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I rent a house with a natural gas furnace. The furnace was not working at the beginning of this winter, and so we called the landlord to fix it. The landlord hired a repair man, who came and noticed that the switch in the back of the furnace (attached to the furnace) was flipped "off". I was charged $82 for this. I know that neither myself nor my boyfriend touched the switch as we are NOT handy and do not ever attempt to handle repairs on our own, we simply call the landlord.

My question is, now I am wondering how that switch could have been flipped if we are certain we did not do it. The property managers are saying that someone definitely had to have flipped that switch but I know we did not? They are telling me that the furnace is not part of the breaker box at all and that shouldn't matter, BUT, do furnaces have internal breakers that may trip that switch?

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  • Is this your first winter in the house? (I.e. is it possible the furnace was switched off when you moved in?) Have you had any technician work on the furnace that might have left it off by accident?
    – Hank
    Dec 23 '14 at 18:15
  • If the landlord knew about the shut-off switch, he should have asked you to check it before he called the maintenance guy. If the landlord didn't know about the switch, how could he expect you to know?
    – Johnny
    Dec 23 '14 at 20:15
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The bottom line is it does NOT matter. Even if you did do something like this intentionally there is still NO way in hell you should be charged for ANY service call to a place you rent.

To answer your question, yes, it is possible, but to know for sure we'd need to make and model number of your furnace.

I hope you did not pay the $82!

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  • I disagree that a tenant should never be charged for any service call. If they did turn the furnace off themselves, why would the landlord have to pay for that?
    – Hank
    Dec 23 '14 at 18:13
  • @Henry Jackson, Because it is his property. He can try to back-charge the tenant, but as far as I know it is illegal to force a tenant to pay for maintenance/service calls. If something like this is happening then obviously there is more to the story, and he can evict the tenant or raise their rent. Dec 23 '14 at 19:28
  • I guess this is a question for lawyers, but I can't see why it would be illegal to charge the tenant (or deduct it from a security deposit). If a tenant tries to flush a tennis ball down the toilet and then a plumber needs to be called, you think the landlord should pay for that?
    – Hank
    Dec 24 '14 at 3:26
  • From what I have learned/heard over the years no, they cannot be charged or forced to pay for it, but your other point is valid. They can deduct it from a security deposit after the rental is terminated/ended. Dec 24 '14 at 3:56
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Standard switches like those installed as a shutoff for a furnace do not "trip" like a circuit breaker would. It would have to be manually turned off.

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  • Without more details or a photo, my guess is that it is a regular shutoff switch, like you say.
    – Hank
    Dec 23 '14 at 18:09

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