Friday, October 30, 2009

Hazel Towers Tenants Association Seeks Review of PSC Submetering Decision

We previously reported on the saga of the Hazel Towers Tenants Association complaints to the PSC regarding submetered electric service. See, e.g.,
On August 21, 2009, the PSC's Office of Consumer Services took an Initial Decision ("ID") in the case, which had been pending for more than a year. The Initial Decision acknowledges that in the first year of submetering the owner
  • overcharged tenants by more than $20,000 above what Con Edison would have charged based on the owner's admissions,
  • had not complied with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act, and
  • did not decide issues raised by the tenants concerning noncompliance with the PSC's order allowing the owner to submeter electricity.
The Hazel Towers Tenants Association requested an informal hearing under to review the ID before a hearing officer not previously involved in the case. In their October 27, 2009 Statement for the informal hearing, the tenants make the following points:
  • The ID erroneously approved a defective, proposed lease rider to govern the rates, terms and conditions of submetered electric service;
  • Complaint procedures changed without notice and still violate HEFPA;
  • The ID was tainted by ex parte contacts with the submeterer and its counsel who made submissions upon which the ID was based without notifying PULP, as counsel to HTTA;
  • The ID erroneously permits submetered customers to be billed for electric service without the prerequisite compliance with the Public Service Commission's Submetering Order;
  • The ID erred in approving unaudited charges and only making "spot checks" for rate cap violations where there was evidence of widespread overcharges;
  • The ID erred in approving a defective, proposed Notification of Rights and Procedures;
  • The owner charged a late payment fee of $25 instead of the 1.5% per month provided by Con Edison's tariff;
  • The owner's proposed termination procedures are not in compliance with the Home Energy Fair Practices Act;
  • The owner failed to provide the low income electric rate to eligible tenants and failed to notify them of the availability of a low-income rate;
  • Tenants with arrears were not offered a written deferred payment agreement, were not offered budget billing, and were not offered quarterly billing for elderly customers;
  • The owner did not reduce the tenants' regulated rent as stipulated by the Commission Order and by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR);
  • Lack of transparency and rate disclosure that would allow comparison between submetered charges and what Con Edison would charge;
  • Failure to audit all charges where there was evidence of widespread overcharges;
  • Failure to phase in submetering with tenant consent when leases are renewed, and not all at once;
For further information, see PULP's web page on submetering.

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