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Need help: our 800 sq.ft. apartment only has 2x15amp circuits, is that legal?

Need help: our 800 sq.ft. apartment only has 2x15amp circuits, is that legal?

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  #1  
Old 07-18-13, 12:24 PM
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Need help: our 800 sq.ft. apartment only has 2x15amp circuits, is that legal?

Hi all, my first post here. Thank you for reading.

I have a huge problem. About six months ago, my family and I moved into a two bedroom, 800 square foot apartment. Almost immediately, we discovered the available electrical power is severely limited. Circuits were popping left and right.

Through trial and error, I discovered the entire apartment only has 2 15-amp circuits. One circuit covers the kitchen, dining room and living room. The second circuit covers two bedrooms, the bathroom and hallway.

We need more power. Summer is here, and it is getting hot. I live in Los Angeles, specifically Inglewood. There is no central AC, and window AC units are not allowed. I have to buy and use the portable AC units, and run a hose to the window, which is fine, but there's not enough power for AC units.

I made a request to the office manager, who had me put it in writing. The response I got was the wiring cannot handle additional load, so there's nothing they can do about it. They claim the electrical system meets legal specifications, so they don't have to do anything.

They told me to buy one small unit, and only run one AC unit at a time. I won't go into btu's per foot stuff (which I did research), but even the largest 110-volt unit (14,000 btu, 10.5 amps) will not cool the entire apartment, and if it could, there's not enough power anyways.

I'm no code expert, but a quick "National Electric Code" google search tells me this apartment should have a LOT more than just 2 15-amp circuits. The kitchen alone should have a least 2x20 amp appliance circuits. It has neither.

I should note: we love it here! The neighbors are great, the neighborhood is nice, location is perfect, so we don't want to move, or even rock the boat. I don't want to lawyer up, or start calling federal, state and local regulatory authorities and file complaints. I don't want anyone getting into trouble. I just want more power, so we can have sufficient AC. The maintenance manager told me he's received no complaints, and insists there is no problem.

Is he right? Does our apartment meet electrical code requirements? Am I up a creek without a paddle?

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your feedback!

Sincerely,

Sweating Tenant
 
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  #2  
Old 07-18-13, 01:19 PM
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You could call the Department of Building and Safety and ask some general questions about code requirements. You don't have to file a complaint, just ask them about your general situation without naming specifics.

City of LA Department of Building and Safety's website: http://ladbs.org
 
  #3  
Old 07-18-13, 01:28 PM
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Minimum circuit 50+years ago for a house was 60 amps. Now it is 100 amps for a house. Is the electric on a central meter; I'm guessing it is. Not much that can be done for less than several thousand dollars so the landlord is going to continue to resist. If you have a lease you may be able to break it on grounds of constructive eviction and move. I don't see any short term solution given the money involved. The landlord is going to fight tooth and nail not to do it even if you prove a code violation.

Is this an apartment building? If so do your neighbors have the same setup?

I am sure the owners are claiming it is grandfathered but just to give you some amo, two dedicated 20 amp circuits are required for the kitchen and at least one 20 amp dedicated circuit for the bathroom. No bedroom or living room circuits can be on either of those so that would mean to have electric in the bedroom and living room there would have to be yet another circuit. That is a minimum of four circuits just to meet current code.
 
  #4  
Old 07-18-13, 04:03 PM
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Is this an apartment building? If so do your neighbors have the same setup?
Thanks Ray for the reply. Yes, apartments, four units to each small building, and all buildings have same problem. The buildings are old (50+ years), but they were recently totally upgraded and refurbished, in the past 10 years. All units (at least 100) in all buildings have the same extremely limited power. I guess when they "rebuilt" them they forgot about the wiring, which is sad.

City of LA Department of Building and Safety's website: http://ladbs.org
Thanks Steve for that link, checking it out now.
 
  #5  
Old 07-18-13, 05:04 PM
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The buildings are old (50+ years), but they were recently totally upgraded and refurbished, in the past 10 years
The only possibility you have for leverage is that the units were upgraded and refurbished. What were the upgrades and what were the refurbishments? If they were strictly cosmetic upgrades, you are out of luck. I think you failed to do your homework before you moved into the apartment.
 
  #6  
Old 07-18-13, 05:52 PM
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My SIL lives in a similar place...they don't call the owners "slumlords" for nothing. Not that you or she live in a slum. They just won't do anything beyond the bare minimum because they can always find someone else to live there.

