Friday, April 17, 2009

Bill Would Bar Landlords from Deeming Charges for Submetered Electric Service to be "Additional Rent"

Some landlords have won approval from the PSC to resell electric service to their residential tenants. Although the PSC orders typically contain a reference to compliance with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA), landlords have been skirting those requirements by deeming unpaid charges for electricity as additional rent, and threatening eviction. A NYSERDA handbook for landlords actually suggests to them that they avoid the requirements of HEFPA by not pursuing termination of service for unpaid charges and using eviction proceedings instead. The eviction route may also be attractive to landlords who can re-rent the premises at market rents after a low-income tenant whose rent is limited by a subsidy program is displaced.

Many, but not all, HEFPA protections come into play when a utility threatens to discontinue service. By evicting, or threatening to evict the tenant, landlords are circumventing the protections of HEFPA. As a result, tenants with a temporary budget crisis who need a deferred payment plan required to be offered when service termination is threatened, or who need emergency public assistance to pay the charges for electricity to prevent a shutoff, cannot receive benefits intended by the legislature, and they are put at increased risk of eviction and homelessness.

Assembly Bill A07353, introduced by Assemblyman Micah Kellner, would prohibit charges for landlord-provided residential utility services from being deemed to be "additional rent."

For further information see PULP's web page about submetering.

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