In the end of January (2013), I moved into a new apartment. Set to pay $280 per month (rent), living with a financially secure roommate, I thought everything would be okay. I work at Office Depot, making enough money to support myself and save about fifty bucks each month.
My first electricity bill was for $178 and this high price was attributed to electricity costs and setup fees. The lady on the phone spoke about the amount as if it was my first month’s payment. I lived in the apartment, for the first month, without needing much heat or electricity. Both my roommate and I work at Office Depot, and so we didn’t use any serious electricity for most of the day.
That’s when I got the next bill. Unfortunately for me, the postal service messed up the mailing of my bill and so the notification that my bill was now late was unseen until I called and asked them when the heck I would have access to my bill. They told me the details over the phone, revealing the overwhelming number of $342 owed.
After inquiring about the bill, I found out that this amount was solely for the month of February. Only around $10 was attributed to the late fee. I then created an account, immediately, and checked my electricity usage. Over 50% was (and still is) said to be due to heating, and water heating. This seemed a bit odd because my roommate and I never turn on the heater, and we both take short showers.
The next surprise came when I found out that the $178 price was under difference circumstances than the lady relayed on the phone. Not only was this price free of any service fees, it was not for a month long period. It was for eight days.
I called my father, asking for council, nervously checked my bank account, and ranted on Skype for a few hours. I finally managed to speak with a manager at my electricity company – They agreed that this price was ridiculously high and that there is simply no way that it can be attributed to legitimate usage (assuming that I was not lying about my appliances, heating usage, etc).
To put this in perspective, I live in Texas and live in a two bed room apartment that also has a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. My home back in Connecticut, where my parents live, is on the beach and consists of a garage, front yard, back deck, patio, and three separate large floors. The point is that the total cost of electricity for the month of February in my Connecticut home was just under $360. There is simply no possible way that a three floor house can cost only $20 more than a two bedroom apartment.
I soon decided to speak to my apartment complex, to set up a maintenance visit. They’ll be checking the apartment for any flawed units, equipment or air ducts. The electricity company already came out and checked the meter – It was not wrong, not at all.
Before writing this article, I paid the bill for $342 (the due date was extended until today, to allow the company to investigate the meter before making me pay). I checked my next bill due and it is a few cents over $215, due on April 11th. My current billing cycle is up to $26 and is predicted to cost anywhere from $89-105 by the end of the month.
If anything, I’m encouraged by the bills going down. However, our usage has consistently stayed the same – Meaning that this apartment must have something wrong with it. I am going to pay the bills, as I have no interest in being chased by angry men or life altering debt. That said, I have said goodbye to 50% of the savings account that I started around Thanksgiving, 2012.
In the coming months, I hope the bill will continue to decrease, but I am still quite upset. Unless my apartment complex can refund me for providing a faulty apartment (leading to financial loss), I will have to alter the way I live, my online investments, and I’ll have to rethink how I will afford my random hobbies in my upcoming year of college.
If I have learned anything, it is that an electricity estimate made by my neighbors is nothing to go by. Furthermore, I have learned that I should take action sooner as it is possible that I could have saved a couple hundred by addressing this issue in the first few days of my first billing cycle, instead of at the end of it.