responsibility for electric

chrismc409November 10, 2006


I'm wondering if any one knows "who" pays the electric for the hall way lights and the outside lights which are left on all night?

I have a landlord who has a "workshop" in the basement, she is doing all sorts of projects ( once told me that the apt bldg was her "job") using a table saw, plus one of those high pressure water systems to wash the wooden fence as well as the building itself. Are we the tenants supposed to be paying the electric and water bills for these?



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An apartment building is just like any business. Customers pay all the expenses of a business and renters do the same with apartments. If you get a receipt when you pay your rent you also paid for that receipt. Nothing happens that you don't pay your share of.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2006 at 7:14PM
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I think what Chris means are the landlord's electric/water usage showing up on the renter's utility bills.
Sorry, I don't have an answer, I remember thinking the same thing at my last place, it was a 4plex and i wondered who payed for the hall lights as we all have seperate electric bills. Not that paying for a hallway light bothered me, I was just curious. Now, pressure washing and big projects I may not want to pay for- thats what rent is for, not my utility bills.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 9:39PM
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I do not think it is legal to hook up and tap into someone else's electric account. Any more than you could do this to a neighbor.

Landlords are notorious for pulling this stunt.

I have had two different friends who lived in duplexes with the owner living above them and they found out that the owner had tapped into their electric. You can go to court and file charges or sue if this happens.

First of all, a question to the original poster; Are you in Canada or the US or elsewhere? This would make a difference on the legality and who you should contact to complain.

The proper proceedcure is that your landlord have their OWN account with the electric company and pays for the electric usage for the common areas. This expense is a business tax deduction for them.

Naturally all landlords *set the rents they charge to cover all their business expenses* such all carpet cleaning for the halls, mowing the lawn, repairing the boiler, pest control, painting, advertising and any and all other expenses, *including the utilites* required for running a rental building, just as all businesses do.

If you find out that something is hooked up to your account *you have the right* to remove/disconnect it. It's your account right? You're paying for it. It's your money. It's just like unplugging your lamp or turning off your air conditioning so you can save money. If it is on YOUR ACCOUNT you can do it. Just do not do any damage to the building when you do so.

It is ridiculous to assume that it is OK to hook up to a tenent's account for lighting all the hallways or to heat the swimming pool on their personal account without their knowledge. The utility companies hold the person who has the account responsible for the usage and the payments of the bill. You can't have someone controlling the usage (the landlord) and have you be financialy responsible for it. It doesn't make any sense and it is not legal.

Another thing to watch out for in apartments is other tenents who cut into the wall and pull YOUR wires through to their side and install an outlet or light switch, putting the electric usage on YOUR bill. This is not legal.

I had an apartment where I suspected this had been done to me, so everyday when I left for work I went down to the basement and unscrewed the fuses for my apartment. After a couple of weeks of doing this I came back one night to find that someone had screwed the fuses in again. This ritual went on and on. I never caught the person. They obviously now figured out to watch for me to leave for work and went right down and replaced them so they would have lights and run their appliances.

If you suspect someone is tapping into your electric, go down to the basement and pull all YOUR breakers off. Then wait and see who comes running down. You may have to try this a couple of times as the culprit may not be home when you do this the first time.

I talked to an electrician friend of mine and he said he has seen that it is very common in certain neighborhoods that tenents steal electricity from each other by cutting into walls and gerryriggging up outlets to use.

He said that he has even seen it where "Apt A" is stealing from "Apt B", and "Apt B" is stealing from "Apt A" all rigged. He said it is almost comical.

Another apartment I rented, I happened to move into the unit that had been formerly occupied by the manager who was recently deceased. When I called the gas company to have my gas account activated they told me "Oh. We have it down that this unit has an electric stove! There is no gas bill". I told them I would check again. I had a gas stove. It worked. I never called them back. Obviously someone was paying. (Yes, I know I will burn for this.)

