internet service provider is that they have your social security number and credit score all to their own devices in case you, say, decide to forgo paying the monthly bill.

After I moved out of my ex-girlfriend’s apartment I forgot to do one thing: change the name of the person attached to the Time Warner account (me). I figured that she would call up Time Warner and put her own name on the account since I don’t think I can just call up and put her name on it since I a) don’t know her SSN and b) didn’t want to talk to that crazy woman!

Three or so months went by and I hadn’t talked to my ex for the bulk of that time — beautiful since I really had nothing I wanted to say to her (except that I missed the cat). It was at this point where I received a phone call from Time Warner, threatening to turn off my cable tomorrow unless I paid the $140 worth of past-due bills (three months). WHAT?!

Turns out that my ex decided to NOT pay the Time Warner bills but, of course, still use the service since my name was attached to it. I told Time Warner the situation — that I have not lived there for over three months — and they simple responded, “Well, the account is under your name so it’s your credit score and you gotta pay it.” I think what ticked me off the most was that Time Warner was completely in the right and it was my responsibility to take my name off any account I had associated with that apartment. I guess I didn’t think my ex would actually go so far to do that to me but in retrospect I definitely had it coming.

I did end up paying the $140 in the end, but I learned some valuable lessons:

1) When you break up with someone whom you live with, be sure to have a dialogue about bills and whose name is attached to what so you don’t end up in a $nafu.
2) If you get a threatening phone call from a company, pay the bills IMMEDIATELY so your credit score won’t get hurt anymore than it has from the past due fines/bills/whatever.
3) Steal the cat when you walk out the door because you’ll always miss the cute way he cuddled on your lap on the couch. :(

Just some tips for those dealing with bills and breakups. And yes, I do have a new girlfriend now who doesn’t maliciously stick me with a $140 bill. And no, we don’t have a cat. Yet.

The same goes for roommates and even amicable splits. Bills in your name should be sent only to places you’re still living.

(Photo: frankieleon)


Edit Your Comment

  1. morganlh85 says:

    This falls under the “duh” category for me.

    • edwardso says:

      @morganlh85: yeah, and it sounds like they had a bad break up too, so he should have been extra careful. I probably wouldn’t pay a bill in the name of a man who calls me crazy

      • b.k. says:

        @edwardso: Yeah, I’d have to put this in the “been there, done that,” category. Only I was extra stupid in my early twenties and left my name on the (shared) lease when I moved out.

  2. lotussix says:

    yes. the same goes if you and a roommate decide not to be roommates anymore. i guess it’s the same thing, minus the sex.

  3. edwardso says:

    “And yes, I do have a new girlfriend now who doesn’t maliciously stick me with a $140 bill. And no, we don’t have a cat. Yet.”

    It’s only been 3 months

  4. JamieSueAustin says:

    And do it in person BEFORE you move! I moved out of state and neither I nor my former roomate could get the electric bill out of my name and since I was far away I couldn’t come and do it myself. When she moved the electric bill situation was still not settled… a fact that our skeezy landlord reveled in. Aside from the additional amount that was charged to my name when I left (which she paid, of course) was another SIX MONTHS of charges racked up by the landlord/new tenents.

    • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

      @JamieSueAustin: Some companies (and municipalities) will not let you take your name off a utility (electric/water/sewer) bill unless you give them another person who agrees to be responsible for it.

      • bibliophibian says:

        @doctor_cos: No, but you CAN cancel the utility service entirely. No WAY would I leave my name on a utility account just because I didn’t know who the next person assuming the bill would be.

        If there is more than one person on the account, then I can take my name off and they still have a responsible party on the account; if I’m the only name on the account and if, after good faith efforts, the new responsible party won’t cooperate with transferring the account so I can get my name clear of it, then screw ’em. I have the option to just cancel the service entirely, and let the new RP deal with setting up new service instead of a name transfer.

        For water/gas/electric, I would of course give some notice – a week to ten days would be generous, in case they needed to come up with funds for a security deposit, or whatever. But for a cable bill, I’d just set a disconnect order for the next day – if they’re not going to be reasonable and cooperative about tidying up the financial loose ends, then what do I care if they’re without cable or internet for a few days?

