Most states grant legal rights to tenants to access the fuse box for their rented space. However, the rules regarding this access are different in each state, making it necessary for tenants to contact their local housing agency to determine the laws applicable to themselves. Below is an explanation of the most common rights granted to tenants regarding access to their fuse box.
Why Access Matters
Access to the fuse box in an apartment affect’s a tenant’s ability to live comfortably in his residence. If a fuse goes out and needs to be flipped, and a tenant is unable to do so, he may be stuck without electricity or even heat in the apartment. Because of this, many states require landlords to provide fuse box access to tenants.
The Number of Units
Most states only require landlords to provide access to the fuse box to tenants when the building has four or more rentable units. If a building has less than four, the landlord is typically not required to provide individual access to the fuse box. If a landlord is not legally required to provide access to the fuse box, there is usually no requirement for him to keep someone on the premises that has access to the box. If, however, a problem arises and a fuse needs to be fixed, the law usually requires the landlord to be accessible by phone or provide another resource such as a maintenance crew to assist in accessing the box.
Landlord’s Ability to Deny Access
The number of units affects whether or not the landlord can legally deny a tenant access to the fuse box. In a building with more than four units, denying a tenant access to the fuse box may be illegal. In other situations, however, as the landlord is not legally responsible for providing tenant’s access to the fuse box, denying access would not be illegal.
Remedying an Improper Denial
If a tenant has been illegally denied access to his fuse box, there are several steps he can take to remedy the situation. The first step is to notify the landlord that he is illegally denying access to the box. If after such notification the landlord still refuses to provide access, the tenant may be able to call a locksmith and have the box accessed. This step may require the tenant to incur fees for the locksmith, but, usually these fees can be deducted from rent as a means of repaying the tenant.
Another step a tenant can take is to request that the state perform an electrical inspection of the property. During the inspection, the inspector would notice that access to the fuse box was being denied and issue a fine and require the landlord to fix the situation.
The most severe step a tenant can take is to withhold rent from the landlord. This is an extreme measure that most courts do not look upon favorably because it may be extreme in light of the situation. Usually, this is only an acceptable step when the landlord has failed to abide by the changes identified as necessary after an electrical inspection.