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Total Cost of Occupancy (TCOO) is more than just rent

Low rent or security deposit should not be the only costs you consider.

In addition to rent you need to figure in;

  • utilities
    • Are you eligible for HEAP and HWAP?
    • Utility reselling
    • Energy conservation for tenants
  • fees and charges
    • Pet fees vs. Pet deposits
  • transportation to work, school, shopping, services

 5 questions to ask about utilities when you are renting.  (see more on utility reselling here.)

1. Am I paying for my actual usage or am I paying a percentage of the landlord's bill?  You need to ask-how is my bill being calculated.  Sometimes tenants end up paying for heating the swimming pool and running the computer in the managers office.  Even if there is a meter in your unit, there may be add on charges for common areas.

2. What rate am I paying? Am I paying any service charges? You need to ask.  The utility reseller is buying energy at retail and then marking it up to sell to you.  There may also be fees to cover the cost of sending you a bill.  Very often utility resellers have punative late charges and late charges ON UNPAID LATE CHARGES.

3. Who do I talk to if I want to dispute a bill?  Many tenants have run into the problem of being passed from the manager to the utility reseller and back to the manager. Remember that, in Ohio, utilities reselling is UNREGULATED.  Some tenants have had success getting Better Business Bureau to help resolve disputes.  

4. Can I be evicted for not paying my utility bill?  Sometimes utility resellers are granted the right to bring an eviction action against you even if you are current in your rent!  Find out before you sign any agreements.  At least you'll know what you are in for.

5.    Is the utility contract part of my rental agreement...or a side deal?   Look at your lease.  If the lease doesn't spell out the terms for utility payments, then ask for a copy of the utility agreement.  Your lease may say you agree to pay for the utility when you don't know what's in the agreement.  RHINO has seen leases where there's nothing at all about utilities and the manager, when asks says: "someone from the utility company will be in touch with you..."  Too late!!  You are already stuck!

Best advice: 
1.  understand the terms of utility plan BEFORE SIGNING THE LEASE.
2.  Get a copy of the utility agreement
3.  talk to your state representative and state senator about regulating utility reselling.
More info here.