- Failure of the owner to provide adequate notification to tenants of the application for permission to submeter,
- Absence of filed contracts or tariffs approved by the PSC, and
- Failure to provide "shadow" billing in advance of implementation of submetering to give tenants better knowledge of the impact before, in most cases, being required to pay more in total monthly charges for rent and electricity,
- Complaint procedures out of compliance with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act,
- Deeming of charges for electric service to be added "rent," and
- Noncompliance with nearly every putative consumer protection condition contained in the PSC order which granted permission to the owner to submeter and provide electric service to tenants.
Yesterday, Town House West tenants received notice that the owner, Stellar Management, is crediting back to tenants all charges for submetered electricity that have been collected to date. The bills previously sent for three months' service (May, June and July) will now be treated only as informational "shadow bills" to reveal the eventual financial impact of submetering, but will not actually be collected. Payments for electricity bills previously made by tenants are being "credited against your September rent." The owner's letter dated August 24 states, in part
Recently, as part of your August 2009 rental statement, you received a "bill" for electricity usage for your apartment for the period 5/5/09 - 6/4/09. At the same time you received another "bill" for the same period for the same amount from our outside vendor, Quadlogic or QLC. These "electric bills," however, should have been labeled as a "shadow electric bill."**** [Y]ou do not need to pay this "bill;" it is simply for educational purposes.The owner's letter goes on to say that the electric bills received by tenants for the periods 6/4/09 - 7/4/09 and 7/4/09 - 8/4/09 were "purely for educational purposes, and you do not need to pay these shadow bills either."
The owner indicates that it will seek to collect charges for service beginning August 4, 2009, and that those charges will show up with rent bills for October, due to a two-month billing lag. The owner's letter to tenants advising them of the newly characterized "shadow bills" also included a revised proposed lease rider and information about HEFPA rights, including the right to have billing complaints adjudicated by the OCS. The lease rider has not been approved by order of the PSC.
Market rate tenants at Town House West whose leases do not now have valid submetering provisions may be able to avoid submetering charges until they negotiate a renewal lease. According to the owner's August 24 letter, tenants whose leases are subject to rent stabilization laws will receive rent reductions beginning in August, under a DHCR order requiring rent reductions when bills for electricity are shifted to tenants.
The Townhouse West Tenant Association Petition, and the individual complaints of Townhouse West tenants, are still pending at the OCS. The Tenants' Association has not received a copy of any answer to the Petition or other papers submitted to OCS by the owner or its counsel, Harris Beach.
For further information see PULP's website page on submetering.