Frequently Asked Questions

Can water, sewer, and garbage accounts be put in a tenant’s name?

Per Seattle Municipal Code SMC 21.04.260, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) does not create water, sewer or garbage accounts in tenant names. All accounts for water shall be kept in the name of the owner of the premises. Additionally, per SMC 21.04.250, the property owner is always ultimately responsible for the water, sewer, and garbage debt incurred by a renter.

I own a residential rental property, and I am concerned about tenant delinquency. What are my options?

  • Both property owners and tenants can sign up for electronic billing (ebilling) and view bills online.
    • The owner and tenant can have separate ebill user accounts;
    • When the tenant moves out, the tenant or the owner can request that the tenant’s ebill user account be deactivated;
    • Neither party will be able to access or view the other’s stored payment information.
  • Property owners may also request duplicate billing where the original bills and notices are sent to the owner and duplicate copies are mailed to the service address.

How can tenants establish credit using utility accounts?

Tenants can establish credit through many bills that are in their name such as home phone, cell phone, cable, internet, gas, and electric. Tenants are still able to put their Seattle City Light bill in their name, thus they can still establish credit through a utility account.

Can the electric bill be put in the tenant's name?

Yes. Renters are eligible to retain individual electric accounts through Seattle City Light. For more information, please read their Billing and Accounts FAQ.

Can the tenant receive a copy of the bills and notices?

Yes. The property owner whose name is on the bill should contact customer service at (206) 684-3000 to have a copy of the bill sent to their tenant. The original bill will continue to be mailed to the property owner at their mailing address, and a clearly marked duplicate copy will be sent to the service address.

Do tenants use excess water and resources if they don't receive a bill?

There is no hard evidence to suggest tenants waste water if they don’t pay the water bill. For water-saving tips, rebates, and advice on finding and fixing leaks, visit the Saving Water Partnership website or call (206) 684-SAVE (7283).

How can a property owner manage their property’s utility bills?

Landlords have several ways they can manage their property utility bills. They can adjust rents, deposits, or fees as well as provide bill copies to their tenants. SPU has no interest, influence, or authority over what landlords determine to be their best method.

What about tenants who are eligible to receive discounted utilities through the City’s Utility Discount Program?

If a tenant is eligible to participate in the utility discount program and has a City Light account in their name (proving they are the tenant), water/sewer/garbage credits will be applied to their Seattle City Light account.

How can I determine the amount of a typical bill in case I want to raise my rent to cover the utility costs?

Billed charges can vary depending on number of people in the household, water use habits, and solid waste service levels. Landlords can look at previous bill statements to obtain bill history to determine an average monthly amount. For additional billing information, landlords may also visit SPU's Rate Summary website.

How can an owner pro-rate a bill for tenants leaving or new tenants moving in?

Landlords can prorate by taking an average bill amount, dividing by the days of service to determine the average daily charge, then multiply by the number of days for which the tenant is responsible.


For additional information, please call (206) 684-3000.