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  1. #1

    Default Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Ohio

    I'm a landlord. My tenant contacted me about high energy usage. The root cause turned out to be a 'silent' failure of a component in the furnace that caused one of the heating elements to be on all of the time.

    The only symptom of this was the energy use - the cooling worked (enough to actually provide cooling anyway), the heating worked - nothing appeared broken.

    The terms of the lease say that the tenant is responsible for their energy bill, and the account is in their name.

    The situation started in June, and I was contacted just this week (September). I immediately had the problem diagnosed and remedied.

    The tenant is left with an enormous energy bill. They are looking for some relief.

    I am trying to figure out how to handle this - the problem did arise from a failure in equipment that is my responsibility, but at the same time, I was not notified that a problem was occurring for many months.

    So - who is responsible for the extra energy usage? Is it them? Is it me? Is it a bad idea to offer to split the amount?

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Stan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    You fixed the problem quickly once the tenant told you about it so, l don't think there is any reason to think you would be on the hook legally.

    How much are we talking about and how much is the monthly rent?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Hi PayrolGuy,

    I'm not certain of the exact amount, but a guess would be that they were billed about $300 per month over what their normal usage would have been, for basically four months - so call it $1200 total.

    The rent is currently $850.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    If you are feeling generous give him a discount on next month's rent.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Quote Quoting MisterAcoustic
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    Hi PayrolGuy,

    I'm not certain of the exact amount, but a guess would be that they were billed about $300 per month over what their normal usage would have been, for basically four months - so call it $1200 total.

    The rent is currently $850.
    And the tenant didn't notice that immediately?!

    I'd agree that you aren't on the hook as you did address the issue upon being notified. It's now on you to determine what you want to do. You can split it, you can give them a one time break, or ignore them at your pleasure/peril.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
    "They go up!"

  6. #6

    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Quote Quoting Mark47n
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    And the tenant didn't notice that immediately?!

    I'd agree that you aren't on the hook as you did address the issue upon being notified. It's now on you to determine what you want to do. You can split it, you can give them a one time break, or ignore them at your pleasure/peril.
    I think they did notice it immediately - but I can see how they may have thought the first bill was a fluke. And the next bill they thought it was their fault and tried to reduce usage, and ... well, and so on. They got a bit of a run-around from the energy utility - their magic software attributed the usage to several different things, none of which was heating/cooling.

    Thanks all for the input. It seems I'm likely not responsible/liable, but I am free to give them a break without agreeing that any of the problem is my fault.

    I will keep checking here for a while in case someone else wants to weigh in.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    I'm a landlord who owns several properties and you probably won't like my advice.

    I don't care about the fine intricacies of the law. If I am obligated to provide my tenants with certain items, they need to be in good working condition. If i give them a defective item and as a result, it causes the tenant to improperly incur an inordinate expense, that's on me and I'm going to voluntarily make good the tenant's loss. It's the right thing to do and just good business. Things like this are also the cost of doing business. We can't always be raking in the gelt. Sometimes we have to take a hit or two in the pocketbook for unexpected expenses.

    I would sit down with the tenant, figure out an amount that is agreeable to the both of you and give it to them as credit on their rent. It's not going to kill you in the long run.

  8. #8
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Quote Quoting MisterAcoustic
    View Post
    I think they did notice it immediately - but I can see how they may have thought the first bill was a fluke. And the next bill they thought it was their fault and tried to reduce usage, and ... well, and so on. They got a bit of a run-around from the energy utility - their magic software attributed the usage to several different things, none of which was heating/cooling.

    Thanks all for the input. It seems I'm likely not responsible/liable, but I am free to give them a break without agreeing that any of the problem is my fault.

    I will keep checking here for a while in case someone else wants to weigh in.

    Thanks again!
    I disagree a bit with the others. I can see going through a lot of run a round with the electric company trying to figure out why the bill is so high before coming to the conclusion that it might be a furnace malfunction. That is why I don't think the fact that it took the tenant 4 months to figure out that they might have a furnace problem absolves you from being responsible.

    If they somehow magically figured out on the first bill that it was a furnace problem I doubt that anyone would suggest that you weren't responsible. Even on the second bill I think its unlikely. The advice you are getting that you are not responsible is based solely on the fact that someone thinks its unreasonable for them to have taken 4 months to figure out that it might be an equipment problem. I don't agree with that opinion. However, even if that is a valid argument to make, that doesn't absolve you from being responsible for part of the 4 months.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    The advice you are getting that you are not responsible is based solely on the fact that someone thinks its unreasonable for them to have taken 4 months to figure out that it might be an equipment problem. I don't agree with that opinion. However, even if that is a valid argument to make, that doesn't absolve you from being responsible for part of the 4 months.
    My advice wasn't based on that. It was based on the fact that the OP had the problem fixed very quickly once he knew there was a problem.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Energy Usage Due to Hidden Malfunction

    Quote Quoting PayrolGuy
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    My advice wasn't based on that. It was based on the fact that the OP had the problem fixed very quickly once he knew there was a problem.
    They would have notified him in June if they had had any idea in June that the furnace was malfunctioning.

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