What I'm Seeing Now

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Was This Electric Meter Tampered With?

Was this electric meter tampered with?

For sure somebody was fooling around with it.

This is another wonderful flip.  At some point along this house's 40 year life it was decided to "upgrade" the outside by spraying that cheap stucco onto everything.

And I mean everything.

But what did I focus on when I first saw the box?

The legal seal.

On this box the legal seal is the small, gray plastic device with the serial number and a metal loop.

Once the electric company is finished inside a box they seal it with this small device.

It snaps together and hangs until the electric company cuts it.

NOBODY IS SUPPOSED TO TAMPER WITH THAT SEAL.

It's not a difficult lock to open.  It can be pulled apart.  Which has happened here.  Somebody wanted to get inside.  And it wasn't the electric company or they would have put a new seal.

Why do I think somebody was tampering?

Look at the underside.

The cover has been opened.

Yes, that could have happened when the electric company was in there previously.

But up close this broken stucco looks real fresh.  It was broken before and repainted, see?

Did somebody get in there to alter the dial needles, and therefore their bill?

Who knows.  But my client won't be blamed for it.  We have a report and a photo with today's date showing the seal was broken before he moved in.  He is safe.

It's a Best Practice for the home inspector to check and make note.

The electric company does not like people getting into the meter box!  I understand people can get fined for that, if the company can prove tampering was done.

My recommendation:  a lot of older electric meters are being replaced with the newer, digital ones.  I suspect those are a whole lot harder to tamper with.  But always look at the legal seal on an electric meter to make sure it is intact.  If it is broken and you tell the company, you cannot be blamed for something that is not your fault.  Those fines can be hefty!

 

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 46 commentsJay Markanich • January 18 2014 03:46AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

Or looking to get a "jolt" out of the house!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 6 years ago

Good morning, Jay. I keep an eye out for this as well. One never knows...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

Every now and then I find a "tampered box lock". Why they even wanted to get in there when nothing was being up graded is another question.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

Jay, great catch...something I would never have thought of. In fact, why would someone even do that?

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 6 years ago

I look for those as well. Here they are color coded for in service and out of service. Why someone would poke their hands in one of those is beyond me. I guess to turn on what the power company turned off... at what point do you rationalize in your mind that it's ok to do that?

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 6 years ago

Jay, the electrical seal thing could be a little scary, but not as scary as all of that stucco!  Could it have been mis-applied like all of those stucco houses that turned into mulch a few years back?

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Reminds me of the day when you could go to Midnight Auto and have the mileage rolled back.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 6 years ago

What a foolish thing to do but as we all know some people think they can get away with ANYthing.

Posted by Kate McQueen, Tailored service for your real estate needs! (CB&A Realtors) over 6 years ago

Jay, teh homeowner is lucky you were able to document the tampering for them. Not many people would be aware something was wrong with the electric meter.  

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 6 years ago

Jay, what a great tip.  Thank you for sharing yet another golden nugget of info about the electric meter seal.  I can't believe that after 25 years, I'm still learning new things every week.  :)  Regina Brown

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 6 years ago

Jay - Just call me a nervous Nelly... but if I ever saw this I would be highly suspicious and calling the utility company to see if they had been out recently.

Posted by AJ Heidmann ~ CRS, YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert (McEnearney Associates, Inc.) over 6 years ago

Wonder what they were doing in there? Did they have the electric company come check it out?

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 6 years ago

We have the new digital meters here in South Florida  and so far the are a big headache for vacant homeowners. You see that bad guys have figured out that if the take a meter from a vacant house and put it on there house they will have free electricity up to a month before the current bill is mailed to the home owner who had the meter stolen. My team has about 100 Fannie Mae homes listed and in the past year we have caught missing meters about 6 time, we inspect each home at least once a week. You see the new meters are read wireless , so a meter person never sees the meter like before, making it almost impossible to track down the meters. Oh and now the seals will not be looked at monthly anymore. I sure they are work hard to solve this problem.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) over 6 years ago

Such a simple thing, I had no idea a home inspector even looks at such a thing...

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Another good rason for a home inspector. What people will do to hurt others for their own benefit. Luckily a good home inspector found it.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 6 years ago

Yay for the Home inspector!  I am not sure I would have looked there.  Good eye!

