Monday, October 9, 2006
Help Me Howard: Paying Power Bills
Paying your power bill has gotten a lot tougher lately. Now, imagine if you found out you were paying your neighbor's electric bill as well. That is costly and irritating. But, how do you know if it is happening to you? One good way, contact Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Whether it's the skyrocketing homeowner's insurance, rising property taxes, or gas that's still way too high, money is tight for most of us.
Lucille Blanding: "I live from paycheck to paycheck. It's not easy."
Lucille's latest bill that went through the roof was her power bill. She says it used to be about $60 a month. Now...
Lucille Blanding: "All the way -- the last one -- all the way I get was $217."
As Lucille stared in disgust at those power bills each month, she knew something was wrong because she barely uses anything in her one-bedroom apartment.
Lucille Blanding: "The A/C is off, just a little fan. My A/C hasn't burned all night since I've been here."
So she called FPL and got some advice from an employee.
Lucille Blanding: "Check your meter, cut all the breakers off and see what happens."
She turned off everything in her apartment -- meaning she was not using any electricity.
Then she went down to check her meter and found it was spinning like a top on a table.
Lucille Blanding: "No lights in my house now, but the meter is still running. Now, tell me how that is possible?"
She called the police who came out with FPL.
First they found an apartment that had its power cut off and still had electricity.
The officer wrote, "There was an improper connection to the meter." In other words, someone had hooked his or her apartment up to Lucille's meter.
Lucille Blanding: "Last time I paid a bill, I paid it for somebody else. That's not right."
The police report estimates Lucille has paid over $700 in power for someone else.
Lucille Blanding: "Somebody has to pay for this, somebody. I need my money back."
But how do you get that money back, and how do you stop someone from stealing your power?
To find out, Lucille turned to the place in South Florida that can get things done: Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Stealing electricity is a crime. The thief can go to jail. As for the power company, if the thief has tapped into their meter, they have a duty to correct the problem, so Lucille is only paying to cool her apartment."
After I spoke to FPL they told me they did a full investigation and that, "We did not find anything on our side of the meter, there was no meter tampering. That we cannot do anything after it leaves the meter."
Therefore, we called the landlord, who hired an electrician, who found someone had tampered with her meter. They had gone behind the meter and were taking power from Lucille.
The electrician disconnected the thief from Lucille's meter. That stopped the theft of power but now, how does Lucille get her money back?
Howard Finkelstein: "FPL is responsible if the thief had wired it into the meter. Since it appears they did it coming out of the meter, then the thief has to pay. Unfortunately, thieves are not well known for paying debts."
It is also bad news for Lucille's landlord who will lose two tenants.
He has to evict the thief, and Lucille says she is so disgusted that she is moving out as well.
Lucille Blanding: "It's terrible, it's sad. It's really sad."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, the meters are supposed to be difficult to tamper with. An FPL spokesman said you would have to be crazy to do what the thief did. Now, if you live in a condo or apartment and you suspect someone is stealing your power, do what Lucille did -- turn everything off and go check your meter."
Trouble left you in the dark? Feel powerless? Contact us. We will flip a switch and try to light up a solution.
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