Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Riverview II Tenants Rebut Owner's Opposition to Request to Stay Submetering

We have previously discussed the efforts of tenants to stop landlord submetering of electricity at Riverview II, a Yonkers housing development. See
The tenants originally asked the PSC to halt submetering in April. Based on a staff letter not in the online files in PSC Case 08-E-0439, the PSC Secretary denied the request, deeming it to be an untimely request for rehearing, and shunted the matter over to the PSC's Office of Consumer Services, to be handled as a customer complaint.

At the PSC's September 17, 2009 meeting, a Commissioner inquired as to why stays of submetering were being granted in several other cases where the petitions for relief were not being deemed to be untimely rehearing requests. The Yonkers Riverview II tenants filed a new petition with the PSC, again asking for a halt to submetering. See Yonkers Riverview II Tenants Again Ask PSC to Halt Submetering, PULP Network, October 14, 2009 and Yonkers Riverview II Tenants' Association Petition filed on October 12, 2009.

The Commission Secretary issued a Notice Establishing Pleadings Schedule. The owner filed papers opposing the petition, and on October 30, the tenants filed their response. In their papers, tenants point out
  • There were no rent reductions when costs for electricity were shifted from the owner to tenants, contrary to indications in the owner's application and in the PSC's submetering order. As a result, the owner is obtaining a windfall not intended by the Commission, and adversely affecting the housing subsidy agency and tenants.
  • The submetering of heat was not mentioned in the PSC order allowing submetering,
  • Shadow electric bills were far higher than offsetting tenant rent subsidy adjustments, which are not received by some tenants and which do not come close to offsetting normal costs of electricity for normal usage,
  • The building is occupied by low-income tenants for whom higher costs are a hardship,
  • Tenants were being made to pay the high costs of the owner's energy inefficient building structure and electrical fixtures,
  • The owner did not consider less costly and more efficient alternatives to electric baseboard heat,
  • Controls for usage and heat are inadequate, with only three settings on the knobs on the electric baseboard heating units: Low (50 degrees F), Comfort and High,
  • Inadequate energy education to inform tenants about ways to reduce energy consumption and costs,
  • Failure to comply with HEFPA required rules and complaint procedures prior to initiating service,
  • The owner failed to meet its burden of proof to show that tenants on average will be held harmless by submetering,
  • