Man lives in South Memphis home nearly five years without electricity

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The winter gets cold at Milton Johnson's South Memphis home on Dixie street.

"It's colder in here than it is out there. So when the temperature drops low, it gets pretty cold," Johnson said.

Johnson hasn't had utilities for almost five years. After his grandmother, who owned the home, died in 2010, bills piled up, and eventually the electricity got cut off.

More than $900 had to be paid, and Johnson, who's unemployed, fell further and further behind and went years without lights.

"It's hard, but I am adjusting," Johnson said.

When things get really cold, he has to find another place to stay. Neighbors help when they can.

"One year about four years ago, I bought him some candles and just gave them to him," neighbor Dorothy Sanders said.

Neighbors felt helpless, and Memphis Light, Gas, and Water said the bill had to be paid in full before power was restored.

"You can put batteries in here and that lights up a room and stuff. One thing about it, they haven't cut the water off," Johnson said.

But MLGW says water was cut off twice and then someone turned it back on . That usage also has to be paid.

Now instead of the $919, the past due amount is $2,919.

"Someone has to pay for the services. Light, Gas, and Water disconnected the service there, and based on our records, someone continued to use services there," Gale Jones Carson with MLGW said.

MLGW says the utilities should have been properly transferred.

"Whoever wants those services in his or her name, they must have some documentation in his or her name, a mortgage or lease, to show this is their residence," Carson said.

"If I can find some kind of arrangement in order to pay a little bit every month on it or whatever, I think I can handle that. I can live a little bit better," Johnson said.

That apparently isn't an option. MLGW says the account has been in diversion, which means utility theft, and that doesn't qualify for a payment plan.

Once MLGW turns off the water, Johnson may actually be forced to leave the house because people aren't allowed to live in a place with no working utilities.