Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

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JamalJones
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Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:25 pm

Good evening fellow Bogleheads,

I opened my email on my phone earlier today and was shocked to see my monthly utility bill notification showed that my next bill, due first week of February, is going to be $310!!! It's normally between $30-$40.

So my landlord did a maintenance inspection on Dec. 13th. I called the utility company and - sure enough - they informed me that this extra power usages started at 2pm on Dec. 13th, while I was at work. When I got home today, I saw that the temperature in the spare bedroom was set to 100 degrees. I didn't notice any rise in temperature because I never go in that room and my windows are always open in the living room as well as my room (master bedroom). Besides that, the room is in the back of the apartment, so I don't really go too near it anyway.

I talked to my landlord about it, and she said she "wasn't sure" if they did it or not. Hmmmmm. Yeah, ok..... And then she asked me how I couldn't have noticed it. Seriously, I didn't notice for the reasons I mentioned above.

How should I handle this? Ask her to pay $270-$280 of my bill? Ask her to lower my rent for next month by that amount? If she declines, take her to small claims court? Or is this simply "my fault" because it's my apartment and even though I didn't turn on the heat in that room, I'm ultimately responsible so I should just pay the bill in full?

Thank you!
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TheHouse7
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by TheHouse7 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:29 pm

I would pay the bill, and not trust anyone in my place. To recoup maybe you can rent out that room that you never go into :oops:
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by golfCaddy » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:38 pm

What's your time worth? If you get paid $300/day, but have to take a day off work, and win in small claims court $280, I would consider that a loss or just breaking even. That's only if you win and I would expect the landlord to deny all responsibility if you went to court. Sometimes, it's smarter just to accept the losses and move on.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by StevieG72 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:39 pm

Is there a seperate thermostat for that bedroom?

Was the entire apartment being heated excessively but just cooling down in other areas due to open windows?

I would provide the information that you have from the utility company and ask nicely for a rent reduction.

If you lose your cool and go completely sideways they may decline any concessions simply due to your behavior.

It seems like a reasonable request on your part.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.

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JamalJones
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:48 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:38 pm
What's your time worth? If you get paid $300/day, but have to take a day off work, and win in small claims court $280, I would consider that a loss or just breaking even. That's only if you win and I would expect the landlord to deny all responsibility if you went to court. Sometimes, it's smarter just to accept the losses and move on.
Yeah, even before I posted this I thought going to small claims court might be too much of a hassle...
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JamalJones
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:55 pm

StevieG72 wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:39 pm
Is there a seperate thermostat for that bedroom?

Was the entire apartment being heated excessively but just cooling down in other areas due to open windows?

I would provide the information that you have from the utility company and ask nicely for a rent reduction.

If you lose your cool and go completely sideways they may decline any concessions simply due to your behavior.

It seems like a reasonable request on your part.
Yes, separate thermostats for each room. I didn't feel any rise in temperature. It's an old building so there's no modern HVAC system. It's pipes in the ceiling that heat up to warm the room. And when I said "100 degrees" that's just what the dial was turned to. It just means it turned to the max. It didn't make the room 100 degrees. It was definitely warm in there, but not 100.

I like your advice.
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TxAg
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by TxAg » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:33 pm

It’s not fair but the simplest option is to ask the landlord to split it with you. Lesson learned and move on.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by daveydoo » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:38 pm

Does the landlord occupy space above that room? Hoping to "cost-share" utilities? A neighbor in a unit that adjoined a (late) relative's duplex would always be very "helpful" and turn up the heat in the unoccupied house for us :D .
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by mouses » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:47 pm

I would politely present the evidence to her, old bills and the new bill, and ask for a rent reduction to offset it. Actually the people who should pay it are the idiot maintenance company, so she might go after them.

I can see not noticing the problem. I don't get up to the second floor in my house much.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by j0nnyg1984 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:24 am

Not noticing the issue is definitely a realistic excuse. I had a 2 bedroom apartment for 4 years and I went in the second bedroom 5 times. Literally, 5 times.

Hope you get your money back (and update us!).

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Bfwolf » Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:35 am

I think you're right to be upset and expect some compensation. Your landlord should not be adjusting the thermostat in your apartment during a maintenance inspection if she's not going to adjust it back. I'd start with sending her the two bills showing the difference between your normal amount and this month, and a document from the utility company showing when the power usage started (if you an get your hands on it). Then propose that you reduce the following month's rent by the difference in the bills. If she pushes back heavily, perhaps accept splitting the difference, which would be kind and generous of you. If she refuses to do that, start spreading rumors about her to everybody in the building. ;-)

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by 4th and Inches » Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:48 am

Just pay it and move on with your life.

