Landlord ripping off my power

bionicfubarJanuary 27, 2009

My landlord of my apartment has a gutter snow melting cable that he hooked up to my power (at over 1000 watts) using an outside plug-in. When I called him on it, he states that he is willing to reimburse me for a bit of the power that has been used, but no-where near the actual figures that this thing is drawing. I have a clause in my contract that states that I won't do anything to damage the unit, and am afraid that if I disconnect the cable, he will try to hold ice/snow damage against me. Is this legal for him to hook up to my power to begin with? And where can I get the info to slam him with if not? Specifics please, am in Washington state. Thanx all

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Since he did not tap into your line and merely plugged something in to an outlet, you can't get any help from the utility company.

Since you live in Washington State it is easier for you to do the research than any of us. Call the Washington State Tenants Union to find out the laws in your state and how to proceed in court to get your money owed for the power the LL stole.

Here is the link that comes up on Google for the Washington Tenants Union:

Washington Attorney General published this booklet. Scroll to bottom for legal aid, tenants rights, ect.:

Google for more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tenants Union

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 11:56PM
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Just out of curiosity, what type of unit are you in (from a structural standpoint)?

Complex? Duplex? House divided into apartments?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 10:24AM
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Thanx dilly dally, appreciate the info - gives me a place to start ;-)

Reply to Moonshadow - unit is in a 3 story multiple unit apartment building built in the late 70's. I am on ground floor, bottom corner. Plug-in is outside my kitchen window and on my kitchen power circuit. Thanx for reply

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Why not just find a way to work with him on it instead of turning it into a huge deal? I'm not taking his side, but he has to plug this thing in somewhere to protect the building right?

If you can compute the watts vs. what the utility will charge - and give it to him in the form of a 30 day "Mock Bill", won't he just pay it?

If he doesn't pay it than i suppose you could show a judge exactly what you gave him, i bet the judge would be impressed.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 4:13PM
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macattac - I have done exactly that. Have figured out the usage of this cable, even gone out and bought a "kill-a-watt" energy usage monitor to track exactly how much this thing uses. Sure it has to be plugged in to keep the building protected, but he is offering me $20 a month to compensate for a bill that adds up to almost $100/mo...
I am on a disability income and cant afford my own bills, let alone his...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 5:23PM
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Since you say you are on disability income do you not have a social worker or veteran's rights group to assist you in any way? They may be at least able to point you in the right direction if they cannot advise you directly.

Also you may want to investigate the number of meters for the apartment complex. You may be able to get him on this. The LL should have one for hallway lighting, parking lot lighting and other outlet receptacles for vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers. If not, call the utility company and complain. Where I live it is a law that public areas must be on a separate meter and not portioned up among tenants. If the LL does have his own meter on the property buy him an extension cord to one of his outlets and hand him the bill. Is the outlet he is currently using on a patio that is part of your unit? Ask about this part of the equation when you call the tenants union.

Let us know how the Washington Tenants Union call went.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 7:53PM
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Well, as a LL this is just my .02.
Considering the type of structure, I agree he should be using some kind of outside power source designated strictly for building maintenance use. If he doesn't have such an outlet, he needs to get one, it's only going to cause grief at some point using a tenant's power. (Although that can flip on a LL, as there are the occasional tenants out there who feel a sense of entitlement, and would tap into it, so perhaps that's why none exists?)

Regardless, it's pretty critical to keep the structure safe from damage. (It is the roof over your head as well, and you don't want to be faced with water seepage>possible mold damage down the line, so at least he's trying to protect all involved.)

So my suggestion would be, that before you come out with all barrels blasting with an advocacy group or something like that, just talk to him again, with figures in hand. Explain you're on a fixed income (even if he knows that, remind him) and it's just not feasible for you to bear the load for the building. Show him the wattage being used, and show him comparable power bills from recent/similar months and how usage has increased. Or get something from your power company if they'll provide it.

And I'm encouraging you to be calm and civil about it. If he's reasonable, he'll cooperate. Because when he said $20 there is always the chance he thought that would be adequate, and he truly did not know how much power this process was going to take. So perhaps he just needs enlightened by you. If, after seeing evidence of what it's done to your own utility bill increase, he still refuses to compensate you, then yes, seek some advice from your local resources.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:48AM
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I agree with moonshadow that the landlord might have thought $20 would cover it. We really underestimate what our appliances cost; I once left to visit my mother for two weeks, and when I got home, I noticed I'd left a 40-watt bulb burning. It didn't seem like a big deal, but it made about a $35 difference in my bill. Things really add up. If the device reading still doesn't sway him, bring in an advocate of some kind.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:09PM
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Sit your landlord down and give him a quick 3 minute lesson on Ohms Law. Show him how many KW/hours his device will use and multiply that times what you pay per KW/hour. Be sure to include both the fees that they charge you (delivery and supply, usually, mine adds up to about $0.15 per KW/hour).

After that, give him the option of either paying you that price every month or hiring an electrician to install a proper receptacle outside.

Altho it's most likely grandfathered in, that receptacle outside is illegal. It is on one of your SABC in which you should have full 20 watts. With his device running, you might blow the breaker when you use your own toaster.

I can't see why a receptacle fed from your kitchen circuit would be on the outside of the building, unless it is at a patio that you use. In that case, he shouldn't be using it anyway.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:40PM
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