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Upon moving out of my current apartment, I noticed my electricity demand nearly quadrupled despite no difference in behavior. The next month's usage (not pictured) is identical to this new much higher value (possibly due to being an "estimated reading").

enter image description here enter image description here

The utility said the increase is because I was being back-billed for electricity that was not accounted for during the "estimated" months (the perfectly flat line in the right graph). Two things seem strange:

  1. It seems as though they are back billing me (which should be a one time thing), but then going straight back to "estimating" usage at this new (higher) rate. It seems this will not be adjusted for with a real reading in the future as I'm moving out.
  2. The initial high demand when I moved in seems like I was paying for someone else's (or the empty unit's) "estimated" electricity usage, which was then piled on me when I moved in!

The utility says I need to speak with the apartment manager about all this but it seems like a bit of a scam. Is this a common trick played on renters?

Edit

Below is a partial graph showing which readings were estimated (yellow triangles). enter image description here

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  • Location - state/country? Looks suspicious imo. Why would the estimated readings only be reconciled in the final month? How would you get a massive spike in what looks like your 1st and 2nd months of living there, unless you left heaters and A/C on all the time? Where I am, estimated days are auto-calculated at the "average" usage and are never reconciled (because they don't have the actual data). And my electric has always been handled 100% separately from building management - might be different where you are though.
    – Stan H
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 2:32
  • Where’s the electricity meter? Isn’t the sole purpose of an electric meter to show exactly how much electricity you used?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 5:47
  • According to the utility, the estimated readings are due to "not getting a good reading" from the meter, so they assume your usage is constant and adjust for the difference the next time the meter is read correctly.
    – johnDanger
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 14:30
  • Was that apartment in a big complex? Because I live in a duplex, and the electric meters are right there on the side of the building.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 15:41

1 Answer 1

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You mention "estimated" months, but my experience (with only one utility company) with something they call budget billing is that they divide predicted costs across the 12 month period, but still read the meter every month. Each bill shows how much I used (kWh) and what it would have cost, then they deduct from my bank account the amount that was budgeted and then show the "net balance" in the budgeted amount.

You make a couple of statements I want to comment on:

It seems as though they are back billing me (which should be a one time thing), but then going straight back to "estimating" usage at this new (higher) rate.

If they are doing their version of budget billing and it works the same way as with my account, then every year they should re-calibrate the monthly amount to account for what was used over the 12 months. For example if at the end of the 12 months they under estimated by $200 total they account for the under charge by spreading it over the next 12 months at $16.67 per month and bump up the budget amount by another $16.67 because they have learned that I use more electricity than they originally guessed.

The initial high demand when I moved in seems like I was paying for someone else's (or the empty unit's) "estimated" electricity usage, which was then piled on me when I moved in!

According to my local utility company you wouldn't even be eligible for budget billing:

You must have at least 12 months of billing history at your current address and must not owe more than your current bill to enroll. This means if you were a little short on a previous bill, it must be paid before you can enroll in budget billing.

That would mean if you moved into a place, they would prevent you from using the budget billing plan for 12 months; otherwise your estimate would be based on the previous occupant.

It is normal to see a spike on the first or last month, because the meter reading isn't in synch with when somebody moves in or out of the apartment.

It isn't normal to have multiple months of "estimated" readings. Decades ago an estimated reading would have been a simple calculation, they probably would have just looked at the usage from the previous month. But now they take into account days in the billing cycle, average daily temperature, and the fluctuating cost of electricity generation and give you a better guess. So even if they were skipping reading, the guess would change each month.

I would talk to the utility company, and the management company of the complex to understand how the usage and bill are being calculated. Some utilities have one meter per unit, others one meter per building. You want to make sure you understand where they are getting their numbers from.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I believe each unit is metered as the bill gives the start/end kWh values supposedly read/estimated off the meter.
    – johnDanger
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 14:32
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    @johnDanger "read" and "estimated" have very different meanings. If they're estimating and underbilling you, it is not unheard of for the final bill to catch up because that's when they'll actually come to read the meter.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 2:06

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