Are Oklahoma Children Responsible for Their Parent’s Utility Bills?
As the tale goes...
Imagine you're 27 years old, getting ready to move into a new place of your own, and the utility company informs you that you must first pay off the family gas bill from 2009--when you were only 12 years old.
Why? Because you lived in the house at the time and your parent's account is still that far behind...
Shenanigans, right? Well, that's the story that hit the front page of the Oklahoma Reddit today.
Trying to turn on gas services at my new address and ONG says i need to pay $700 because of a bill from 2009. They said even though i was 12 years old, and the bill was not in my name because i was in the 6th grade. They said because i lived there and used the utility i am now responsible. Is this even legal since i was not attached to the bill with my social or ya know wasnt an adult? Ong said i could dispute it but it could take up to 6 months so id essentially just be without gas until summer. Just want to know if anyone’s had a situation like this before.
Now I know we collectively don't think much of our Oklahoma utility providers, always getting favorable decisions from the OK Corporation Commission, but this wild story sounds completely plausible from the archive of historical utility shenanigans we've become so accustomed to.
How would a person navigate this scenario? First, you have to ask a few questions.
Can a family member inherit debt?
No. If your parents died eyeballs deep in debt, it wouldn't be your responsibility to pay them. The debtors would stake claims on any property or assets your dead parents left behind to settle the accounts, but you wouldn't be liable to pay out of your own money.
Are you liable for anyone else's debt?
No. Plain and simple, you aren't. Of course, debtors can ask all they want to, but at the end of the day, you are not responsible for debt that isn't yours.
This actually happens a lot, especially among renters.
The scenario plays out like this... You move into a new rental home or apartment. You contact the utility company to start service. They inform you that the previous tenant owes "x" amount on their unpaid bill at that address and suggest you must pay it before they'll connect service in your name.
It's an illegal debt-collecting scheme, but you'd be surprised how many Oklahomans pay whatever they have to to get their service turned on.
From the comment section...
They did this to me
The bill was in my ex husband's name- and I wasn't on the account. I had to pay his $300 bill off before I could start services at my new address 6 years post-divorce.
I don't have any recommendations. I paid his bill so I could have gas. I have 2 kids I am providing for and my ex wasn't going to pay it.... we had to have heat
Those scenarios might not be what is actually playing out in the case of "Oklahoma child liable for parent's utility bills..." It could simply be that one or this person's parents used their social security number to get the service turned on in order to avoid hefty deposits.
Also illegal... but again, a pretty common practice in Oklahoma. Probably common enough across America... but even if that is what is happening in this particular situation, the "child" isn't liable for any past balances.
As any Gen-X or Elder Millennial can attest from our experiences with Columbia House Records, minors cannot enter into legal contracts.
Even if his/her social security number was used to rack up this debt, since they were under the age of 18 at the time, they aren't responsible for paying the bill. At least that's what the legal minds of the internet spew.
You'd be amazed how often this scenario comes up in the Legal Advice Reddit.
We'll all have to collectively wait to see if the story either changes due to miscommunication or if this whole thing spirals into something sensational. Either way, we'll all learn something about the new evolving Oklahoma Standard.
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