Are you living in a place where the landlord is charging too much for utilities? You’re not alone.
This is frustrating for people, and while they think it’s “fair,” it can feel like they’re charging too much.
If you’re noticing that they’re doing this, there are a few things that you can do?
Yes, and here, we’ll give you the 15 best tips to help when your landlord is overcharging for utilities.
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Are Landloards Overcharging for Utilities Allowed to Set an Amount?
Legally, they’re supposed to be a certain amount based on usage, and if you get a bill from your landlord that’s much higher, it might be time to dispute.
While it isn’t common, it can be a bit frustrating when it does happen, but luckily there are a few ways for you to get the help that you need.
15 Tips to Help if Your Landlord Is Overcharging Utilities
So, you believe that your landlord is overcharging utilities? What do you do?
Before you go straight to small claims court, there are a few other tips you can try first, and we’ll go over this here.
1. Check the Lease
First and foremost, check the lease to make sure there aren’t any stipulations that say the landlord can overcharge you or they set the amount.
Usually, the lease says where the utilities will be charged from as well, so you can check your meter as well and see if you are being overcharged for the utilities that you’re using.
Remember, the lease is a legal document, so that’s the first place to check before you do anything drastic.
2. Know the RUBS Formula
Okay, this is something that’s kind of not fair, but it’s something that some landlords use, and this is a formula that stands for Resident (Ratio) Utility Billing system, which is where they “allocate” the water and sewage and garbage costs to everyone.
The problem with this is that it isn’t necessarily very fair since they’re just basing it on the space, and it’s not very accurate.
It also doesn’t incentivize people to conserve anything to lower the bill.
They’re encouraging more waste.
You may want to check to see if they’re running on RUBS so you can get an accurate feeling, especially since it could mean that you’re overpaying for stuff you’re not using!
3. Dispute the Bill
If you find out that they’re using RUBS, then you can dispute it.
The way to do so is via asking for documentation since you can see if you’re really using that much.
While it isn’t totally illegal, it is suspicious, and it could open the doors to possibly something else going on as well, so it can’t hurt to look.
4. Ask Before You Sign
Okay, this should be done once you are using it, but ask about the utility services that are in your unit and what you’re responsible for.
If you have questions on whether you’re responsible for, say, the phone service cable, or even sewer and garbage, you can ask right then and there.
The rental agreement should have everything, so you can look to see the utilities you are supposed to be paying for.
And if you find anything added that you shouldn’t be paying for, definitely make a scene.
5. Check the Meter
If nothing else, the meter will tell you everything.
Your meter should be along with the unit, either outside or possibly within.
You can also contact the utility company to tell you the information so you can figure out if there are inaccuracies or not.
Sometimes though, they’re based on a master meter rather than an individual meter, which can be hard.
6. Have the Utility Company Calibrate It
Usually, if you have questions and try to read the meter, you might not be able to.
If that’s the case, you should call the utility company to properly calibrate it.
They can examine this, calibrate it, and if this becomes a problem, you can bring this up with your landlord.
Understand that they might give you a sum based on multiple units, which can make it a problem when trying to properly get this situation handled.
7. Check for Any Statement on Charges
Another thing to be mindful of is to check for any charges stated in the lease.
For instance, let’s say you’re charged $90 for electricity, but the utilities are only $75 for a month.
Per the lease, though, you’ve got to pay that $90.
That isn’t fair, but that’s the agreement, and it could possibly be the reason for this.
On the flip side, though, know that it does protect you from being charged extra since that’s the threshold.
8. View the Bills
If nothing else, view the bills themselves, especially if it’s just an arbitrary number that they’re giving you.
Usually, you can look directly at the bill itself and what’s been charged.
Usually, you can inspect this, and in the lease, they tell you if you have the right.
If the lease doesn’t say so, you’re still allowed to review, but the landlord may try to fight this one.
9. Check for Shared Meters
Another thing that the landlord might do is what’s called a shared meter, which is where units will share the utility costs.
So, let’s say that the meter totals $500 amongst 4 units.
Every unit will be charged $125.
Or they might base it on actual usage.
You have the right to know how they’re charging these, and sometimes if you feel like there is a problem with this, you can always talk to your landlord about this.
You also can contact the utility company to find out how this is done.
Sometimes, the landlord may step in and not permit it, but that’s not every instance, and it’s worth asking about if you’re curious about this.
