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Argh blargh monopolies
August 12, 2009 9:16 AM   Subscribe

My new rented house used to be a duplex, and it still has two electricity meters. Do we really have to pay two bills every month because of this?

Five friends and I have rented a large house to live in. Our lease just started, and we are in the process of getting the utilities set up so we can move in.

The house is a renovated duplex, which is why it's so huge. The renovation is so recent that it was still going on when we signed the lease last winter.

Our landlord told us that for most of the utilities, the house still had two meters in place, so we'd need to let the various companies know.

I was in charge of setting up water, and after lots of back and forth with the landlord it came out that, really, it was only necessary to turn on one of the meters. I got it all set up, and it was fine.

My roommate in charge of electricity, however, was told- either by the electricity company or the landlord, or both, I'm not sure- that we had to turn both meters on. And then the power company charged her two separate activation fees, for a total of $300!

This really seems sketch to me. Why on earth should we have to pay twice as much in electricity bills just because of what the house USED to be like? Is this issue something that should have been corrected during the renovation, or what? Is it legal for them to charge us twice, and is there any way around it? I.e.- if we just had one electricity meter turned on, would the whole house still GET electricity?

Only one of us is in town with the house yet, which only makes this all more complicated.
posted by showbiz_liz to Law & Government (14 answers total)
 
if we just had one electricity meter turned on, would the whole house still GET electricity?

The answer is almost certainly no. If it worked like that, when the house was a Duplex, the left half renters could leech off the right side with no consequences. In order to have the halves of the house rejoined and connected to one meter, you'd need an electrician to do some work. The extra 300 dollar activation fee is likely trivial compared to what that would cost you.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:20 AM on August 12, 2009


Makes sense. But, since we are just renting, why should it cost us anything? I rather thought that was the whole point of renting.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2009


The landlord should have had the circuits from one of the main electrical panels run to the other panel when he renovated. Maybe he can be convinced to reimburse you for a portion of the activation fee, if he never said anything prior to the lease signing about there being additional costs to you.
posted by orme at 9:29 AM on August 12, 2009


If the landlord isn't paying for your utilities, as per the lease, then you have to pay your own utilities, including any applicable fees, etc. That's how renting works.

Each meter should control half the house, so each meter should be registering roughly half the house's electricity. So you shouldn't be paying your whole bill twice, you should be paying the two halves of your bill on separate invoices. Two meters = two bills, two activation fees.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2009


[this is in Qc, Canada]
We just bought a duplex that used to be a triplex, so we'll pay for two meters in our apartment. I checked with an electrician as well as the electricity company. They don't charge to remove a meter, but before that, you have to hire the electrician to re-direct all wiring to a single fuse box (and perhaps switch to a 200A box if what's there is just a 100A). In our case, it was estimated at a little over $2000 canadian. But the monthly difference when keeping two meters is just $15, that is, the basic service fees, everything else is electricity consumption we would pay for anyway.

So I'd say check how much it costs every month before taking any decision. Otherwise you'd have to check what's plugged in each box, but I doubt you could simply keep one off. Also, if these details weren't included in your lease, you can always negociate them with the owner (at least for the activation fee, as I imagine once the meter is "activated" the next renter probably won't even have to pay for this--at least here, we don't).
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:33 AM on August 12, 2009


Yeah, it's unlikely your landlord wants to combine the two, A) because of the expense of doing so, and B) in case he ever wants to rent them separately again. I don't think you're in "totally sketch"ville, but I'd want him to cover the difference in monthly fees, if there's a separate thing, or at the very least, cover the activation. But $30 is hardly worth sneezing at in the long run.
posted by disillusioned at 9:40 AM on August 12, 2009


Like ddaavviidd says, there is often a fixed component of the electric bill. I have a $16 charge for "Distr Cust Srvc Chrg" that is not based on the number of KWH. If I had two meters, I would pay that twice.
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on August 12, 2009


Follow these steps:
1. Activate only one meter/account.
2. Buy extension cords.
3. Run extension cords from rooms with electricity to rooms without electricity.
4. Be happy you don't live on one of those 'No Outlet' streets.
posted by trueluk at 9:54 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


do not do what trueluk suggested.... bad idea for all sorts of reasons...I hope that was a joke...

ask the landlord to reduce the rent by the extra cost of maintaining two accounts...he's the one that went cheap on this....
posted by HuronBob at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


While it would be nice if your landlord went along with HuronBob's suggestion I'd bet legally he doesn't have to. Your lease most likely leaves you responsible for utilities and your landlord, by your own admission, told you that the house had two meters. Your ignorance of what that meant when it came time to hook up the power isn't his fault.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on August 12, 2009


Your lease most likely leaves you responsible for utilities and your landlord, by your own admission, told you that the house had two meters. Your ignorance of what that meant when it came time to hook up the power isn't his fault.

We were not told that there were two meters when we signed the lease, though. We were told that several months later.

Still, I guess the only course of action is to ask him to refund the difference to us.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2009


That would be a bit different. Worth asking for but I wouldn't expect much and while you might win in court it would make an enemy of your land lord for $150 split six ways. Considering you'll probably need his good will in the future (six college students renting a house = good chance for at least a little drama in the next year) I'd just absorb the cost if he doesn't agree to help you out.
posted by Mitheral at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2009


Our house (which we own) has 2 meters. The additional cost per month is much less than it would be to rewire everything. As a bonus, our house also has 2 water heaters and 2 heat pumps, so we can see how much electricity the second ones are using vs. the first. (Strange house, I know.)
posted by JMOZ at 1:34 PM on August 12, 2009


Why on earth should we have to pay twice as much in electricity bills just because of what the house USED to be like?

I'm not sure but this seems to be the key aspect of your concern. Since electricity costs are based primarily on usage, it is irrelevant how many meters you have. Whether you had one meter or two, your refrigerator, air conditioner, and so forth would still use the same amount of electricity. You are not being double-charged for power.

That said, the activation fee ($150 each?! are you sure this isn't a deposit?) and other regulatory-related costs (say, a fee to provide low-cost power in rural areas) might be a little frustrating to pay twice. On the whole, though, I wouldn't expect this to increase your bill by more than around 10%. That's the figure you might want to talk to the landlord about having him cover -- the cost to you over and above what a single utility meter bill would be.
posted by dhartung at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2009


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