Unique Tenant Issue Involving ComEd Repair Question....Help!

10 Replies

Hi All,

New landlord here with a unique question. I own a SFH where my tenant had the electric turned off due to non payment. The property is located in Will County Illinois and the provider is ComEd.

When ComEd came out to the house to turn the power off they told my tenant they will not be turning it back on until the back box connecting the meter to the home is repaired. I've had a few electricians look at the damage, and tell me over the phone that the reason for the damaged box is because ComEd when originally run wire underground to the home it did not leave enough "slack" and over the years with the home settling and the harsh winters the wire had pulled back from the home causing the box to be pulled along with it and cause the damage. My understanding is anything running to the meter is ComEd responsibility and anything behind the meter is mine. Everyone tells me to fight this with ComEd, however I have been warned this will be a struggle.

Has anyone ever had this happen to them before or dealt with ComEd on anything like this? Any advice here will be welcomed. I was just notified of this yesterday by my tenant and of course I am upset because if the power was never turned off in the first place this would not be an issue. My tenants are now without power even though they paid current on their bill since ComEd will not turn it back on. Regardless if this is a hazard I do want this to be repaired.

Thanks again everyone

@Mike Barry

 - I would fix the issue immediately so the tenant has power and then fight with ComEd for reimbursement.  You may be open to liability for not being able to provide your tenant with power. In Cook county you would be required to put them up in a hotel until the issue is fixed.  

Medium second city real estate logo   white close upBrie Schmidt, Second City Real Estate | [email protected] | http://www.SecondCity-RE.com | IL Agent # 471.018287, WI Agent # 57846-90 | Podcast Guest on Show #132

It certainly would be an issue even if the power had never been turned off. You just would have been unaware of the danger. So get over being upset with the tenant.

Fight with the utility or not. But get right on it. The fact that your tenant had the power cut for nonpayment is not relevant at this point. You have an obligation to provide a habitable dwelling, which right now you are not.

If cannot get this cleared up with th utility Monday, I think you'd better bite the bullet and pay to have it done. I would also refund rent on a prorated basis for the days the tenant was without power despite being paid up.

You are fighting a bureaucracy/monopoly and your tenant is the one waiting with no electricity for it to be resolved.  Do what @Brie Schmidt

 suggested and fix it immediately instead of waiting for ConEd.  Yes you may have a legitimate beef with ConEd and yes they will still need to put some slack in the line, but think about having no electricity. 

@Mike Barry please don't waste your energy fighting Comed because it will take hours of being on hold, getting moved around to different departments, and waiting on appointments that are three weeks out only for them not to show.   I would get the issue fixed so the customer service part of your business is addressed and then walk away from the beef with Com Ed.  

If you do not want to let ComEd off the hook that easy, then continue to threaten them with the "reporting them to the citizens utility board or any other utility watch dog organizations."

Medium untitledMark Ainley, GC Realty & Development LLC | [email protected] | 630‑587‑7400 | http://www.gcrealtyinvestments.com | IL Agent # 471.003954 | Podcast Guest on Show #72

Wow. I can't help you with specifics, as I am in New York, but when I first saw your message, it reminded me of the 4+ month long battle I've been having with my local energy provider, ConEd. My property is vacant because I have been fighting my utility company to get gas and now electricity after they posted a shutoff notice due to wiring issues as well. I agree with those who say you should get the repairs done ASAP to get the power back on, and then look into fighting ComEd for reimbursement. These energy companies are big bureaucracies that take forever to fight. It sounds like your jurisdiction has similar rules as NY about providing utilities to tenants (electricity, heat, hot water); over here, it is a serious housing code violation that, if not fixed within 24 hours, could subject the landlord to serious fines, putting up tenants in hotels, and even jail time.

Here in NY, we have what's called the NY Public Service Commission. You could see if there is a similar regulatory agency in your state and look into filing a complaint with them. I filed a complaint about my utility company, and while nothing has been fixed, at least I have a somewhat high level contact at the utility company helping me.

Does your tenant have renter's insurance?  If so, their insurance can put them up in a hotel while you fix the problem.  Even with habitability issues, you still get a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem.

Another temporary option, would be a generator to power just the essentials.  According to this document, the law for habitability in Illinois says:

“the defect must be of such a substantial nature as to render the premises unsafe or unsanitary, and thus unfit for occupancy."

http://www.edcombs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/...

So, it seems to me if they have enough power to have hot water and use the fridge, etc., that might be good enough temporarily.

I think you need to talk to a lawyer, though.  You want to be sure you're in a good position to fight ConEd for reimbursement.  I'm just wondering if you also have to give them time to fix it themselves, rather than just fix it immediately, and send them the bill.  

Something to check into later, is if you can be put on the account to be notified if the bill gets behind.  I know some utility companies have this service.

Originally posted by @Sue K. :

Does your tenant have renter's insurance?  If so, their insurance can put them up in a hotel while you fix the problem.  Even with habitability issues, you still get a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem.

Another temporary option, would be a generator to power just the essentials.  According to this document, the law for habitability in Illinois says:

“the defect must be of such a substantial nature as to render the premises unsafe or unsanitary, and thus unfit for occupancy."

http://www.edcombs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/...

So, it seems to me if they have enough power to have hot water and use the fridge, etc., that might be good enough temporarily.

I think you need to talk to a lawyer, though.  You want to be sure you're in a good position to fight ConEd for reimbursement.  I'm just wondering if you also have to give them time to fix it themselves, rather than just fix it immediately, and send them the bill.  

Something to check into later, is if you can be put on the account to be notified if the bill gets behind.  I know some utility companies have this service.

 I agree with Sue about talking to a lawyer.  I disagree with basically everything else she says.  If you cannot get an occupancy permit with a generator (hint: you cannot) then that is not going to cover you on the habitability front.  And in my state, I must provide alternate housing on the very first night.  There is no "reasonable amount of time to fix the problem."  That may well be the case in your state as well, so check with that lawyer.

Originally posted by @Richard C. :

 I agree with Sue about talking to a lawyer.  I disagree with basically everything else she says.  If you cannot get an occupancy permit with a generator (hint: you cannot) then that is not going to cover you on the habitability front.  And in my state, I must provide alternate housing on the very first night.  There is no "reasonable amount of time to fix the problem."  That may well be the case in your state as well, so check with that lawyer.

 LOL, point taken.  In CA, a very tenant friendly state, a landlord still gets a reasonable amount of time to fix things.  But, it should be checked out for sure.

Thanks everyone for your help and advice it has been beyond helpful. My priority is getting this repaired for my tenants, and by networking I've found a trustworthy experienced electrician that is able to come out asap to do the work. Also, he has seen this exact same issue before so is going to give me his 2 cents on what he has seen others do with ComEd.

As for ComEd if anyone has this issue come up to them in the future especially those of us in the ChicagoLand area (@Mark Ainley  @Brie Schmidt ) this is NOT something they will willingly admit too. There is a claim process they offer which is exactly what I am going to attempt to do, but it will be an uphill battle I am sure of it. I will keep everyone posted on how this all turns out.

I can't say enough how helpful it is having BP to network on the day to day business of being a landlord and investor. Thank you all again for taking the time to help. Some of who contributed I have came to know already by listening to podcasts and reading articles several of whom I admire were featured in. 

Thanks again for all your wisdom and advice much appreciated! 

Mike Barry