Did you notice that your electric bill is higher than it should be? It might be because someone is stealing electricity from you. That could be your landlord or your neighbor. So, how do you tell if your landlord is stealing electricity?
Electricity theft is a global problem that could cause explosions, electrical fires, and electrocution. You can identify the culprit by surveying your energy usage, looking for a cord, checking the meter and pole for anomalies, analyzing your monthly bill, and reporting to your energy provider.
If you’re living in a building that doesn’t have separate meters, ensure it’s the landlord paying the electricity bill. This will save you from the trouble of overpaying for electricity theft. Here, we discuss how to detect electricity theft in your apartment.
Electricity theft is a crime and not a victimless one. It’s the third-largest theft in the world, with over $89 billion worth of electricity stolen each year. While many people see it as a victimless crime, no one seems affected. In reality, the bill is passed on to other users who have to pay for more than they use. It also comes with several risks.
How to Detect Electricity Theft
If you’re sharing a building such as a duplex with your landlord and notice your bill is far higher, here are ways to find out:
1. Survey Your Electricity Use
You should survey your electricity use. You might want to hire an electrician for this. But you could also do it on your own. Get a clamp-on ammeter and switch off all the devices consuming electricity in your unit. Then, check the ammeter to see if there’s still load on the circuits.
2. Look For A Cord
Electricity thieves usually adopt different methods, which makes catching them tricky. But not everyone will use sophisticated means. So you might want to start by looking for any connection between your power outlets. This could be a cord or wire extension that runs from one of the outdoor power outlets in your home into theirs. While it might seem visible, some people try to bury the cable. If you notice such wires, you can trace them to the source. So, if you notice any plug in your house that you can’t explain its origin, you can pull it off.
3. Read Your Bill
One of the places where you might start getting suspicious is when you see the bill for your electricity. There are usually seasonal fluctuations that influence the bill. But if you suddenly notice that it’s multiple times higher than it normally is and you’ve not been using any appliance that warrants such heavy fees, that might be a sign.
4. Report To Your Electricity Provider
File a complaint with your electricity supplier if your bill is higher than it should be. Let your utility provider know about the excess bill and ask that they inspect your meter. They’ll come to check it and determine whether something is wrong.
5. Check The Meter and Electric Pole
Don’t interfere with your electricity meter, as this is the property of the utility provider, and you should climb electric poles too. But you can still safely check these if you have any concerns. If there are fit seals around the meter or it’s not hanging the normal way, that could be a sign of tampering. Dial covers or lids that aren’t fitted are also good signs.
There’s usually a colorful tag that closes the meter, and only the utility provider usually touches the tag. If it’s broken or lost, that could be a sign. You can also check your pole to see if there’s something off or wrong. For example, dangling wires could be a sign. If the pole doesn’t rhyme with the rest in the neighborhood, there might have been tampering.
If you notice any tampering, contact your electricity provider immediately for assistance. Electricity theft is a felony, and anyone caught will face legal consequences. In addition, the utility provider will investigate and identify the culprit.
Dangers of Electricity Theft
Electricity theft can be quite dangerous, leading to fatalities and injury. So, it’s important to make sure that you do everything to ensure that such theft isn’t happening around you. Here are some of its dangers
1. Severe Burns and Shocks
When there’s tampering with the electric meter, it could endanger every resident of the building. It usually means the whole electrical outlets in the house can easily malfunction or overheat. This significantly increases the risk of shocks and electrocution to those using them.
2. Electrical Fires
When there’s an improper connection of electricity, the wires used for the connection are usually loose. They can get hot and lead to fires, putting innocent lives and properties at risk. So, it’s a major danger to the house and everyone in it.
Electricity meters on their own won’t cause an explosion. But if exposed wires and spark are mixed with gas leaks, you might be in for some fireworks. This is why it’s crucial never to tamper with any utilities, and the impact could be catastrophic.
Remedy and Penalties for Electricity Theft
If your landlord is responsible, you can sue them. Make sure you get the proof from a licensed professional who’ll testify on your behalf. Theft of electricity can be punishable by a jail term and fines depending on the state. But you can bring civil action that could make the landlord pay you more.
In a case where you’re living in a duplex with one meter, it may be a sign that the duplex doesn’t have a permit. In that case, you can complain to the authorities to compel the landlord to bring the house up to code. This could be a financial windfall for you.
The landlord will have to pay a baseline fee to the tenant and repay all the prepaid rents and all deposits within seven days so that the tenant can move out and find a new place while the landlord has to fix the building and comply with the rules.
Electricity tampering is a serious issue that could damage the house. So, most landlords won’t do it. But if it turns out your landlord is doing it, there are ways to detect the problem and gather evidence. You can use the evidence to get significant damages. But if your landlord is stealing your electricity, be ready to move out of the house because they could do worse.