10. Look at the Heating
Another thing to look at is the heating system in your unit.
The type of heat that you have can affect the utility cost as well.
Look to see what kind of heating is used in the unit and contact the landlord to ask if you can’t find the answer.
Also, see if you have a controlled setting that lets you control the temperature and who is ultimately in charge.
You also may get charged more when the heat gets turned on, so you might want to ask whenever the heat is turned on.
Finally, if you live in a shared unit, ask if other tenants have the ability to change the thermostat and what it’ll cost.
This is something that’s not taken into account enough but could be something to look at if you suspect overcharging.
11. Set Up Utility Counts Quickly
If you are doing third-party billing, always make sure to set it up quickly, like right after you move into the unit.
You can also schedule a transfer or hookup once the agreement begins, so you’re responsible for those units.
This only applies to units where you may have control over this, and if it’s public utilities, sometimes they’re not put in the names of the tenant.
If you have it in your name, you definitely want to make sure it’s immediately put there, so you’re not charged to the landlord who tries to add it to your bill.
12. Talk to the Neighbors
If you haven’t yet, talk to your neighbors, and ask them what their rates are.
Chances are, the neighbors are in similar-sized units, which means that if it’s not the same or similar, there’s something wrong.
It could be bad wiring, could be bad plumbing.
If this is the case, ask your landlord to have someone come to check this out.
They also can from there agree that you’ve been inappropriately charged, and from there, you can get credited or paid for the overcharged utilities.
13. Get a Lawyer
Let’s say that you’ve checked the bill, and you’ve found out that you’re definitely getting overcharged.
You want to get a lawyer.
A lawyer will know how to handle a landlord who is overcharging for this.
This should be done if you’ve shown the landlord the problem and they refuse to rectify the situation.
A lawyer will help with getting the information and documentation in place for the case.
Plus, you’re more than likely to win if you struggle to get the landlord’s attention.
Need help finding a lawyer for this?
You’re always welcome to search for the best lawyers in your area to help you get this settled.
14. Take It to Small Claims Court
If nothing else, you can sue your landlord.
Taking it to small claims court may not be advisable, but it’s an option.
That’s because they’re refusing to actually pay what you’re owed, and they’re overcharging.
You can get up to $5000, usually in small claims court.
However, you must make sure that you have a witness with you, evidence that they’re doing this, and receipts and documentation providing all of this.
Remember that you do need to fill out a small claims order, and you can get that document on various sites.
People clerk has a document you can fill out, and with your lawyer, you can take this to small claims court.
15. Handle This Quickly
Finally, resolve all of this quickly.
Don’t just sit on this, but make sure you’re getting this handled actively and immediately.
If you do think that the bill is not accurate, contact the company, and from there, get them to test the meter in the building.
If there is no defect, have the documents there, and then bring this up to the landlord.
Don’t sit on this, though, because it can make the problem much worse as time goes on.
You also may want to have different billing statements as well, especially for the last couple of months.
You should have this documentation on hand before you make a case.
Landlord Charging Too Much for Utilities FAQs
How Common Is It for Landlords to Overcharge?
It is not that common, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Sometimes, it is a mistake, and there was a misprint.
Other times, it may be due to green from the landlord.
It is legal in certain states to do this, so if there is proof that there is overcharging of utilities going on, you could have a case.
When Should I Get a Lawyer for My Case?
It’s best to get a lawyer if you have proof you’re being overcharged for your utilities, have checked the meters, and get documentation that they’re working well and are different from the bill your landlord provided.
You also might want to check your lease first as well and see if there are any stipulations that the landlord might be used to charge certain utilities.
Is a Landlord Always Trying to Overcharge Utilities?
Sometimes it’s a product of the meter being wrong, or maybe there is poor wiring or something happening in your apartment or home.
It could be a sign that there is something faulty that needs to be repaired.
If the landlord is unable to repair it, they should direct you to someone who can repair this for you.
Should I Break My Lease for Overcharged Utilities
it is better to take something to small claims court and settle it there than breaking the lease.
Not only is it expensive, but that also shows up as a permanent mar on your track record.
That can ultimately impact your chances of getting a better place down the road, so use the legal system to help you get justice for the rent that you were overcharged for.
When your landlord is overcharging for utilities, it can feel overwhelming, like you’re not sure what exactly you can do at this point.
But, if you follow this guide and try the different tips, you should be able to handle this situation, so your landlord stops overcharging you for utilities.