        As the OP learned, when you sever a bill-sharing arrangement, no matter how amicable or unpleasant the split, identify who’s responsible for what and make arrangements for the appropriate changes to be made. Don’t fall into the “Oh, we’re on good terms, s/he will handle this nobly” trap, and don’t fall into the “I don’t want to talk to him/her, s/he can handle it on h/h own” trap either.

  5. RB_Bhoy says:

    small claims court

    • henwy says:


      Because having a judge tell you you were wrong is so much more enjoyable.

    • Stephmo says:

      @RB_Bhoy: This is every other case on daytime TV. Most of the folks end up still paying for half if they’re lucky. And that’s because it’s TV. If you’re in front of Judge Judy you’re SOL because you’re an irresponsible person that forgot to change the name on the bill and she could care less what your excuse is – she will tell the other person that they shouldn’t take advantage in the future and deny their counterclaim for harassment.

      • say what?! says:

        @Stephmo: actually, that’s not how it really works. Judge Judy, while she used to be a real judge, is now just an arbitrator with a robe and a gavel. Any real and fair small claims court judge would ask if there was a meeting of the minds (contract), and if there wasn’t, would ask who consumed the services (girlfriend). Girlfriend would be ordered to pay whatever the boyfriend already paid.

        Also, on Judge Judy, the show pays all of the judgements.

  6. amandakerik says:

    For those in the OP’s situation:
    If it’s in your name and you don’t want to deal with your ex… why don’t you cancel the account? AFAIK it’s within your rights.

    If she wanted to have cable she can pay for the reconnection fee.

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      @amandakerik: I tried. I called Xcel Energy (Minnesota) about 6 times. In those 6 calls, it wasn’t until the 5th that they noted the account as inactive, and still refused to take my name off of the account.

      • Etoiles says:

        @The_IT_Crone: Utility companies can be the stupidest pains in the ass. My ex (we had an amicable move-out and break-up) and I had the damnedest time with ConEd. But sorting the Time Warner Cable was easy.

        • Pyrusticia says:

          @Etoiles: I’ve had a lot of trouble with this, too. I had to move from NY to KS suddenly (long story). I arranged with the local gas company to come out and check the meter and shut off the gas (and my account). Problem is, they cancelled the appointment, and refused to make a new one until after I was already out of state. As a result, they refused to cancel my account because they didn’t have a ‘final reading’. Even worse, they didn’t tell me it wasn’t closed (and since I was deploying at the same time, I didn’t notice the lapse).

          First notice I get is 6 months later, when my folks tell my this company is calling and threatening to shut off my gas. It seems the new owner of the house is a real estate investor, and so never moved into it, so they have no name but mine. They want me to pay over $700 to pay for the gas that they ESTIMATE was used for the 6 months between when I told them to shut it off, and when they finally did. What makes this burn even more is that the house was empty during that time, so essentially they’re charging me for gas that was never used. They won’t adjust the charges without a final reading, they won’t get a reading on my say-so because I don’t own the place, and they won’t contact the new owner (which I researched and provided to them) to get his permission.

          I’ve had some time to stew over this because I’m still deployed, and the only conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m going to have to take them to SCC when I get back to get a court order for them to go in and take a final reading. Suggestions?

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    Or, put it in your cat’s name.
    If a cat doesn’t own you (note the order there), then resulting maladies are 100% your fault. And just desserts, you cat-hating heathen.

  8. twophrasebark says:

    I would suggest always trying to complain your state public service commission in these instances.

    In a similar situation, after filing a complaint the cable company was amenable to resolving the problem. Just remember in these instances that the roommate or former girlfriend probably wants to continue their service and if it’s disconnected, they may incur a fee to turn it back on in their name.

    It costs nothing to try. Sometimes the telco may just write it off as a courtesy regardless.

    • twophrasebark says:

      Edit: I would suggest always trying to complain to your state public service commission in these instances.

