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Tenant discovers landlord stealing electricity to power another unit: 'Call the power company and have them investigate'

"It has become … obvious the landlord has been aware of this as he has become defensive and is feigning ignorance."

"It has become ... obvious the landlord has been aware of this as he has become defensive and is feigning ignorance."

Photo Credit: iStock

Conserving energy is important to save on your electric bill, but what if you found out you've been paying for a neighbor's electric usage for years without realizing it? 

A Redditor took to r/ApartmentLiving to share that that's exactly what happened to his friend.

"For the past 3 years, I have rented the bottom 2 floors of a 4 story house," the friend is quoted in the post. "There are 2 separate electric meters for the 2 apartments." 

The tenant went on to say that while she is responsible for her electricity bill, the upstairs neighbor has a different lease agreement in which the landlord covers the cost of the electricity. 

One day her friend — the one who shared her story to Reddit — upgraded and installed a new light fixture for her in her home. 

"As soon as he shut down the one breaker for that particular circuit," she continued, "I got a call from the neighbors upstairs saying that they have lost most of their power." 

The original poster said that this woman was a single mother of two. The woman said that her power bill had been averaging over $175 in the summer and almost $400 in the winter. 

"It has become … obvious the landlord has been aware of this as he has become defensive and is feigning ignorance, promising to have it [checked] out while taking no action whatsoever," the post concluded. "Any advice on how to go about getting this money back?"

Unfortunately, there are many such cases of landlords across the country preventing renters from saving money — or, in this instance, allegedly taking their money outright. And some landlords prevent their renters from saving not just money but the environment, too. One tenant in California was prevented from charging their electric vehicle, and one Texas renter was told to keep their yard green despite the heat — wasting water and hiking up the bill. 

These are cautionary tales, and it's helpful to be aware of what can go wrong and ways to try to resolve problems that may be costing you money, especially when they are also bad for the environment.

There are multiple ways to keep energy usage down, such as unplugging energy vampires, which can save over $100 per year, or buying energy-efficient appliances. In this case, if the landlord was letting her pay the entire building's bill, he had little incentive to provide better appliances or insulation.

It is possible to bypass strict policies or work with landlords to change established rules. Additionally, if you're one of 74 million people in the U.S. who live in an area governed by a homeowners association, you can use TCD's HOA guide to navigate the rules and restrictions of those organizations. 

In a similar vein, many Redditors had advice for the original poster and his friend. Some advised leaving the breaker off, while others encouraged them to speak to an electrician and gather evidence before reaching out to the landlord. 

"Call the power company and have them investigate," one person commented. "Then see if you can get a [written] statement of [what's] going on then call code [enforcement] or [whoever] is in charge of landlord compliance in your area."

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