Tenants seek reimbursement after paying nearly $500 a month electric bills

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

RICHMOND, Va. -- For months, Angelica Melara and some of her neighbors have been searching for answers regarding their unusually high electric bills.

Melara lives in a 600 square foot, one bedroom apartment at The Gallery at Midtown Apartment complex in Richmond’s museum district.

At times, she said her electric bill reached nearly $500 a month.

“This was a horrible process for me to go through,” said Melara.

Angelica Melara

Angelica Melara

She first contacted CBS 6 Problem Solvers in September, and since our first story aired, we’ve received several emails from other residents facing similar issues.

“Myself and Brittany have been going to them since May probably and telling them about this and constantly following up with them every month and they just constantly pointed the finger somewhere else.”

Melara said her water heater was recently repaired, while Brittany Edwards says hers was completely replaced.

Both just received their first electric bills since those fixes, and say they are now hundreds of dollars cheaper.

The two say the apartment complex should reimburse them for what they believe were previous overcharges.

“My savings is pretty wiped out, said Edwards.

Angelica Melara and Brittany Edwards

Angelica Melara and Brittany Edwards

She estimates she is owed about $1,200.

“That is a lot of money that has gone down the drain because of faulty equipment on their end,” she said.

CBS 6 has made repeated requests for an interview with the management of the Gallery at Midtown.

In prior statements, the complex has said they had taken steps to look into the issue.

They also said that they were encouraging residents to follow up with Dominion, even though the power company has said it’s not an issue on their end.

Gallery

After we asked the complex if they planned to reimburse any customers, an attorney sent us a statement that read:

“We are diligently working to identify the cause of a handful of high electric bills and are in communication with the residents directly.”

The statement went on to say that they haven’t confirmed an exact cause, but a forensic energy consultant is actively assisting the complex with their investigation.

But Edwards says she was the one who figured out the problem was with the hot water heater.

“With the breaker on it was going ridiculously fast and with that breaker turned off it almost stopped dead in its tracks,” she said.

Brittany Edwards

Brittany Edwards

Attorney Martin Weigbret isn't affiliated with the case, but specializes in landlord tenant laws.

We asked if he thinks the tenants are owed money based solely on what we were told from Melara and Edwards.

“It’s definitely a very arguable case,” said Weigbret.

He says landlords have a duty to investigate once notified about issues like high electric bills, and have the duty to fix it in a reasonable amount of time.

He recommended that tenants dealing with these kinds of issues take their case to small claims court, where you don’t need an attorney.

“If you’ve got the documentation that shows that your bills were abnormally high for three or four or five months and you got the fact that the landlords replacing the water heater or whatever the landlord did and it caused the utility bill to drop after the repair was made, that sounds like a pretty compelling and convincing case, and you shouldn't just sit back and say oh I guess I’m out $1,000.”

CBS 6 News is working for you. Click here to email a tip to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers. Be sure to leave us your name, phone number and detailed description of the problem. You can also leave a message by calling 804-254-3672.