Posted by Jennifer Green (Keller Williams Realty Phoenix) over 6 years ago

For-warned is for-armed, thank you for the advice! Do you feel like a detective sometimes?

Posted by Matt Brady, The Mortgage Answer Man (Finance Of America) over 6 years ago
Wow! There are no words! Love and light, Laura
Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) over 6 years ago

Dear Jay -
There are 20,000,000 reasons to hire a home inspector already and now you added another one! Love your posts -
Have a happy day from your Atlanta friend - Lynn

Posted by Lynn B. Friedman, Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers (Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty Call/Text 404-939-2727 Buckhead - Midtown - Westside -- and more ...) over 6 years ago

.. And you’ve just shared another knowledge you’ve got Jay. Thanks for this information. Should check mine too! Just followed you. I want to learn more from you.

Posted by Eric Galuppo (Real Estate Rev - More Leads Means More Revenue) over 6 years ago

Raymond - that, and electrifying, and shocking to see, etc...  Why avoid the obvious when we can crack James Bond jokes?

I see it three or four times a year Michael.  I chose to post this one because of the decorative stucco!

I think someone is being an arrogant zero Clint, and changing their bill.  But I am old and cynical.  Maybe I should say I am a home inspector and cynical!

See answer to Clint, Tom!  You know, those who don't think they have to play by the same rules as others.  Maybe this guy thinks he is entitled to my paycheck too, and a free phone.

When they are out of service the meter is removed here Fred.  And I see a lot of stuff in our society that is rationalized, and would have embarrassed people just a few years ago.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I haven't read all the comments but I'm wondering did you take a look inside? 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 6 years ago

Pat - when I saw it I was reminiscent of all those houses in rural areas that are covered with shingles!  Dis heer stuuko wuuz perty!  Hey, live a little!  Be the first on your block to upgrade to stucco!

Joe - I knew a guy who never went to Midnight Auto do to that!

They do Kate!  And now many think others should pay for it!  I think the rule breakers are outnumbering the by-the-rule players.

You are right Pamela.  My client here is Kurdish, buying his first American property, and had no idea.

Good for you Regina!  That's one reason I come to AR, - I learn stuff every day.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

AJ - if so the seal would be fresh!  This happened since the last meter reading, and at the end of some, um, clever flipping work!

See my answer to AJ above, Than, and my answer to Tom in #21.

Chuck - all of which speaks to the unintended consequences of improving a system.  What fixes or betters one thing makes something else worse.  They are slowly replacing meters with digital ones here too, but I don't know how they are read.

Evelyn - I bet I have a thousand things on my mind during a home inspection that does not occur to realtors!

Thanks Jimmy.  My client won't get burned by it.

 

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Thank you Jennifer, but it is part of the job, and included in the training when we take electrical classes.

Very similar Matt!  Sometimes things can be deduced and sometimes not!

Laura - the creativity of the less than honest should not surprise!

Thank you Lynn.  I hope your daughter's house repairs have gone well.  My brother calls your city Hotlanta.

Thank you Eric!  I am here nearly every day!

You picked me out of the line up James!  Now how else would I have something to write about?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

The previous owner of the house next to my office monkeyed with the electric meter. To lower his bill and snip snip remove the tag wire sealing it shut but concealed to look that way but played with monthly. Before the reading. Knew college kids who heated their apartment with a kitchen cook stove on all the time that has the same situational ethics with the power meter. But one day turned it back a little too far and the utility owed them money.. and no wind generator out back in the yard to justify how did this happen.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 6 years ago

That is strange. It is best to document the broken seal for the client. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

No doubt someone has been in there. That old style meter can be flipped upside down to run backwards. It's an old trick people have used to reduce their electric bills. The new digital meters in our area ping the power company if the meter is moved at all. Sadly, they still have to padlock some of the boxes down. We service an apartment complex that will have 12 out of 14 meters locked down. People are foolish enough to get their hands in those things. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 6 years ago

Detective Jay, good observations and documentaion of evidence! I remember knowing people that would open these boxes and turn the meter upside down and replace it. That would cause meter to run backwards. One guy would run it backwards for 2 weeks or so, then turn it back so it would be right side up when meter reader showed up. He repeated process until he got caught. He found out that is known as stealing electricity.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 6 years ago

Jay, notice there is no stucco on the seal or the glass cover. May have been opened before applying the stucco.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Good thing you're not reading about a funeral instead. What idiots would do that? Oh yeah, the list is endless. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 6 years ago

How do people think they'll get away with this? And it's so blatantly obvious the seal was broken, they didn't even try to hide it!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 6 years ago

if you trace the origin of the locked seal, people would feign denial and responsibility claiming someone must have done something here...Now, that someone has been narrowed down quite a bit...The buck truly stops here...PERIOD

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Wow Andrew.  They should pay a price for that, if it can be proved.  Some think they are beyond the rules.

