Who pays the connection fee when a property is vacant and the utilities are disconnected?

QUESTION: My client recently made an offer on a vacant home using revised Form 2-T (Offer to Purchase and Contract). The seller signed the offer, but when the listing agent emailed me a copy, he said that the seller would not pay to reconnect any of the existing utilities. Are connection fees the buyer’s responsibility now since the listing agent informed me of the seller’s position in an email?

ANSWER: Paragraph 8(c) of Form 2-T was revised this year to address this very issue and states that any connection fees are the seller’s responsibility. In the Summary of Forms Changes, available in the Q&A section of www.ncrealtors.org under “Forms,” the revision is explained as follows: “[D]isputes occasionally arise regarding which party is responsible for turning on utilities that have been turned off in properties that are vacant. The recommended change makes the seller’s obligation to pay the cost of utility service explicit.”

Paragraph 19 in Form 2-T says that all terms of the parties’ agreement are contained within the contract. The listing agent’s statement in the email is therefore not binding between the parties. Since the contract requires the seller to pay utility connection fees, the seller must do so or risk being in breach of the contract. If the seller’s intent was that the buyer would be responsible for any utility connection fees, the pre-printed wording of the contract should have been amended and presented to you as a counteroffer for the buyer’s consideration.

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Filed Under: Contract Law,