Long story short...
My elderly mother-in-law lives in Dallas (Oak Cliff... Near Bishop Art District). She's been renting a small house for a couple of years. On the front lawn - same property - there is a small commercial building (10' x10'). Throughout the years, several businesses have opened and closed.
Here's my issue...
I have ALWAYS been suspicious of this so-called 'business space'. For years I have questioned my mother-in-law about the building. She says she has no clue what goes on in there. She was/is under the impression that the property is being sub-leased by her current property manager.
While conducting a visual inspection of the building, I noticed that the building seems to be leeching electricity from my mother-in-laws main electrical line. It has been like this for YEARS!
When realizing this, I asked her about her 'spikes' in her electrical bill. She says that she usually sees a spike in her bill, every time there is a new tenant in the store front.
At the moment, there is NO ONE renting the commercial space.
I whole-heartedly believe that the property manager was aware of the 'electrical leeching' that was taking place. In fact, I have a STRONG suspicion that this commercial space actually belongs to my mother-in-law.
I asked my mother-in-law for a copy of the lease... She lost it.
I plan on obtaining a copy from the property manager tomorrow.
What can I do in the event the property manager was illegally placing tenants in the commercial space?
What if the commercial space was legitimately rented to a tenant but the property manager rented it on the basis of 'free electricity'? How can my mother-in-law recover her losses from several years of electrical leeching?
I do not live in Dallas. I am just vacationing here. If you are reading this and you happen to know of a lawyer that can help me with these matters, please refer them to me. Thanks.
dallas, oak cliff, legal, theft, steal, electric, utility, utilities, commercial, lawsuit, law, crime, criminal,
Try to obtain proof that their were tenants renting that commercial space and see if u can get a copy of their leases saying anything about free electricity. Once u have that and your mothers bills with the sudden changes in usage, file a small claims action against the owner of the property.
Best of luck to you and your mother.
If this were in PA, there is case law regarding "foreign loads" for any tenant paid utilities; here is a thread where this was discussed for PA:
You can also call the electric company to see if there is an electric account for the property separate from you mother in laws. You can do this by calling about the address and asking for historical bills. If you were looking to purchase or rent you would sometimes do this. If there is no separate electric for this building you have a simple answer. Of course people can still steal some of her electricity by additional extra wiring even if there is a separate bill but to me it sounds like a building where there might be no separate electric in the first place.
If the property manager is renting it without separate electric and knows it they may be the one to go after from an ethical standpoint but from the dollar standpoint it is probably the owner and state law would govern what you get back. I don't think there is any state where it would be legal to have the electric shifted to your mother-in-law even if it is in the lease. The owner can pay electric but I don't believe you can have another tenant pay it.
If the building is part of her rental then it is a different story and you would have to consider the income derived from rentals should have been hers but I would be surprised if that was the case. I can't think of an advantage for someone to do it that way without her knowledge.
I would contact the utility company or electrician to see if they can come out and assess the meter usage and determine if it's only 1 meter for both properties.
I would also probably have someone call or call myself inquiring about the building in the front, and ask the pricing, utility questions.
I think your mother in law needs to get a copy of her lease from management, but not mention the electricity situation. Otherwise, they might say that they've lost their copy - had a fire or whatever. Then they could say that the lease explained that she was paying for the electricity for the whole property and she'd have nothing to prove otherwise.
I have seen properties for rent, where there's reduced rent for paying electricity for another unit in the building or similar. So, it can't be ruled out that the original lease had a provision like that and your elderly MIL just doesn't remember.
Turn off the breakers 1 by 1 , when you find a breaker that doesnt turn off anything in your mothers house , thats probably the one feeding the other building .
In case anyone is still wondering...
The issue has been resolved (dead). It was too late for us to prove anything. A new electrical meter was installed a few months prior to my BP posting. Once I noticed that both building had their own meters, I just decided to move on. I was on vacation and my time was too short to be handling my mother-in-laws mess.
Thank you to all the folks that donated there time and energy in providing me with advice.
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