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celia
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by celia » Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:50 am

Let's see. This increased temperature happened a month ago and you just noticed it today. So you had the heat on for about 35 days.

If the billing period ended around Dec 31 (just guessing here), you would have a high bill for December. (It takes a week or two for the bill to be generated and sent out.) That means the January bill will also be high. So check to see when the billing period ends to see how many days are covered in that $270 bill increase. Turn that into a daily rate, then estimate the increase to your January bill.

If you are going to get the landlord to cover part/all of it, you might as well address both months together.

Sorry to tell you it is worse than you think.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by athan » Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:37 am

4th and Inches wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:48 am
Just pay it and move on with your life.
+1

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by CurlyDave » Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:17 am

athan wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:37 am
4th and Inches wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:48 am
Just pay it and move on with your life.
+1
+2

How much do you like your apartment? How hard is it going to be to move? What would the cost of a move be?

It is really difficult to assign "fault" here. As a landlord, I would start to consider anyone who took me to small claims court a troublemaker and would not renew their rental agreement. If someone asked nicely for a cost sharing arrangement I might consider it, but there is no proof anyone did anything wrong.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by pshonore » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:50 am

Where's the meter? You should be doing a daily inspection to solve this and to see how much juice you're using and if there's "leakage" someplace. My electric bill doubled one month which never happened before. Turns out the check valve on my water pump 300 ft down in the ground had broken and the pump was running continuously rather than a couples of minutes an hour. Why do people always think of suing rather than solving a problem?

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by KATNYC » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am

I wouldn't approach the landlord to pay for it but instead would advise her, with backup, that it was done by her vendor while you were not at home.
I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.

student
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by student » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:22 am

KATNYC wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am
I wouldn't approach the landlord to pay for it but instead would advise her, with backup, that it was done by her vendor while you were not at home.
I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.
Excellent advice.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by dbr » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:29 am

student wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:22 am
KATNYC wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am
I wouldn't approach the landlord to pay for it but instead would advise her, with backup, that it was done by her vendor while you were not at home.
I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.
Excellent advice.
I agree, and remember you landlord needs to be your friend. This situation is far enough out of line that I don't think you should have to just pay.

Jags4186
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Jags4186 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 10:47 am

Are you sure this is the result of the heat being at 100 degrees for a couple of days?

If you’re on an equal payment plan usually the true up is in December.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Carefreeap » Fri Jan 19, 2018 10:58 am

Who granted access to your unit? That's the responsible party (RP).

The RP should have walked around and inspected whatever work got done to ensure that the contractor cleaned up, etc.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Nate79 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:08 am

pshonore wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:50 am
Where's the meter? You should be doing a daily inspection to solve this and to see how much juice you're using and if there's "leakage" someplace. My electric bill doubled one month which never happened before. Turns out the check valve on my water pump 300 ft down in the ground had broken and the pump was running continuously rather than a couples of minutes an hour. Why do people always think of suing rather than solving a problem?
Daily inspection of energy use? LOL. Now do you have a checklist and clipboard for your daily inspection?

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Toons » Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:10 am

Pay It
Be Done.
De-Stress

:D :D :D
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by pshonore » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:33 pm

Nate79 wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:08 am
pshonore wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:50 am
Where's the meter? You should be doing a daily inspection to solve this and to see how much juice you're using and if there's "leakage" someplace. My electric bill doubled one month which never happened before. Turns out the check valve on my water pump 300 ft down in the ground had broken and the pump was running continuously rather than a couples of minutes an hour. Why do people always think of suing rather than solving a problem?
Daily inspection of energy use? LOL. Now do you have a checklist and clipboard for your daily inspection?
Come on, I'm talking about this one episode. Is is it still going on? Nothing like waiting for your next bill to notice the problem is still there. Use common sense. There's also a possibility the meter was misread.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by btenny » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:37 pm

Well you can ask the landlord for a discount for couple of months. Give them the documentation. Make sure it shows the bill being high for two months. I suggest you ask for $100 to $200 discount for two months. They may not agree but may offer alternatives or a lesser amount for other services.

I had a similar situation back when in a condo I owned. The maids did not come in and clean or check the unit for 10 days or so after a winter rental. They found the patio door had been left open. There was a snow drift inside on the carpet and the heater was running full blast. The inside temperature was about 50 degrees. The electric and gas bills for that month were $400 above normal. The manager tried to get the renter to pay. The renter said no and that the maids left the door open. The management company ended up giving me some new sheets and towels at year end and a $100 free year end cleaning. I never got any hard cash rebates. And I just lived with the bleached carpet (from the snow) near the door.

