Realtors always advise their Sellers to keep the utilities on throughout the listing and sales process. This means all of the utilities, including water (unless winterized), electricity and heat (during the winter) should hopefully remain on until the actual settlement.
As more Sellers are worried about the economy (especially a short sale or distressed seller) they are prematurely turning off the utilities. Also, if the Seller has moved out of the house they may turn off the utilities as well.
Please do not allow the Seller, if at all possible, to turn off the utilities. If the Purchase requires a final walk thru or the appraiser needs a final inspection, the closing can be delayed until the utilities are reconnected and the inspection completed.
If it's an empty house and the Seller has stopped making mortgage payments, an Asset Preservation Company for the lender may be involved. Never allow the lender's Asset Preservation Company to turn off the utilities and secure the house. (Prior Tucker's Tip 24-2012 discussed some of these issues). The final inspection or walk thru discussed above may take forever as the Asset Preservation Company isn't concerned about facilitating the closing.
Whatever it takes, please try to encourage the Sellers to keep their utilities on (and pay the bills). Especially in a short sale scenario, keep the utilities on to expedite the closing of the short sale.
Contact me at 434-951-0858 or Tucker@TGBLaw.com if you have questions.
Tucker Griffin Barnes
Charlottesville, VA (434-973-7474)