  9. Trai_Dep says:

    I figured that she would call up Time Warner [since I] didn’t want to talk to that crazy woman!

    Oh gosh. What could possibly go wrong.
    On the bright side, no fluffy bunnies were boiled alive in the kitchen during this time.

  10. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    another good reason to have it cut off: getting your deposit back!
    i never do automatic draft after bellsouth just took some money out of my account many months after i had ended my service with them.
    so i usually have to pay a deposit. which is fine, i could lose a lot more than that, unexpectedly, with an erroneous automatic draft.
    but when i cut the service off after moving, i want that check as soon as possible

    • Mike8813 says:

      @catastrophegirl – manic first time home buyer: All of the cable/satellite companies that I have done business with didn’t require a deposit, so maybe that wasn’t an issue for this guy.

      I’ve needed to put deposits on gas and electric, but that’s only because I was younger and didn’t have much of a credit history.

  11. foodporncess says:

    $140 is about the price of my monthly TW bill. I consider you lucky if that’s 3 months.

    • Nitrokart knows CPR and took that guy's wallet says:

      @foodporncess: The OP mentioned Internet service, so it’s possible that he was only getting Internet from TWC and not phone, cable and Internet.

  12. Teradoc says:

    Oh wow…I deal with this on a near weekly basis (Electric company CSR)

    10 Minutes on the phone will save you years of headaches and tons of money in the process. I have to tell so many people, we as the power company, DO NOT go around checking in with you to see if you moved or still live there.

  13. The_IT_Crone says:

    Yeah, my ex-boyfriend did this to me on purpose. Only I didn’t find out about it until AFTER it hit my credit report :(

  14. jblack says:

    I suppose you can sue the ex-girlfriend for the theft of service?

    • Kimberly Gist-Collins says:

      @jblack: What did she steal? Unless they specifically had an agreement saying that she would repay for the cable bill and it is in writing, then she stole nothing. He simply forgot to have the cable taken from his name and she continued to use it. He HAS to call to have it taken out of his name. She cannot have his service disconnected.

  15. sven.kirk says:

    How about changing the title/lesson lesrned, ‘When moving out, stop utilities before leaving’.

  16. Petra says:

    This is why you never trust anyone to call them up and change it themselves. Before moving out, go into Time Warner with them and do it together, in person. If they won’t, or say they’ll do it later, then cancel the service. Or check and see if your roommate is dumb enough to leave their social security card in their wallet, and have a habit of leaving their wallet lying around… :3

  17. baristabrawl says:

    Yeah…about this? When you move out have the utilities turned off that day. No break up is amicable. When you see your exgirlfriend kick her in the groin.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This not only goes for utility bills but things like vehicle registrations and insurance, too! Guy I know was so mad after his girlfriend moved out (by the way she had waited seven years for a proposal) that he never bothered to change the registration on the car she had purchased and put on the road. He racked up dozens of parking tickets, which she didn’t know about until she went to renew her license.

  19. juri squared says:

    I sure hope you also canceled the service. Let her pay the reconnection fee. :P

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Why bother changing names on the account? Just cancel. And then let the ex-[girlfriend|boyfriend|roommate] open a new account with a fresh account number.

    If you only do a name change, it’s very possible that the account will still be linked to your SSN. Cuz ya know, the CSR’s at cable companies aren’t exactly known for being competent at their jobs. LOL.

    • sven.kirk says:

      @LatherRinseRepeat: That is what I was thinking also. Most companies that I have changed billing names, kept my name on file, and just added them as an authorized user.

    • RandaPanda says:

      @LatherRinseRepeat: That’s kind of what I would be thinking also…

      Although we had a real ass of a roommate, who sadly was completely within his rights. We rented a house and he had the electric in his name (water and gas in mine, cable in my boyfriends). Well, we were all moving out within two weeks of each other. Former roommate moves out first, then cuts the electric a week later on my boyfriend and I (we had to wait to move until our new apartment was ready). We were without heat (gas heater, but electric blower) for a week…in February.