Jim - all we can do is report it and provide a photo.  That's documentation for everyone.

I didn't know that you could reverse it by putting them in upside down, Mike!  You electricians say things that amaze me sometimes!  And I didn't know the digital meters ping the company!

They must have had a means of catching him Jeff!  Good that they did.  I expect that is not a misdemeanor.

I don't know when it was sprayed Mike, but the cover and meter glass are separate, so tape might have been all that was needed.

Scott - how many blogs could be written about stupidity?  Without calling it that, of course.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Suzanne - it is a flip, so he could disclaim responsibility and nobody could prove the real bill.  So he gets off and pays a lesser bill.

Richie - I wonder if they don't have some protocol for catching people who seem to have continually low bills.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, regular meter man and new guy in training showed up unexpectedly while meter was still upside down. They shut power off and confiscated meter. Surprise when he got home that day! They estimated monthy use for 6 +- months because he admitted doing it for around 6 months. So he had to pay estimated back use and also pay a $1000.00 deposit before they would turn power back on.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 6 years ago

Wahoo!  And deserved.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

This i hideous as I said yesterday. Good luck getting the word out.

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) over 6 years ago

Laura - and I learned things from the comments - like how one can install the meter upside down and reverse the movement and therefore the bill!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I'm Shocked!  Someone would try to pull one on the power company?  Next thing you know, the drip wil be trying to get free water and asking his friend Larry for free cable. 

Never a dull moment.

Posted by Fred Cope, Looking For Homes With A Smile (Reliant Realty in Nashville, TN) over 6 years ago

Hooking his hose up to the neighbor's Fred?  I saw that once on a home inspection - the vacant house I was inspecting had a hose run to the neighbor's house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay,

Thanks for the blog and pictures with an explanation which speaks 1000 words

Posted by Alex Popovic, Alex Popovic Designated Broker Commercial RE (Apex CRE) over 6 years ago

That happens all the time. Just because the cover was opened does not mean the meter was tampered with.  Meter boxes are outside and exposed to the elements. It could be that an electrician opened it up to check the connections and look for corrosion.  I am glad at least the cover WAS removable with all that stucco stuff on it.  

Posted by John Anello, Stamford Area Electrician, Call Safe and Sound Electric at 203-536-0021 (Safe and Sound Electric LLC) over 6 years ago

I'm glad you find it useful Alex. 

John - electricians aren't allowed to open the meter, at least here anyway.  It belongs to the electric company and they never go inside without replacing the seal.  I belong to an electric coop and they send us newsletters and at least once a year tell us not to fool with the legal seals on our meters.  They do assume tampering!  I only see the broken seal 2 or 3 times a year, but I do see it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I remember replacing an older "mobile home" in an adult community here in Florida... When we went to inspect the water and electric service to determine that it would meet the needs of a new Manufactured Home, we were shocked to see that this home had neither.... He had a buried extention cord and hose running to the club house behind his home!!!!  We later found out that this was the park owners home originally, so he had connected to "his" business water/electric... except he sold the park and moved out in the late 70s!!!  This "new" guy had lived there for almost 40 years and NEVER paid for utilities!!!  Amazing what we get away with in Florida!

(And when we explained that we could NOT hook it back up that way, he cancelled his order... but a (bald) birdy had already tipped off the park management and a "fix" was in the works)

Posted by Edward Hamill, Market Leader / CBInTouch Expert (NRT Southeast / Coldwell Banker) over 6 years ago

Freaking amazing Edward!  What can you say?  Obviously he knew this and had no problem with it.

When we do things like that, we have to be able to "justify" them in our minds.  I wonder how he justified this!  Getting back at "the man?"

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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