Utilities: Avoid post-closing disputes

One of the functions of escrow is to pay lienable utilites. Lienable. There is a large segment of the real estate community that interprets that to mean all utilitites. It does not mean all utilities. In addition, escrow firms do not have access to seller’s account information. Sellers and/or their listing agents need to provide this information to escrow.

While Form 22K is clear in stating “lienable” utilities, there is much confusion by the real estate agents as to what constitutes a lienable utility. Escrow Instructions by any escrow firm or escrow department within a title company are very clear. All unpaid utilities not paid at closing by the escrow company are to be paid by the respective parties.

Which utilities are lienable (subject to property location)?

  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Seattle Public Utilities
  • Seattle City Light (power)

PUD and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) do not provide final utility bills to escrow and they are not lienable. PUD and PSE will send the final bill to the seller. Homeowners are responsible for paying all utilies, including phone, cable, garbage and so on.

To help your clients obtain a smooth and trouble-free closing, please have the Form 22K filled out properly with correct account information. Agents can avoid post closing phone calls from clients who are upset about utility bills that another party is responsible for by clarifying how the bills are handled during the escrow process. If you are uncertain or have questions, please contact your escrow office as they are eager to help you and the escrow staff avoid post-closing problems.

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