Landlord splitting electric bills between two tenants
January 27, 2014 6:43 PM Subscribe
My (now previous) landlord split the monthly electric bill between us and the downstairs apartment. We had oil heat, neighbors had electric. We had no a/c, downstairs had central a/c. Electric bills run about $400/month, which we never saw, but were invoiced for as "lease extras". Landlord told us we were responsible for 1/2 the monthly bill. I'm not sure this was equitable. Details to follow.
posted by sundrop to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My roommate and I had the main floor of a very small one-story cape-style house. In the basement is a separate 4-room apartment that housed a couple. Separate entrances, separate rent, separate everything.
Our apartment was heated by oil, and electric was for appliances, tv and lights. The furnace was in a section of the basement that we could not access without their permission. The single breaker box for the whole house was in their bedroom, also unaccessible by us. The house was old and had a poor electrical system, and when a fuse would blow (which was often), we would have to call them to flip the breaker. If they weren't home, we were stuck without power until they came home and reset the box. Their apartment was heated by electric baseboard -- they did not use the furnace, nor did they pay for any of the cost. They also had central a/c, we did not.
When we moved in, the landlord told us the deal with the electricity - we pay half of the monthly bill, they pay half. We would pay the landlord based on an invoice generated from his office, so we never actually saw a bill from the electric company. We also got oil delivered for heat, which we were solely responsible for, as they did not use the furnace for heat.
After the first year, when the lease was up, we asked for a renewal. Landlord hemmed and hawed and never ended up executing a new lease for us, so we were on a month-to-month. At the end of year 2, we asked him if perhaps the downstairs tenants could pick up a bigger share of the electric, as they were clearly using more than us (for heat and a/c). Landlord told us, "this is what you agreed to in the lease, so tough shit". But, we had no lease after year one was up. Okay, fine.
My question is this: Is this legal? I'm not seeking legal advice, it's more of a curiosity. I moved out last November and am in a new place, and I have no reason or desire to pursue any legal action. Roommate is still there, forking out $200/month in electric, plus oil for heat. I have a hard time accepting that this is okay. No access to our breaker box, no access to our furnace, and we were paying for our heat and a good chunk of their heat AND a/c, so it was year-round.
If it matters, this was in NY State, Westchester County. Thanks, MeFites.