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Landlords’ own power disconnected over tenant’s electric bill

 It was lights out for a California landlord and his family after a tenant racked up a whopping $140,000 electric bill.

After refusing to pay the tenant’s bill, service at the landlord’s own residence was shut off.

According to a news report, a long-time tenant was arrested on suspicion of growing pot at the residence. It was then suspected that the tenant was bypassing a meter, possibly to keep the grow-op a secret.

Later, the utility, Southern California Edison, charged the account retroactively nearly $140,000 for years of  unauthorized use of service” from the meter.

It is unclear whether the utility account for the rental property was transferred to the tenant’s name or remained in the landlord’s name; however, the landlord confirmed that the tenant did have the responsibility to pay for electricity.

The landlord’s family filed a lawsuit against the utility company, claiming a breach of their service agreement along with emotional distress after being forced to live without electricity for weeks during the standoff over payment. The parties have recently settled the lawsuit, but the terms of that settlement remain confidential.

This story is a good example of how valuable tenant screening and rental inspections can be in protecting your investment — not to mention the wisdom of keeping tenants’ responsibilities (e.g. the electric bill) in their own name.

Illegal marijuana production and use continues to plague rental property owners, and recent “legalization” votes and medical marijuana laws in many states have only muddied the waters. Landlords need to be vigilant today when it comes to monitoring possible drug production and related crimes. Learn to look for the signs:

Spikes in electricity and water usage are a red-flag for pot grow-ops. The same goes for hoses running out of the house or apartment, and make-shift ventilation.

Much of the marijuana grown today produces a distinct skunk-like smell. But unlike skunks, the smell is present during daylight hours, and does not dissipate quickly in fresh air.

Inside the property, water and electric systems may have been modified (a/k/a vandalized).

Windows may be blocked out, or light might be show through shades or skylights all night.

Humming noises could be ventilation fans.

The tenant will be resistant to landlord visits — or any visitors, or the property may appear to be abandoned.

If you suspect a drug operation in your rental property, call in the police to investigate. This not only protects your personal safety, but it prevents you from being accused of tampering, and preserves any evidence. That way, the police can prosecute the crime, and you can prove your eviction case.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for all your property management needs. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

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