Neighbor stealing power . . . what to do?

Lin - posted on 06/22/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )

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We live in Ohio, in the upper floor of a house where all the electrical breakers for the things in the basement are in the basement (a common area for laundry, we have provided our own washer and dryer). All the outlets and circuit breaker boxes are clearly labeled to designate which unit is tied to which outlet/box. There are only 2 categories, one for our unit and the other for the other unit (the landlord does not have a separate box).



Recently, the landlord's "business partner" and supposed electrical expert, moved into the lower half of the house. I was given the impression that he does work for the landlord fixing up other houses to rent in exchange for rent and a bit of cash. Everything was okay until his ex-girlfriend shut off the power (it was in her name). We noticed that he was using our washer/dryer, as our clothes would be taken out of our washer/dryer and someone else's clothes were in, and they matched the size of this guy. We also noticed that the same lights that were not working when the lower unit was empty had stopped working, so we checked to confirm that his power was off, and that there was an extension cord coming from his apartment, down to the basement, and plugged into an outlet that, when you trace the line, goes back into our circuit breaker box; clearly he was using our power. We would keep unplugging it, he would plug it back in. We would shut off the breakers for our half, and he would turn them right back on, having to open the door labeled "second floor"; he would even unscrew the lightbulb that would automatically turn on (any switch to turn it on/off is nonexistent) when he would turn on the breaker that powers the outlet he'd plug in his extension cord. We could hear the TV blaring, the radio going, etc., and when we would talk to him about it, he would say he's only powering his refrigerator and that he would give us money by a certain time (the money and the time limit growing each time) for what he has used (not a single one of these promises has he followed through), and he claimed every time he didn't know that the functioning outlets were ours, one time almost to the point saying that our landlord told him to plug his cord into one of our outlets. We have told him in writing and in person several times he needs to get his own account with Duke Energy and that he may not use our power in the meantime. He seems to have a very good grasp of the English language and so do we. We have talked to our landlord on several occasions and we were told that the lower unit was going to be reconnected to power a week ago, just as he was returning from a 3-4 week absence from the apartment. My husband, as he was taking a load of laundry downstairs tonight, he saw the extension cord that was laying unplugged for the 3-4 weeks the guy was gone is plugged into one of our outlets, and he then confirmed that the power for the other unit isn't on. And our landlord isn't answering his phone, and his voicemail box is full.



I just feel really frustrated and angry about this situation. He's clearly not caring about what we say, and he knows darn well that's he's taking from us. I feel he's stealing. Apparently nothing the landlord is doing is working (or he isn't doing anything), we are not in the financial situation to move (there's not a place I would consider moving to that would approve us with our credit history at this point), but we can't and we shouldn't have to guard our electrical outlets and such like this. He certainly has the money - he fills his recycling bin (and most times part of ours) with cans and cans of beer, and he just bought a car (not sure how legal that is, due to him still being on probation due to a bunch of DUI's and driving without a license - we checked on the county's public record after a visit from his parole officer when he first moved in, whose name I do not know).



Has anyone had to go through a situation like this? Does anyone know how to handle the situation or know about the relevant laws or procedure in Ohio?

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9 Comments

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Amy - posted on 06/26/2010

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Everyone has wonderful ideas...mine is kind of immature but...CUT THE CORD...LOL....after you have documented everything and pictures to prove what he's been doing. Oh, and if you go to Grainger (http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/wwg/sea...) it's an industrial supply site. The link I just supplied will show you the many options you have for locking out your electrical equipment (breaker locks, locks for the ends of your electric cords...etc) Then this jack off would have to have the key to get in there.

Lin - posted on 06/26/2010

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Thanks everyone for your input, I really appreciate it!

A few days after I posted this my husband ran into the landlord and told him about it. Either Jeff caught him in a mood or things aren't working so well between the landlord and the guy downstairs because he was immediately called and read the riot act, stating that if he hears about another incident like this the deal is off and he is out on the street ASAP, and we got a discount off this month's rent. The extension cord has been completely removed, and I had to let the power company in to turn on their power, so atleast it's out of our hair for a month. We'll still have to keep an eye out for this happening again, and I won't be surprised if we find ourselves in the same predicament when the first bill comes in for him and doesn't pay, but next time he's gone and we won't have to deal with it anymore.

Rebecca - posted on 06/22/2010

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Ok, so I haven't done the research and laws vary from state to state, but here are some things to find out:

I think I've heard in some states the landlord is required to have separate boxes for each unit with the access IN each unit.

You may be able to report the landlord to the proper city entity, which may be some department of housing, or whatever office he has to get his CO (Certificate of Occupancy) from in order to legally rent it out.

You can write a certified letter to the landlord stating that you are withholding a portion of your rent and specify the reasons with documentation.

Call the police and they may or may not be able to help you with the theft of services, but you may find someone who can tell you who you need to call to this this problem taken care of.

Good luck!

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I would go talk to the neighbor one more time with a written contract and ask him to sign it that in one week he will have his power hooked up. And he will pay X$ for the electricity he is using. If possible have it translated in to his native language. When he breaks that contract you can easily sue and win. right now all you have is his word against yours.

if he refuses to sign call the police to get a report from them for your paper work. Lock up the electricity and put pad locks on your washer and dryer. Then I would contact his parol officer share with him all the information you have. If they come get him and lock him up for breaking parol (stealing is breaking the law) he will be gone. Then you can sue his business partner aka the landlord if you choose to.

Amanda - posted on 06/22/2010

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Call your electric company, and find out what they do when someone is stealing hydro, and then call the police. This is no different then breaking into your house and stealing your tv. I would also have your electric company print off a years worth of bills, so you compare the difference in your hydro bills, so you can give him a bill to pay.

Hayley - posted on 06/22/2010

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I dont live in the US but it is stealing - I feel for you but cant think of any suggestions - I too have major problems with a neighbour abusing my son the other day - I really sympathise with you - for my part, I have put in place a plan to improve the situation and work towards it - that is all that you can do at this point that I can think of!! Best of luck to you

Candice - posted on 06/22/2010

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well, i did some quick research. It's definitely illegal. Have you talked to your power company? you should, but if they won't do anything, call the police. Before you do anything though, take alot of pictures, and document everything.

Dianne - posted on 06/22/2010

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he is definitely stealing from you, though im not sure what you could do about it other than report it to the police
i know a pair of scissors would solve the extension cord but if he knows about fixing things he could probably break them as well then you would be even worse off :(
would a padlock (or a tamperfree container) on your plugs/ boxes help?
good luck in getting the situation sorted

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