Hi all. I'll try to detail the situation as best as I can in bullet list form:

  • My wife and I started renting the first floor of a two story house about two years ago. House is old, built in 1930. We were renting the first floor of the house, which was about 1000 square feet. And there is an upstairs tenant who was renting about 500 square feet of space.
  • Both tenants (upstairs and downstairs) have their own electric meters.
  • For most of our two year stay we assumed that our central air and heating was only directly cooling and heating our floor of the house (I know, in hindsight that was a ridiculous assumption). We knew our heat would work it's way up there, but we didn't know there were vents going up there. The central air and heating is 100% on our gas and power meter.
  • During this summer's heat wave, we mentioned to our upstairs neighbor that he must be boiling up there without central air. He let us know that he was in fact doing fine, since our central air also cooled his place. This upstairs tenant also leaves his windows open year round. He's a nice guy, and I'm sure he didn't realize we were paying for his air.
  • Wife and I were then quite upset after suddenly realizing we'd been paying to heat and cool the upstairs for two years. Our utility bills have been quite high during the temperature extremes.
  • We ran the situation by our landlord, and they said that since the thermostat was on our level, the HVAC wouldn't be working any harder to cool the upstairs. I wasn't sure how much sense that made, and that's one of the reasons I'm here. It seems, intuitively, that at least in the winter we were certainly paying to keep our level warmer than it would be if we weren't also heating the upstairs. Situation is made even worse by the open windows upstairs, correct?

At any rate, that's the gist of the situation. We are currently moving out anyway, so we decided to just let the situation go. Until things started to get contentious with our security deposit, and I became tempted to use the shared HVAC situation as legal leverage, if I need to.

Is this a common scenario? If so, how does a landlord typically divide utility bills fairly? How much of an impact do you think cooling and heating the upstairs apartment had on our bills?

Thanks in advance for any input.