Good Luck.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by KATNYC » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:01 pm

dbr wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:29 am
student wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:22 am
KATNYC wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am
I wouldn't approach the landlord to pay for it but instead would advise her, with backup, that it was done by her vendor while you were not at home.
I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.
Excellent advice.
I agree, and remember you landlord needs to be your friend. This situation is far enough out of line that I don't think you should have to just pay.
I've been a landlord and would be more receptive if approached as described.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:37 pm

celia wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:50 am
Let's see. This increased temperature happened a month ago and you just noticed it today. So you had the heat on for about 35 days.

If the billing period ended around Dec 31 (just guessing here), you would have a high bill for December. (It takes a week or two for the bill to be generated and sent out.) That means the January bill will also be high. So check to see when the billing period ends to see how many days are covered in that $270 bill increase. Turn that into a daily rate, then estimate the increase to your January bill.

If you are going to get the landlord to cover part/all of it, you might as well address both months together.

Sorry to tell you it is worse than you think.
That is an important point. As it turns out though, the billing period was between Dec. 14th - Jan 16th. So a little, but not too much overlap. The vast majority of the excess usage is within one billing cycle.
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:39 pm

btenny wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:37 pm
Well you can ask the landlord for a discount for couple of months. Give them the documentation. Make sure it shows the bill being high for two months. I suggest you ask for $100 to $200 discount for two months. They may not agree but may offer alternatives or a lesser amount for other services.

I had a similar situation back when in a condo I owned. The maids did not come in and clean or check the unit for 10 days or so after a winter rental. They found the patio door had been left open. There was a snow drift inside on the carpet and the heater was running full blast. The inside temperature was about 50 degrees. The electric and gas bills for that month were $400 above normal. The manager tried to get the renter to pay. The renter said no and that the maids left the door open. The management company ended up giving me some new sheets and towels at year end and a $100 free year end cleaning. I never got any hard cash rebates. And I just lived with the bleached carpet (from the snow) near the door.

Good Luck.
Thank you! And yes, that is very similar to my situation. At least you did get something out of it. I getting my documentation together now!
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:40 pm

KATNYC wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am
I wouldn't approach the landlord to pay for it but instead would advise her, with backup, that it was done by her vendor while you were not at home.
I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.
:sharebeer
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Lyra » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:01 pm

You will lose nothing by asking for reimbursement. Present your usual bills and other supporting documentation and ask to be reimbursed. I don't know what state you live in; the tenant-landlord laws are different in each state and also vary by region. You may or may not have legal footing, but either way the first step to ask for compensation. It might go better than you expect. If not you have another decision to make.
It's pretty likely she can get reimbursed by the contractor-if they want to be hired again.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by denovo » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:35 am

mouses wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:47 pm
I would politely present the evidence to her, old bills and the new bill, and ask for a rent reduction to offset it. Actually the people who should pay it are the idiot maintenance company, so she might go after them.

I can see not noticing the problem. I don't get up to the second floor in my house much.
KATNYC wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:58 am

I'd let her know that I expect the maintenance company to pay the bill and ask if she wanted me to contact them or will she contact them on her own. In the end, you will have to pay the invoice but could get a full or partial reimbursement from the vendor.
I didn't see OP mention a maintenance company anywhere. If this is a building they probably have a maintenance/handy-men guy working as the landlord's employee. If he's a small-time landlord, he may be doing the inspection himself. Could be using a private person.

At the end of the day, I don't think it's relevant really. OP has no contractual relation with the maintenance guy. Maintenance guy (whoever he is) was there under landlord's direction. Landlord's job to fix it. If a restaurant serves me rotten food, I don't deal directly with their food supplier.
Last edited by denovo on Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by denovo » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:42 am

4th and Inches wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:48 am
Just pay it and move on with your life.
I strongly disagree. This was landlord's fault. And OP has proof. I don't understand why anyone would be willing to pay hundreds for others mistakes.
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by denovo » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:46 am

CurlyDave wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:17 am


It is really difficult to assign "fault" here. As a landlord, I would start to consider anyone who took me to small claims court a troublemaker and would not renew their rental agreement. If someone asked nicely for a cost sharing arrangement I might consider it, but there is no proof anyone did anything wrong.

If you take the OP's opening post at face value, there is proof that the maintenance inspector turned on the A/C and forgot to turn it off.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by CurlyDave » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:27 am

denovo wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:46 am
CurlyDave wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:17 am


It is really difficult to assign "fault" here. As a landlord, I would start to consider anyone who took me to small claims court a troublemaker and would not renew their rental agreement. If someone asked nicely for a cost sharing arrangement I might consider it, but there is no proof anyone did anything wrong.