Her bathroom floor was so rotted you could see the outside. They refused to do anything...telling her to just cover it up with a rug. When she stepped in the tub one time and it actually fell through and broke piping, then they sent a guy who actually cared and did a decent repair. All new plywood floor, new tub, tiled surround, etc.

She can't have a toaster oven because it pulls too much. Even her microwave has to be a small 800W unit.

She has no heat (not often needed anyway) or A/C...not even a portable or window unit.


She can't move (and doesn't really want to after so many years there) because of the extreme fees they charge in nicer places. 1st and last, 1 month in advance, and a deposit equal to one months rent. That's about $5000-6000 most places. She pays about $900 for her place and thinks its a deal.

You could buy 2 houses for that where I live.
 
  #7  
Old 07-18-13, 07:48 PM
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I think you failed to do your homework before you moved into the apartment
You got that right. Yes, I agree, especially in this time in America. Next time, before I move into a new apartment complex, I will go down to the county assessor's office, identify the person for doing the last inspection, go to his house and kidnap him, waterboard him, force him to identify any and all shortcomings of the location I am considering moving into, then, and only then, can I make an informed decision.

I'm not a lawyer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, licensed inspector or son of somebody wealthy. I'm poor as dirt, but each year in this life, I learn painful lessons. I can only do so much and remain on the good side of the law. Apparently, that's not good enough in this day and age.

Seriously, as I get older (almost 50), I do become more thorough in my investigation. They (people showing unit) hate it when I show up carrying stuff to test. I do turn on everything electrical and water. I carry a stupid little night light, that I shove into every outlet, to make sure there is power. Maybe next time I should bring a few microwaves and garbage disposals to test every circuit for load to fail levels? Bring a van equipped to force air through the main doorway, to test air leakage thru the building? Hire Aquaman to swim thru the sewage system below, to detect any flow/blockage problems?

To everyone reading, please forgive my snap/flippant reaction to such a heartless response. I realize forums are full of anonymous people, which in itself allows people to be rude without consequence.
 
  #8  
Old 07-18-13, 08:18 PM
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She can't have a toaster oven because it pulls too much. Even her microwave has to be a small 800W unit.
DING! Gunguy get's it. Same thing.
 
  #9  
Old 07-18-13, 11:21 PM
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I realize forums are full of anonymous people, which in itself allows people to be rude without consequence.
Casual Joe was not being rude, at least not purposely. If you had been moving into a newer building you could indeed take for granted that the plumbing, mechanical, electrical and such systems were fairly modern. But moving into an old building you cannot take anything for granted. You DO need to thoroughly inspect the entire apartment and check ALL the utilities. If you cannot do this yourself then you need to hire an inspector to do it for you.

As has been stated, if all they did was a cosmetic update, new paint, carpets, maybe new windows and the like there is no need to update any of the utility systems PROVIDED they still meet the requirements that were in place when originally constructed. Some areas DO require the installation of smoke alarms or other life-safety items even when doing minor remodels.
 
  #10  
Old 07-19-13, 06:12 AM
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I live in Los Angeles, specifically Inglewood.
I do not know where your specific area is near Los Angeles, but I am somewhat familiar with Long Beach. In the Long Beach area air conditioning is nice occasionally, but not a requirement. There are only a few days a year when it would be somewhat of a necessity. Open windows and fans are enough most of the time if you can open the windows in your neighborhood.
 
  #11  
Old 07-19-13, 08:51 AM
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Why don't you just move? I have in the past, a couple of times, gotten out of a lease by finding that something about the property was illegal, unsafe, or it was not registered with the city as a rental property as required by law. I'll bet if you did some checking you could find a reason. The last time for me, it was a double whammy: unregistered rental property plus lead-based paint that had not been remediated. This was in MD; I can only imagine CA is stricter.
 
  #12  
Old 07-19-13, 09:58 AM
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Why don't you just move? I have in the past...
As Skatin said, in the first post in this thread:
Originally Posted by skatin
we love it here! The neighbors are great, the neighborhood is nice, location is perfect, so we don't want to move, or even rock the boat.
 
  #13  
Old 07-19-13, 08:47 PM
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I think that the electrical systems are grandfathered but depending on other renovations and repairs that were done, the grandfathering could have been cancelled.

Two 15 amp 120 volt circuits for the entire apartment (or even an entire house) is not unheard of. That was quite common 60-70 years ago.

You would not need to bring hair dryers or other load testing equipment. You could bring a test light or multimeter if you wanted to. You could inspect the electrical panel (no need to go so far as to unscrew any covers) to figure out how many amperes you have. available.
 
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