Thursday, April 09, 2009

Yonkers Tenants Ask PSC to Halt Submetering at Riverview Towers

On April 8, 2009, tenants of Riverview Towers, an 18 story high rise apartment building in Yonkers, filed with the Public Service Commission a petition for a stay of submetering, and for rehearing and vacatur of the Commission's prior order allowing the owner to resell electric service to the 343 tenants.

After two months of "shadow" bills, tenants received their first actual bills for submetered electric charges in March, 2009. The bills were high, and far in excess of adjustments in the housing subsidies of most tenants.

The tenants' petition asserts that the Commission overlooked, misapprehended, or was not apprised of relevant facts and law when it granted permission to submeter, in that
  • the premises have costly electric baseboard heat;
  • residents are predominantly low-income families;
  • the premises are not rent stabilized as the Commission indicated in its order;
  • the owner did not reduce the Gross Rents and Market Rents at the project to reflect the reduction in services but rather the rents were increased;
  • housing subsidies received by most tenants will not offset the high cost of submetered electric service;
  • some tenants receive no subsidies or rent offsets;
  • lease provisions deem electric service to be "additional rent" and allow eviction in the event of nonpayment;
  • residents cannot obtain HEAP because the owner is not a HEAP vendor;
  • the premises are subject to agreements obligating the owner to provide heat;
  • the premises and the electrical fixtures are not energy efficient;
  • residents did not receive adequate notice of the consequences of submetering;
  • residents did not receive adequate notice of their right to comment to the Commission on the owner’s submetering petition; and
  • the rates, charges, terms and conditions of submetered electric service, including the deeming of electric charges to be rent and circumvention of HEFPA remedies, are not just and reasonable.
A stay was requested because the Commission's submetering order is causing confusion, actual and potential hardship to the homes and welfare of low-income tenants. A stay of submetering was issued recently by the Commission in four cases involving similar circumstances, where low-income tenants also received high electric bills from their landlords far beyond their means to afford without hardship. See Submetering Slowed at Roosevelt Island: Temporary Stay of Submetering Conversion at Roosevelt Island and Three Other Locations.

The tenants are represented by Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

For more background information, see PULP's web page on submetering.

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