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July 28th, 2009


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04:03 pm - Electricity
Jon and I are dealing with a very frustrating electric bill situation.  Our April utility usage was 186 kwh, May was 218, and June was 951.  Obviously, this is a huge difference, and we were concerned.

First, some background on our electricity usage.  We did not use the air conditioner until May, and we keep the apartment between 85 and 90 degrees when we do use it.  We turn it off while we are away from the apartment (although I am unclear as to whether that actually saves energy, I figure that it can't hurt).  We use a fan when we are in a room and turn it off when we leave.  We have a few clocks, radios, and lights plugged in mostly permanently, and of course the microwave/stove/oven and refrigerator/freezer are always on.  We unplug my computer and everything attached to it after we use it, which is usually only a couple times a week for a few hours, we don't own a TV or video game stuff, and we have fluorescent lights in most of the sockets.  I say that both to make myself feel good and to say that we always had very low electric bills when we lived apart, and now that we live together, we expect and, until this last one, have had, low electric bills.

Back to the situation at hand.  We were concerned that there was an error in the bill, so we emailed the company.  Here is the email exchange.

Us:

We are concerned that there is a problem with our June electric bill.  We used 218 kwh in May, and the current bill shows 951 used in June.  We were out of town for most of the month (June 8-July 9), and we unplugged almost all of our appliances (not the refrigerator or range) and turned the air conditioning off before we left, so it is extremely surprising that the meter showed such a high reading.  Is there a way to have this checked?  We certainly want to pay what we owe, but we feel that it is very unlikely that we used four times as much electricity in one week as we did in the previous month and would like to have it checked out.  Thank you.

Them, in red because their email was and to help you, dear reader, tell us apart:

There was a tenant complaining the lives beside your unit that their bill has been outrageous.  Our maintenance found that when we had an issue with their air conditioner, an outside technician crossed wired your air conditioner and they were paying for your unit.  I kept wondering why your unit was so GREATLY below usage below any other townhouse or one bedroom at the property, now we know why.

You have been getting a fabulous rate and deal due to not paying for your true usage.  There is not way of going back and figuring out what your savings has been but we are cutting the tenant that has been paying for your usage a huge cut back.

Hope this helps in explaining the difference in monthly rates.

Us:

Thank you for the information.  What was the date of the air conditioner repair that caused the crossed wiring?

Them:

Before you took possession…June 2008

I went back and looked at your electric bills; you guys have been billed lower than a one bedroom sine you have taken possession.

Nothing we can do about it now.  I feel sorry for the person that was paying those bills for so long, but I had no clue.

Here ends the exchange.  Some of our thoughts:

-It is inappropriate to try to make me feel guilty that another tenant was paying part of my electric bill.  One of the benefits of renting instead of owning is that certain things are taken care of by the landlord.  In our case, they have some sort of deal with an electric company, and the entire complex gets a low rate on bulk service from them, and they bill us.  Not all apartments do this, but that is the case with us.  This means that they are responsible for billing the proper amount to each tenant.  Also, they are responsible for maintenance, and if someone miswires some air conditioning units, that is their problem, not ours.  (That's why we pay them.)  I am glad that they feel sorry for the tenant who was paying too much, but the situation is not my fault, and I feel like they are trying to make me feel guilty for it so I won't try to make sure the bill, and our future bills, are right.

-Even if, as they claim, our bills have been artificially low because of the wiring problem, there is no way we should have used 951 kwh in June, given that we were out of town and definitely turned off the air conditioning altogether before we left.  Their claim is that the former billing problem was just an air conditioning unit mix-up, so our other electrical usage should have been about the same as or lower than the month before, let's say 200 kwh.  So somehow we used 751 kwh of air conditioning in a week.  With the rate that we get, that is about $112.  We were told that the average monthly utility bill for the former tenants was $150-170 in the summer.  If we had had the air on for four weeks, that would be $448 just in air conditioning.  Since I doubt that the former tenants kept the temperature as high as we do, I feel like there must be some mistake.  Possibly the opposite air conditioning wiring problem has happened, or there is something terribly wrong with the air conditioner that should be fixed, or there is some amount of misinformation being given to us.  I hope that they have not decided that we should pay for some amount of what had wrongly been charged to the other tenant and not telling us.

-Our electric bills have always been approximately what we expected based on our former electric bills.  As stated above, we have always had low electric bills, and our usage has been what we would expect based on our old bills with some wiggle room factored in for the fact that every place is a little different.  So when they repeatedly say that our electric bill is dramatically lower than anyone else's, I am not surprised in the least and don't think that that's a reason for me to pay the bill without asking more questions.  I would be surprised if we did use as much as a typical one-bedroom because our habits and heat tolerance are different from most people's.

-If the other apartment was just paying for our air conditioning, it shouldn't have made any difference in their bill from October-April because we didn't use the air or heating, or if we did, it was only for a couple days at a time.  I find it hard to believe that it would cause it to be this high if there aren't more things involved in the crossed wiring, and I am worried that perhaps

Now we need to decide how to proceed.  Since rent is due at the end of the month, I think Jon and I might go together tomorrow to pay rent and discuss this further.  I need to think about the points we should make so I won't get upset.  I like the apartment very much, and I want to have a harmonious continuation to our relationship with the management company.  I think we are good tenants.  We pay on time, we're not noisy, we don't smoke, we have only asked for minor maintenance.  I just want things to be right.  We would like some information on electricity usage of the tenants before us, some sort of documentation that the alleged wiring mix-up did occur when they said it did, and the meter readings.  We are going to try to find our meter so we can keep track of it ourselves and perhaps perform some simple experiments like what happens to the number if we leave the AC off for two full days.  We would also like some sort of assurance that the wiring is currently right.  I am worried that it may not be if they made this mistake before and only now noticed it.  If the July bill is still sky-high, we would like them to fix the air conditioner because it should not be using so much electricity.  We may turn off the air conditioner altogether and get window screens and fans for more of the rooms if the situation does not improve.  (The management company refuses to get window screens for us because they are "unsightly", which is weird but not part of this post.)

I really hate situations in which I have to very clearly take a stand against someone else and be demanding because I am naturally a non-confrontational, easy-going person, but I don't want to pay for electricity we didn't use.  If we are going to pay this much, I shouldn't be sweating in the house!  I'm going to have to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.

Other things that happened today: Pyrex violently exploded in my oven (it's not broiler-safe) and a car almost ran me over by making a left turn into the wrong lane (the lane in which opposing traffic would be driving if there had been any opposing traffic besides me on my bicycle).  I think she was trying to make a quick left right after the light changed so she wouldn't have to wait for the other cars to go through the intersection.  She either didn't see me or thought I shouldn't have been there.  Not fun.

Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
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Comments:


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Date:January 27th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)

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From:kibudeal
Date:April 8th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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From:yasmineagi
Date:October 31st, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
great post as usual!


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