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Homeowner Demands Roommate Turn Off Lights After Electric Bill Goes Up $500 A Month

person turning off lights
sellmore/Getty Images

Sharing your home with a stranger can come with unexpected problems.

Are they messy? Are they loud? Do they have annoying habits?

When the cohabitants are both renting, their arrangement is as equals. But when one is the homeowner renting to a “roommate,” their dynamic is really as landlord and tenant.

But if that hasn’t been established early on—or put in writing—reigning in undesirable behavior can be complicated by tenants’ rights laws. If it’s not a lease violation—or if there is no lease—can you force compliance?

A first-time landlord turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback after clashing with their “roommate” over leaving lights on when not in use.

I35O asked:

“AITA for letting my roommate know that they need to turn off the light when they’re not in their room?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“I own my home outright and I charge my roommate $500/month flat rate every month.”

“So utilities are all included, but for some reason my roommate thinks that they’re entitled to leave their Alexa powered light on maybe 16 hours a day 7 days a week.”

“There is no plants or animals in their room, so I feel as if they don’t need to leave their light on even when they’re not home.”

“Their reasoning is, and I quote ‘LED’s don’t use electricity, just the fixture’ and ‘So I am an expert in electronics, and LED’s use like no electricity’.”

“I refuted the point by claiming that they do use electricity even if it’s a little, it adds up over time.”

“Plus, they do this in every room in the house, they’ll leave the kitchen lights on, go to their room for 20 minutes and when they come out and the kitchen light is off, they’ll say some shit like ‘Who turned off my light? I was using it’.”

“I would say something like ‘No one was in here, and how difficult is it to turn the light on again?’.”

“Electricity has gone up to $700/mo from $200/mo after they moved in. They leave their lights on, brought a fridge into their room and leave their gaming computers, plural, on all day.”

“I don’t even ask them to unplug the fridge or computers, I’m just asking for the light to be turned off which is easily done without touching the switch because they installed an Alexa to turn off their light.”

“It’s all a verbal lease and whatever I put in the posting on Facebook—$500/month all inclusive. And so I take that posting as me putting it on paper.”

“I have to honor it. And it’s my mistake for being so initially lenient.”

The increased cost, I can take, whatever, I can afford it. It’s the seemingly blatant abuse of this policy, by leaving random lights/fans/tv’s on whenever and wherever that offends me.”

“The fact that things aren’t actively being used for hours on end and yet are being left on.”

“AITA for telling them to turn off the light when they aren’t using it?”

The OP summed up their situation.

“I politely asked my roommate to turn off lights/fans when they’re not actively using them.”

“This could be seen as an a**hole move because I made it clear that their rent is only $500 no matter what the ultilies cost.”

After people questioned how a few LED lights could increase the electric bill by $500, the OP revealed:

“I’m letting them run their crypto farm and charge their Tesla and all this sh*t, yet I can’t ask for a simple light off WHEN NOT IN USE?”

“See this is my first time renting a place out, so I’m an utter noob at it. Yes I do realize that I am not profiting and am doing this at a loss, my fault for making the rent so low and stupidly including utilities.”

“But I am gonna honor what my Facebook room listing said, because I wouldn’t feel good if someone didn’t honor their deal with me. I just feel like I’m being taken advantage of and disrespected.”

“If they did the math before I did and realized that they’re basically living for free, it’s shocking to me that they would be so stubborn as to not respect my very simple wish, even when I’m giving them such a deep value.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors couldn’t decide if the OP was the a**hole or not or if everyone sucked (YTA, NTA, ESH).

“YTA for wanting to control how they use the lights they’re paying for. No reason to care to this insane level.”

“Just like your focus being on their light and computer usage, them leaving lights on is not logical.”

“But now that we’ve established that, you know it’s their Tesla and crypto altering your electricity bill so much, right?”

“You also know it’s weird as hell that you’re so focused on the lights that you’re cool with paying their $6000 yearly ‘gas’ bill for their vehicle, right?” ~ Tasman_Tiger

“NTA. Do you have a rental agreement with this person? If you do, wait out the agreement and serve them with an eviction notice or letter of intent to not renew their rental agreement.”

“Make sure that you do this 3 months before the agreement ends and send it by registered mail so there is legally documented proof that the received the notice. If you don’t, turn off all the breakers in the house during the day and make sure the breaker box has a lock on it.”

“When they complain, tell them that yes the rent includes utilities that are only available when a paying tenant is present in the home to use said utilities. And you never agreed to provide continuous utilities. That they have nothing in writing, and then serve them with an eviction notice.”

“Your next tenant needs to pay utilities. And maybe have them sign a separate roommate agreement tied to the rental agreement about leaving lights on, or whatever house rules that you may have.”

“Of course nothing crazy, just common sense stuff. I would also invest in security cameras in the shared living spaces so you can get proof that they’re doing what they’re doing so you can evict them for violating the agreement.”

“And make sure that they presence of security cameras in the shared living spaces is also mentioned in the rental agreement and the roommate agreement.” ~ SecureWrap9334

“I’ll go with ESH. The roommate is clearly being inconsiderate here.”

“And you are going in the wrong direction because you are oriented on the lights. I suspect the culprits are the Tesla, extra fridge, and multiple gaming/crypto mining computers.”

“Instead of nagging the roommate, give them a notice to vacate.” ~ EnderBurger

“You are not the a**hole, but you are an Idiot.”

“They have a fridge, multiple computers and an EV—these 3, make up for 99.999% of the electric increase in your household, yet you argue about the 0.001%, which will make up maybe 30-50 bucks A YEAR maximum.”

“I changed all the lights in our farm from normal ones to LEDS over the past 3 years. We can now have every light in the house running all day every day and still consume less power than what the barn alone consumed before, for a few hours every day.”

“And I would argue that your Roomate’s fridge and computers alone consume more than every light we have up on our farm, easily.”

“IF he has multiple computers, I would bet money on the fact that he mines bitcoins with them, that means they run at full load all day every day. If we only assume he has two, that’s easily 1 kWh, that’s consumed 24/7, that’s 672 kWh a month and that’s just two computers—if he has more its even more.”

“I’d say that for every HOUR these alleged miner pcs run, you can have the lights burn in the whole appartment for multiple days. So your problem is not some LED lights, your problem is the PCs, the fridge and the EV too. That will eat multiple kWhs per day.”

“You have to talk to your roommate, because he should pay for that.” ~ Arespect

The OP provided an update.

“Yeah I’m not renting out to anyone anymore. This was a failed experiment that will cease to continue.”

“I can see why I’m the a**hole, so I really don’t wanna put my sh*t on any future roommates. I’m just gonna live solo after September comes around. I’ll let them know now so that they have proper time to make arrangements.”

“We may have our differences, but I don’t wanna kick ’em to the street with only a month to prepare for it, I’ve been there and it sucks. I’ll give em at least 3 months of notice that I plan to not renew. Thanks for everyone’s opinions, even if I am the a**hole.”

It’s unfortunate that OP’s attempt to provide low cost housing turned out so badly.

For now, living alone seems like the best option for this homeowner.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.