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  1. #1
    Milkdud is offline Junior Member
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    Landlord Stealing Electricity

    What is the name of your state? Oklahoma

    I moved into an apartment complex and after eight months I noticed a
    pattern in my electric bills that was really strange.

    The bill went like this:
    Dec...1697 KWH (first full month I lived here)
    Jan....926 KWH
    Feb....731 KWH
    Mar....555 KWH
    April..583 KWH
    May...1171 KWH
    June..1947 KWH
    July...966 KWH

    I'm single and live in a small one bedroom apartment.

    After seeing this pattern I became suspicious and tested to see if
    anyone else was on my circuit by tripping all my breakers and then
    looking at my meter to see if it was still registering electrical use
    (i.e. spinning). It was still spinning like a top.

    My closet has a breaker panel built into it and my landlady lives next
    door. I'm sure her breaker box is on the opposite side of the wall
    that has mine. I would assume she is hooked into my power supply
    before it enters my breaker panel.

    There are many other factors that point to her being the thief but I
    don't need to go into that here.

    I haven't brought this up with her yet as I'm sure she would disconnect
    her circuit from my meter if she thought I was suspicious.

    I intend to have the Power Co. inspect the meter. I'm not sure if
    they are going to be able to tell me where the power drain is coming
    from. If not then I will hire an electrician to inspect the wiring of
    the breaker box and hope he can determine from that if she is stealing
    the power.

    I called the local Police and they said if I had evidence of this the
    District Attorney could prosecute. The offense is a misdemeanor and
    the max. fine is $200.00. They suggested that after the conviction I
    could take her to SMC to recover the extra money I paid each month.

    My questions are:

    #1. Am I following the right procedure? Is there anything else I need
    to do?

    #2. Would I need a written statement from the electrician or Power Co.
    stating this is the case or would they have to testify in person?

    #3. I would like to do all I can legally to see she thinks twice about
    doing this again to the next tenant (as I'm sure I'm not the first one
    she's done this to). Should I contact the owner of the
    apartments and advise him? Is he liable for her actions?

    #4. In SMC can I sue for anything else in addition to reimbursement
    for the extra cost on my power bill?

    #5. If the Power Co. and the electrician can't find where (or if there
    was a connection, if she shuts it off) the power draw is coming from,
    could I use her statement from the Power Co. as proof in court (if it
    reflects what I suspect it will) that she is stealing power from me?
    If so, how would I obtain a copy of her bill?

    Thanks for any advice anyone can give me.
  2. #2
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    one thing you can do is learn from your electric co how many meters serve the structure , If your building has 10 apts and there are 10 meters then it would be interesting to know if one is a HOUSE meter covering lighting in common areas, central heating systems, laundry room, etc . One thing that can be done is your electrician can remove your panel cover and look at the wiring in the box to determine if there are any second taps like say a extra set of wires connected to your panel with out benefit of a breaker of any kind. Last does the number of apartments in the building match up with the number of units on record for the buildings records at the county property tax desk or number of units listed on any city building registration records like say rental license ?
  3. #3
    OHlandlord is offline Member
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    Question: When you flipped off the breakers, did you flip off the main breaker, or each of the individual breakers? As Farmer J said, there may be wires that bypass the individual breakers. If you didn't, try flipping off the main and see if the same result with the meter holds true. All wires in your unit are suposed to go through the main breaker, but in some places the wires can bypass the individual breakers if the appliance or area is served by it's own breaker. Furnaces are supposed to have their own breakers, but sometimes they put the individual breaker for the furnace or A/C near the unit itself when the box is too full. (And some lazy installers just don't want to change the box.) It could also be that those extra wires go to someplace other than your unit, like your LL's unit.

    It seems strange to me that the electric varies so greatly. I could understand it fluctuating for the seasons (increased usage for the A/C, or decreased when a gas furnace is used). But your usage drops in January, then jumps again in May & June (OK maybe it was getting hot and the A/C was coming on). But then it drops again in July when it should be climbing for A/C usage in the heat. I don't get this usage pattern at all. Something strange here. One last thing, did you check to see if the electric company actually reads your meter every month? Some utility companies only read the meters every other month, then estimate the in between months based on last year's usage patterns. When this occurs, you get a crazy bill (estimated) then they read the meter and you get a normal bill. Then it repeats. Check this also before you call in the electrcian.
  4. #4
    LindaP777 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by OHlandlord View Post
    One last thing, did you check to see if the electric company actually reads your meter every month? Some utility companies only read the meters every other month, then estimate the in between months based on last year's usage patterns. When this occurs, you get a crazy bill (estimated) then they read the meter and you get a normal bill. Then it repeats. Check this also before you call in the electrcian.
    Real good question! This could be the answer!
  5. #5
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    yes agree to learn the meter reading policy of the elect co . Over the years I did property maint I had seen several different ways things were hooked up Including some rather unique ways that people had even by passed electric meters. One I believe was truly by accident, another maybe not by accident and several more that in my opinion were no doubt ripping off the electric co. Same with cross wiring between units most was obviously on purpose but once in a while it was`nt. If you end up bringing in a electrician and he/she finds something like if the breaker panel in your unit has 4 wires, 2 going into each leg of a main shut off ( the first breaker or huge switch at the top ) or if your panel is only a sub feed with no service disconect and has 2 wires going to each main lug take pictures to add to the electricians report . other wise if there is a shut off at your meter in a utility room and the electrician can shut off the power right there and the meter acutally stops running then have the electrican examine the shut off it self , again if needed take pics to go with the electricans report.
  6. #6
    Milkdud is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the great replies!!
    According to the Power Co., they physically check the meter each month.

