In always like to assume the best about people. Sometimes, though, it costs me.

I live in a 加蓋房子, which is basically a floor illegally added onto the top of an apartment building. As such, I don’t get my own electric bills. Why that legal quandary didn’t slow down the phone company when I asked them to install phone and DSL service this spring, I’m not sure.

In any case, since it is illegal to have separate power bills, my power has been routed through my downstairs neighbor’s apartment. He put a meter on the power going to my floor and then I pay a portion of his power bill, depending on how much electricity I use.

He seemed like a nice guy, and I’ve basically just paid whatever number he said I owed each month, since it always seemed reasonable. Apparently, that was a mistake.

My bill for February and March was two thousand and change, my bill for April and May was four thousand and change, and then my bill for June and July came out to over thirteen thousand. I know air conditioning costs go up in the summer, but $13,455 is nuts. My bills in the winter last year at my old place were the same as this year, and the most expensive summer bill was about $5,500. With no change in my habits, could the bill have more than doubled?

I very nearly just paid it, but I’ve been short on cash and it was a monstrous bill, so I decided to get some more information. The entire bill the electric company sent my downstairs neighbor was 14,484. I went downstairs and asked him about it. He showed me my meter and stood by his calculations.

The problem is, there’s no way that I used $13,455 of electricity and his family of five only used $1,029. Even if they never used the air-conditioner at all, just the refrigerator would use more than that over a two month period.

I called our landlord and explained the problem. Fortunately, he agreed with me that there was no way the power usage worked out the way my neighbor claimed. It also turns out that the neighbor in question had been using the air-con, hasn’t been paying rent for a few months and is on his way out of the building. The

Best of all, the landlord is getting a working meter installed in my apartment, so I don’t need to rely on anyone else’s estimates of what I owe each month.