Question about bad wiring and/or hijacked electric?

Old 07-13-12, 04:02 PM
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Question about bad wiring and/or hijacked electric?

Hi! I'm new here, found a lot of great info so I thought I would try to get an answer to a problem I've been having. Hope I'm in the right section!!

I live on the top floor of a multi-family house. We have the entire top floor, the second floor is 2 apartments, the first floor is an apartment and a little store. It seems every month, our electric bill is getting higher and higher. This month is ridiculous! We don't keep anything on really, and only use the AC's to cool the place a little then shut them off for the majority of the time. There are no electronics running all day, and I use my laptop mostly on battery (it has a 10 hr battery, so one charge will last me a few days.) In June, we went away for about 1/2-2/3 of the month, and unplugged everything but the fridge before we left. We couldn't figure out how our bill was so high, so if it was still high for June, we know it's not us! We both work most of the day, so everything is generally off.

Well, I just got June's bill, and it is almost $250! From a month no one was here with EVERYTHING unplugged! The electric company told me the average bill for a place my size in the summer is around $67, so I'm about 4x normal. I realized last month the store installed an outdoor central air unit as well as a fridge unit outside which cools ALL of their wall to wall coolers.

I got pissed when I saw the bill and went into the basement (only entrance is through the back of the store, they somehow convinced landlord to wall up the other doors??) I turned of my main breaker, and looked at my meter. It didn't budge AT ALL! I compared the other 4 meters and theirs were between 0.8 and 1.3 KWh. Mine, with the breakers OFF was bouncing between 8.66 and 9.31! After letting it sit and watching it in disbelief for about 10 minutes, praying it will go down, I turned it back on and had my husband turn on all the lights, AC's, TV, etc. It only went up less than .9. ALso, while it was off, we went door to door to ask about the power, and everyone was fine.

So, this is too much to be a leak, right? A electrician didn't come in to do their wiring for the store, they did it themselves. I'm thinking they're jacking my power? Any suggestions? I already called the electric company, it'll be a while before they come out to check (about a week) meanwhile I"m facing a shutoff notice for a bill to astronomical to pay! My father owns a pro garage with all kinds of equipment running at all hours of the day, and his bill is STILL half mine, and we're NEVER HOME! I mean, we turned off EVERYTHING for 2 weeks straight!!! Please help, please tell me I can get SOME money back! It's too much, and only getting WORSE!!
Old 07-13-12, 04:26 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

So, this is too much to be a leak, right? A electrician didn't come in to do their wiring for the store, they did it themselves. I'm thinking they're jacking my power? Any suggestions? I already called the electric company, it'll be a while before they come out to check (about a week)...
It seems likely that the power for the store's coolers is being fed through your meter somehow. One alternative to waiting until the POCO gets there is to hire the most-trustworthy antisense master electrician you can find to come out and correct the power feed through your meter into your panel, and to write a report of what he found and changed.

That might also be more effective than letting the POCO's techs be the only ones looking at it. The POCO is concerned with getting good, clean power to the building. Everything from that point on is yours - well, the building owner's - and it is the skills and professionalism of professiional electricians and the fine folks who inspect their work that keeps everything on your side safe and clean.

That said, if you're tenants, then your right to intervene in any building system may be very limited.
Old 07-13-12, 05:10 PM
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Yes. Get your own electrician out there to examine things. Tell them your suspicions and take pictures of anything they find to be a problem. Get it fixed and go after the store owner for stealing. Might want to talk to the police as well and get a report filed. Good luck and keep us posted.
Old 07-13-12, 05:27 PM
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Get the landlord involved in this right away.
Old 07-13-12, 06:49 PM
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I also think the landlord would be my first call and then, a trustworthy licensed electrical contractor.
Old 07-13-12, 07:06 PM
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Is your panel really a subpanel? If so is there a main cutoff somewhere else? Just a shot in the dark but if so maybe their tap is somewhere between the main cut off and your panel. If so I'd turn off the main cut off and wait for them to show up or lock it if possible.
Old 07-13-12, 09:17 PM
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It definitely sounds as if an unlawful tap has been made downstream of your meter. If you could post some pictures of the meter room it would help in one of us being able to point out just where this unlawful tap may be located.

If the store did the wiring without a permit and inspection then there is definitely a legal recourse. I would suggest that you call your local building department and ask to speak to the electrical inspector. Police action may also be warranted.
Old 07-14-12, 05:09 AM
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You need to act quickly. You need somw ay of putting this on record quickly, I am not sure how perhaps a police report might be one way.

The landlord should be notified promptly preferably including a certified snail mail letter pointing out your suspicions.

If the landlord does not cooperate you may have recourse in the form of deducting the electric bill from the rent as if rent included electricity. Don't just deduct from the rent, consult appropriate landlord tenant agencies first. It is the landlord's responsibility to protect the utilities against hijacking within the building.

Also, is there a main switch for your unit right at the meter that you can monitor and lock and turn on and off at will? You may want to try to force the landlord to give you access to let you do that. (It may not be in the on position when locked)

It is possible that to start any or all of this may require a police report which in turn means making an accusation. In that case do it now instead of waiting for mroe evidence,.

Also the sooner you notify the landlord the longer a time period you can name when including both the landlord and the suspected tenant in a claim to recover the cost of the electricity.

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