    "Question: When you flipped off the breakers, did you flip off the main breaker, or each of the individual breakers?".... I tripped the individual breakers in the breaker panel in the closet.

    I went out to the meter a few minutes ago and located the main breaker just below it and tripped it. The meter stopped spinning.

    I then went back to the apartment and to my surprise my electricity is still on.

    I'm totally confused now.

    Could the Power Co. have the wrong meter number for this apartment?

    Is it possible that I could be drawing power now from the thief?

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by Milkdud; 08-13-2007 at 06:17 PM.
  7. #7
    LindaP777 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milkdud View Post
    Could the Power Co. have the wrong meter number for this apartment?
    I would say it's possible . . . Call the electric company, explain what you found and ask if there is someone there who can trouble shoot for you. (They might do it for free!)
  8. #8
    OHlandlord is offline Member
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    It is very possible that the electric company has the wrong meter number for that apartment. I had that same problem at a duplex about a year ago. No matter how many times I tried to explain to the rep on the phone about which meter went to which half of the duplex, they kept getting it wrong. They even shut off the 83 yr old downstairs tenant when the kid upstairs moved out! Finally I had a live person come out and look. Took 5 minutes and he understood. Hasn't been mixed up since.

    Try turning off everything in your unit. Unplug ALL the appliances and wires. (Even things that LOOK off can be using phantom electricity.) Then go look at the meters for the one that is not moving. That may be your meter.

    If they have the wrong meter number, that bill may belong to someone else (another unit). That may explain your crazy bills. They may have been getting your bills and thinking that they were getting a good deal on the electric bill all along. Maybe the LL isn't stealing electric after all... Try this and call the company again.
  9. #9
    JustAPal00 is offline Senior Member
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    The variance in the electric usage could also be from estimated vs. actual readings. I had a similar thing happen at my home. They estimated low 2 months in a row, then they came out and did an actual reading. My bill was twice what it had been the previous two months. Also like they said in previous posts if the furnace, hot water heater, or AC unit have their own cut offs, they might not be on a breaker in the box. Try cutting the main everything should go off!
  10. #10
    Milkdud is offline Junior Member
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    Finally got it figured out.

    I kept shutting off the main breaker to the meter and someone kept turning it back on again after 12 hours or so.

    In hopes of a clue as to who was doing it I raked the dirt in front of the box so I could track the person's footprints to see in which direction they approached from and to determine their sex. It worked. I was able to determine that it was a male (large work shoe prints) and was coming from my area of the complex.

    Then I turned the breaker back off and as I was heading to my apt a guy came whirling around the corner of the building headed for the breakers. He was very upset and asked me if I had just tripped his breaker. Luckly I was a fair amount bigger than he so he stopped short of hitting me.

    He explained how he has had to throw a bunch of food away in his refer that had thawed as a result of the power being shut off constantly and that his cat was panting from the heat on his return from work (avg. daily temps here have been above 100).

    I told him that the meter that I shut the power off to was mine and that I had the bill to prove it and suggested he get his bill so we could compare them. He did and I was correct.

    He turned out to be a real nice guy and we are both calling the power Co. to get this straightened out. Seems the Power Co., or he owes, me in the neighboorhood of $500.00.

    I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who have replied to my original post with all of the great input you have provided. This is an EXCELLENT message board!!!

    Best wishes to all of you.
    One Happy Dud.
  11. #11
    acmb05 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milkdud View Post
    Finally got it figured out.

    I kept shutting off the main breaker to the meter and someone kept turning it back on again after 12 hours or so.

    In hopes of a clue as to who was doing it I raked the dirt in front of the box so I could track the person's footprints to see in which direction they approached from and to determine their sex. It worked. I was able to determine that it was a male (large work shoe prints) and was coming from my area of the complex.

    Then I turned the breaker back off and as I was heading to my apt a guy came whirling around the corner of the building headed for the breakers. He was very upset and asked me if I had just tripped his breaker. Luckly I was a fair amount bigger than he so he stopped short of hitting me.

    He explained how he has had to throw a bunch of food away in his refer that had thawed as a result of the power being shut off constantly and that his cat was panting from the heat on his return from work (avg. daily temps here have been above 100).

    I told him that the meter that I shut the power off to was mine and that I had the bill to prove it and suggested he get his bill so we could compare them. He did and I was correct.

    He turned out to be a real nice guy and we are both calling the power Co. to get this straightened out. Seems the Power Co., or he owes, me in the neighboorhood of $500.00.

    I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who have replied to my original post with all of the great input you have provided. This is an EXCELLENT message board!!!

    Best wishes to all of you.
    One Happy Dud.
    Would seem to me that you owe the neighbor for the food that spoiled. Why would you keep the breaker off for that long knowing that it was not affecting your apartment?You had to know it was affecting someone.
  12. #12
    Who's Liable? is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by acmb05 View Post
    Would seem to me that you owe the neighbor for the food that spoiled. Why would you keep the breaker off for that long knowing that it was not affecting your apartment?You had to know it was affecting someone.
    Incorrect. The OP was simply turning off a breaker that THEY have a right to turn off.
  13. #13
    Milkdud is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by acmb05 View Post
    Would seem to me that you owe the neighbor for the food that spoiled. Why would you keep the breaker off for that long knowing that it was not affecting your apartment?You had to know it was affecting someone.
    Because I was under the assumption (if you read the previous posts) that someone was stealing my electricity and the only way to catch them (short of paying for an electrician to inspect it) was to see who turned the breaker back on.

    This method worked and if I had turned it back on it wouldn't have.

    And as Who's Liable? points out, it's my breaker to do with as I wish.

    Last edited by Milkdud; 08-18-2007 at 06:35 AM.

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