Dear Mr. Energy,
You give a lot of advice for homeowners who want to save energy and money on utility bills, but as a renter, what can I tell my landlord? My bills are really, really high and I want to find a way to convince my landlord that energy efficiency improvements won’t only benefit me, but will benefit her as well.
–Help Me in Hillsborough
Dear Help Me,
This is a wonderful question for which Mr. Energy sadly, doesn’t have a very good answer. As the person paying the utility bills you are painfully aware that the space you’re renting has energy inefficiencies, but since you don’t own the property you are obviously not in a position to put money into it. This is a classic renter/landlord dilemma, and one which is very difficult for the average renter to solve.
One argument is that if a landlord tightens up a home to make it more energy efficient, he or she can benefit by raising rent to cover the improvements. The money the renter saves should then cover the extra rent. That’s not really a win-win for the renter, obviously, since the bills remain the same, and who’s to say the next renter will value an energy efficient space, which makes this a tenuous proposition for the landlord. You could appeal to your landlord’s conscience, helping him or her understand that saving energy is helping the environment. This is a noble idea, but Mr. Energy doubts it will be very effective. You could also try to explain that the kinds of home improvements done to make a house or apartment more energy efficient will also increase the property’s durability – taking care of air leaks and moisture problems are maintenance tasks we all need to be doing on our real estate investments. Let me know how that works out for you.
Given all that, Mr. Energy thinks the best argument may be this: a happy tenant who has manageable utility bills is a tenant who will occupy the space for a much longer time than would a tenant whose money is (literally) floating out the cracks in the windows. And a happy tenant = an occupied rental property = rent that’s paid every month. Which is a very good thing, indeed. And many of the utility rebate programs are also ones for which landlords can qualify. The Home Energy Improvement Program offered through Progress Energy is a good example. The renter may have his/her name on the account, but the landlord will qualify for the rebate. A win-win for both sides!