      Sad thing was, the roommate was completely in his rights to shut it off, as it was in his name, but really? It was freezing the morning we woke up and realized we didn’t have any power.

  21. montusama says:

    seriously I can’t handle all these adorable cat pictures. My advice to the OP, get the cat back.

  22. jenn7110 says:

    I always turn off utilities, etc when I move out. My last landlord got upset that I had the power and water turned off as of the last day of my lease. She tried to tell me that I had to leave it on, in my name, after the end of my lease so she could show it to prospective new tenants. Um, no.

  23. KCChiefsFan says:

    I’m amusing myself thinking about this. On the one hand, she should have forwarded his mail, period. That’s common decency. On the other hand, she had no right to open his mail, so she shouldn’t have seen the bill. Had she paid it, it would have meant that she opened his mail, and she’d still have been in the wrong.

    It’s worth noting that you should always inform the post-office when your address changes. That simple step could have saved this guy 140 dollars. Now he should be thinking about what other bills he wasn’t receiving, as well as what other offers. I’d definitely make sure she hadn’t accepted any offers for pre-approved credit cards, which seems plausible for someone that would essentially let you pay for a few months of cable out of spite.

    Dater beware.

    • K-Bo says:

      @KCChiefsFan: Also a good idea to sign up for online billing, so you can get the email wherever you go. Mail forwarding from the post office has been a little hit or miss for me.

  24. theblackdog says:

    I’ll echo what a few others said, if you’re moving out and the service is in your name, cancel it, they can call and set up their own account.

    I called Pepco and they had no problem with cancelling my service at my old place and setting up service at my new place, and that meant it was up to my now-ex boyfriend to set up electric in the old place.

  25. HogwartsAlum says:

    I will NEVER EVER EVER move in with anyone again, or let them move in with me. If they want to live with me, they can marry me. If not, tough tits.

    I got lucky when my ex and I broke up; he wasn’t vindictive, didn’t try to keep anything that wasn’t his (I didn’t either) and even helped me move. It was his house so I couldn’t stay there. I lost my home and it could have been much worse.

    He did end up with my car ramps and my Wonder Rake because I didn’t have anywhere to put them in the tiny apartment I had to get. Grrr.

  26. viqas says:

    all you had to do is take all the equipment and go to the store and say I DONT WAN SERVICE LOLs. and done. you dont have to change the name on it, she can get her own bloody service.

  27. HomersBrain says:

    “And yes, I do have a new girlfriend now who doesn’t maliciously stick me with a $140 bill.”

    Not sure whether to say, “Sir, you are an idiot” or “Congratulations on maintaining the eternal optimism”

  28. WeAre138 says:

    $140… lol. Don’t get married ;)

  29. purplegrog says:

    I’m curious, did you not put in a forwarding order with the post office to send your mail to a new address? If not, why not? If so, why didn’t you get the bill, or at least past due notices from the cable company?

  30. PinkBox says:

    I’m confused. Wouldn’t the OP have to cancel it himself? Even though I live with my boyfriend, I’ve had to go through some massive hoops before to just get customer support to look into internet problems because the account was in his name instead of mine.

    I imagine if we were to cancel, he’d have to call to have it done.

  31. Quilt says:

    Where’s that ‘O RLY?’ owl when I need it?

  32. painfullyblunt says:

    he thought it would be an issue for him to put it in her name, but somehow her taking his name off wasn’t a problem?


    //gah, the stupid, it burns.

  33. Emma777 says:

    There are ways to get out of it, you shouldn’t necessarily be stuck with it. My ex and I had a place together, and the bills were in my name (electric, comcast). I moved out but left the bills in my name since he assured me he would pay them. My name was taken off the lease there, and I signed a lease at a new apartment.
    Well several months later, it turns out he never paid the bills. Both comcast and the electric company allowed me to submit proof that I no longer lived there, then I cancelled the service. I was not responsible for any charges after the dates I could prove I no longer lived there. When he opened up new accounts, they put the outstanding balance on them.
    This did require multiple phone calls and escalation to supervisors, but everyone was polite, understanding, and helpful.