If you take the OP's opening post at face value, there is proof that the maintenance inspector turned on the A/C and forgot to turn it off.
No there isn't proof. There is the OP's assertion that the inspector turned it on, but not off. I fully expect that if the OP went to small claims court, the inspector would say he remembers turning it off when he was finished.

The amount is small. the OP has to balance the competing issues of possibly getting some recovery in small claims vs. the virtual certainty of having to move if he goes to court. IMHO, moving is going to cost more than the amount in question.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:29 pm

4th and Inches wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:48 am
Just pay it and move on with your life.
+1
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Finridge » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:36 am

It looks like you have pretty clear evidence that whoever did the "maintenance inspection" tampered with your thermostat. This is the landlord's responsibility and you shouldn't be shy and letting them know.

Also, my advice is to *never* consent to allowing the landlord or any of the landlord's handymen, etc. into your apartment when you are not there, except in case of true emergencies. This is because, as you can see, you can't trust people not to to make "mistakes" like this.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Finridge » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:44 am

CurlyDave wrote:
Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:27 am

No there isn't proof. There is the OP's assertion that the inspector turned it on, but not off. I fully expect that if the OP went to small claims court, the inspector would say he remembers turning it off when he was finished.
I have to disagree with that. The power company records are compelling evidence. They show that the unusual usage started at 2:00 PM the day the landlord had the inspection done. OP would also need to establish that he wasn't there--that shouldn't be hard though. The inspector can claim he "remembers" turning it off, but this isn't a clear application of res ipsa loquitur then I don't know what is. However, I do agree that it is not worth going to small claims over.

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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by JamalJones » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:16 pm

*UPDATE!!*

Guys, I am now in possession of a check from my landlord for $264.31!! I told them that my prior utility bill was ~$43 so subtracting that from the total amount of my current bill (~$307 and change - I mistakenly posted originally that it was $310) means that I'm owed 264 bucks for the maintenance guy leaving the heat on in my spare bedroom (and which was left on for 35 days straight).

I probably shouldn't have posted about considering taking my landlord to small claims court. It's just that she gave me some initial push back when I first informed her over text. But she was reasonable about the situation.

So this is what I did:

* Printed out current bill as well as previous seven month's bills
* Printed out daily kilowatt usage going back to May of 2017
(marked and highlighted the normal and excess usage)
* Wrote a half page statement of what happened and why I didn't notice the heat
* (Also printed out work emails proving I was at work at the time, but it didn't provide those)

Then put all those documents in an envelop and gave them to my landlord.

Check arrived in the mail today!

Oh man, I'm relived! Having a $300+ utility bill, combined with rent due at around the same time would have been rough on my bank account.

Looks like it worked out!!

Thank you all for the great advice!
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by KATNYC » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:59 pm

Glad to know it all worked out. :sharebeer

Olemiss540
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Joined: Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:46 pm

Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Olemiss540 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:22 am

Well done and probably successful due to your methodical and unemotional approach with the landlord. Congrats!
I hold index funds because I do not overestimate my ability to pick stocks OR stock pickers.

denovo
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by denovo » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:31 am

JamalJones wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:16 pm

Oh man, I'm relived! Having a $300+ utility bill, combined with rent due at around the same time would have been rough on my bank account.

Looks like it worked out!!

Good for you for not letting this slide. :sharebeer I consider that to be a considerable amount of money and you had good reason not to pay it.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

magazinewriter
Posts: 300
Joined: Mon Apr 19, 2010 11:39 am

Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by magazinewriter » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:37 am

Well done.

To many the extra $264 might not seem worth the effort. But I can definitely remember a time that such an amount would hit my monthly budget hard. I would have tried to get some relief from the landlord, too.

arsenalfan
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Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:26 am

Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by arsenalfan » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:50 am

I'd write a thank you to the landlord.
And also put a sticky next to the thermostat "Please Always Leave at XX degrees"

Bfwolf
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Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by Bfwolf » Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:25 pm

arsenalfan wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:50 am
I'd write a thank you to the landlord.
And also put a sticky next to the thermostat "Please Always Leave at XX degrees"
OP, well done!

While I hate to agree with an Arsenal fan, I think a thank you note to your landlord would be a very nice touch.

Come on you Spurs! :)

stan1
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Someone Needs To Pay For What They Did (Advice sought)

Post by stan1 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:46 pm

arsenalfan wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:50 am
I'd write a thank you to the landlord.
And also put a sticky next to the thermostat "Please Always Leave at XX degrees"
Agree, your landlord did you a nice favor, thanking her would be a great gesture.

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