I also found out that I was the only one who had an electric light in my storage locker in the basement on the other side of the building. Who was paying this bill? When I lived there I had the lowest electric bill I had ever had in my life. I mean it was really loooooow, like a few dollars a month. I suspect that the previous occupant, who happened to be the building manager, had wired all his stuff up to other people's service through the wall. Being the 'building manager' gave him a cover to do "repairs" in the building and he took advantage.

Oh, and landlords are also known to hook up to your phone service. This is illegal just as hooking up to your utilities is. They usually do not get caught because they are smart enough to never make any long distance calls. This type of fraud is also perpetrated by other tenents in buildings sometimes. For all you know your upstairs neighbor is going online with dial-upon on your line while you are at work.

So the answer to your question is that NO, tenents are not expected to fund their landlord's hobbies and side businesses with comp'd untilites. Contact a tenents rights organization in your area for advice on what you can do. Laws differ by state or providence.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 11:14PM
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Applying to larger rentals, more than 4-plex. Common area lighting, utility rooms and areas used for apartment Maintenance, office etc, should be on a seperate meter/bill from yours.

When I managed apartments, the property had numerous bills for different areas of the community. No resident was ever supposed to for common area utilities. Though as it was an older property we did find that a couple instances came up where a residents electric was tied in to common area or vice-versa. This was just bad wiring and fixed when discovered.

Water is a bit tougher. We only had two water meters and sub-billed residents based on the square footage of the apartments, and this was completely paid for by the residents.

You can always call your fair housing office to see if this is unlawful!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 1:32PM
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Check and see how many electric boxes are on the building. If there's one more than the number of units, you can reasonably assume the common areas are being billed to the landlord.

In my current building, there are only two units, and the downstairs unit was originally where my landlord lived. Consequently, all of the common area electric (except the basement, as he made duplicate lights with separate switches for each unit, and separate laundry hookups) are charged to the first floor unit, but they knew that before they signed their lease. It does make us (the second floor unit) try to be a little more careful about what we're doing outside, but then, we'd like to think we're actually good neighbors.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 12:12PM
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Count the meters, you can also read them yourself. You also should have access to the breaker box. You can shut them off to see what they control.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 2:48PM
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We just realized that we are paying the water bill and the electric for the other unit in our duplex! We turned off our electric at the main last night to see and all the lights on the neighbors side in the garage and their freezer went off just as ours did! We checked in the basement to where all the water pipes go and one of the pipes goes right into their side of the basement? Our water bill and electric bills have doubled since moving into here! We get their mail everyday addressed to our side? Something is not right here! The lady does not work! And they have cook outs almost every night??? We live on very little since our bills are so dam high! The landlord does not live next door; But we are sure he knows what is going on????????? What can we do????

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:02AM
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Do you pay to the power co directly or to the landlord?

Are you prepared to move?

If you love the place, I would bring this hidden detail up to the landlord and ask that they work it out so the other neighbors and you split the bills.

If you have lease you want out of, I would visit the building dept and ask them about why you have all the bills for the other side and the power.....guessing it is illegal and the owner knows. A visit from the building dept will probably find other defects and have both tenants have to move.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:23AM
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Nita, contact your landlord and tell them this needs to be fixed.

Then contact the electric company and ask them if they can provide you with any help. They might be able to perform an energy audit that will help you track where your electricity is going.

If you can put a lock on the electric breaker box, can you turn off the switches that power the neighbor's unit? Then lock the box. They will undoubtedly complain to the landlord, who will then have to fix things.

The water is a bit trickier. Check your lease to see how that is paid. If it is included with your rent, no problem. If you are paying for it, it might be worth hiring your own plumber to check out what pipes go where and who is paying for what. It could be that the pipe carries hot water from a boiler to their unit, but that they are paying for it.

The mail has nothing to do with this. Contact the post office about that.

How much money they spend isn't your concern. Don't mention it. Just focus your complaints to the landlord on the facts--you seem to be paying for their electricity and water.

Since this is a duplex, it is possible that at one time, it was owned by a family, who lived in both parts of the building, i.e. parents in one half and their married child in the other. They may have decided it was better to have one electric bill, rather than two. But now that there are two unrelated sets of tenants, this should be changed.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:00PM
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