Electric bill is too high

11 Replies

What to do? Have a tenant after 3 months of perfect rental payments requested that we negotiate a break of the lease because her electric bill came to high. I sent her a application for heat assistance in my area but don’t know what else I should do. Any feedback will help.

This is not a legal reason for a tenant to break a lease.

What you can suggest is that you can begin to advertise the unit and that the tenant must assist by keeping it clean and available to be shown.  They must also do their part in attempting to find a replacement but YOU are the one who decides if whomever they find meets your screening requirements.

IF (and only if) a suitable replacement is found and this new applicant meets your screening requirements then a new lease may be signed and the current tenant may be allowed out of her lease.

Until then she continues to owe rent until her lease would normally expire.

Gail

Make sure they are not running any grow lamps or the neighbors have not tapped into an outlet and buried a cable underground.

Make sure they don't leave the doors open too.

They might be trying to scam you or put the thermostat too high.

i had a similar complaint when it got cold , the thermostat was set to 80 degrees . The wife stayed home and loved to bake in the electric oven , and every light was on in the house .  And she complained the bill was high.   I asked her why are you complaining to me , I am not the one using the electric . 

Thank you very much for your responses.

Hervlectric bill is too high she is using too much electric. Not you issue. You could arrange an energy audit. Many electric companies do them free. If it is electric heat you can look into what insulation improvements they reccommend.

@Thaddeus Ramirez I don't know if you have Peco in Lancaster since you're not too far from me. They do the energy audits. Right now I think they're $50 but they also give you LED bulbs and good suggestions if you decide to help with some upgrades. If the bill's in her name it's not really your problem.

PECO Aduit is an good suggestion, if you do not want the tenant to leave/break the lease 

I was shocked to get a similar complaint from one of my tenants over the summer.  She didn't want to break the lease, but did want us to contribute to her electricity bill!!!  Her reasons were that she had lower electric bills at the last place she lived and she doesn't think the HVAC works as efficiently in our unit.  We'd had a service tech over there a few weeks before for a minor repair and everything was working fine.  We offered to send him out again to check things out, but she declined.  Overall, they've been great tenants.  But what were they thinking?  Just completely nuts to think we'd agree to pay for some of their electric bill.  Needless to say, we declined that request.

As an aside, I found it especially galling because she is on Section 8 and they already give her a stipend for utilities.  It probably only pays 1/3-1/2 of her utilities, but still!  She already HAS help with her utilities.  Geez. 

Thaddeus,

There are many variables that will affect your electric bill and it is a legitimate complaint from your tenant.  It may not be proper for her to break her lease but if the electric bill is so high that it has changed the affordability ratio for her, you have a potential problem for non-payment!  She is obviously a responsible person or she would not have asked you to change the lease terms.  Here are my suggestions:

1) Ask your tenant about the difference in square footage between her last place and this.  It should be easy to understand that a larger place uses more electric.

2) Ask about the size of her household, if there is a new baby or boyfriend, this will affect the electric usage.  This is also easy to find.

3) Ask if she has any electric appliances that she did not have at the last place.  New TV's, Computers, Printers, Entertainment systems all use electricity differently than she has done in the past.  

4) Check the electric supplier and rate from her last home.  If it is in the same city and a different supplier, have her change to the other supplier.  If it is a different city and that supplier is not available or perhaps the same supplier but different negotiated rate with the city in your area, point this out.  She should recognize that her move to be closer to work or whatever came with a price increase in electric that nobody knew about.

5) Check the usage of existing appliances and equipment.  If someone in the house is mining Bitcoin for example and leaving the computer on 24 hours a day that will be more expensive.  If she is using a washer dryer in your apartment but at her old place she had to go to the laundry room or laundromat, her costs may actually be less for the convenience and she doesn't recognize that.  Check the age and function of the refrigerator.  Sometimes these just use too much power.  You may be able to borrow a gauge to measure the power consumption at your library or city hall or your local power company.

6) Check if she is now using more power supplies for devices.  These buggers are power hogs!

7) Check with the power company to see if the bill is similar to the neighbors.  If not, the problem is in your house.

8) Ask if the lights ever get suddenly brighter for a moment and then go back to normal or if the tenant notices that she must frequently replace bulbs. If yes, then you have a good indication of a loose neutral wire.  Either way, check for a loose or resistive neutral wire in the house.  This will drain power faster than you might imagine.  The loose wire will periodically connect and then disconnect at unpredictable times perhaps even "connect" with a small gap that allows the power to flow but requires more of it to complete the connection.  This is a dangerous fire and electrocution hazard and must be addressed immediately.  Sometimes the only indication you have of this is the higher than normal bill.  This was the problem in my home until my wife informed me that we were regularly paying double the rate the neighbors pay.  The power company will check this likely at no charge.  If you have one, the bill is higher because more voltage is required to run your devices due to a loss in the line.

Once you have identified the problem area, you can work on solutions.  What follows are several solutions that are cheaper than finding a new qualified, responsible tenant. 

1) Purchase, or have her do it, a supply of LED bulbs for every lamp and fixture in the house.  The price of these devices has really come down and they are as affordable as the old carbon filament lamps once were.  Some of these lights can last for 18+ years so they will still be there for your next tenant and they could possibly cut the electric bill by as much as half which, in your case would reduce the tenant back to her original power consumption level.  If this saves the tenant, it is more than worth it.

2) Replace the offending appliance.  If your refrigerator is sucking back power at pre-1970 levels, you need a new one anyway.  Today's appliances are quiet and energy efficient.  Any one appliance is cheaper than all the costs of getting a new tenant.

3) Get the power company to do an energy analysis and check the house for bad neutral connections as mentioned above. 

4) Purchase a set-back thermostat for the house.  These are big energy savers!  Show the tenant how to use it, you can get one at the big box store or get a pro to install it for under $100 in most areas.

5) Buy some timers to control the power supplies on the tenant's devices. By midnight her phone and toothbrush are likely at full power and you can turn off the power to those outlets without interfering with the tenants' use of those devices.  You can have the power come back on just before wake-up time just to be certain that the power is topped up.  You can actually use these on all your electrical devices and appliances in the house.  Turning off your equipment doesn't mean you cut the power, it only means you suspended the operation of it.  If the equipment has a little red or green etc., led indicator on it, that is an indication that it is still using power to run your remote control and such.

6) Change the furnace filters and explain that the furnace/AC can use as much as 40% more with a dirty filter than with a clean one.  That's a great way to get the tenant to commit to regularly changing them when she can see the difference in her pocket!

There are other things you can do besides this. Check with your power company or with the USA Federal Government.  The government has got more stuff to work with than you could ever believe in all areas of your life and business.  Check them out at https://www.usa.gov/

I hope this helps!

Holler if you heard me!  I'm available to answer questions too.

Best regards,

Mark

Here's how some of my tenants handle this...

When a light bulb burns out, they don't replace it.

I'm not kidding.  I've gone into some of my houses and a fixture with four bulbs (a ceiling fan for example) will have one working and three burned out.  And I'm not talking about a fixture where you need a ladder to replace a bulb or a fancy bulb is required.

It's gotten so bad that when we have to do a repair I carry extra bulbs with me just so I can see what the heck I'm working with.

Gail

@Gail K. That's really funny!  I've seen that when I have a place in the "hood".  Tenants will move the bulbs from room to room.  There the real problem is that they think they can't afford the luxury of addition lightbulbs.  Besides, fewer lights on keeps their electric bill down! LoL!  I suggest you be a sport and give them some bulbs.  Another tip is, there are programs all over the country to give away free light bulbs.  Duke power gives them out on request.  Home depot frequently has a coupon that reduces the price to zero, you may have to pay the sales tax, nevertheless; that's practically free.  Google free lightbulbs and you will find dozens of places to get them.

Hope this helps!  Holler if you hear me.

Best regards,

Mark

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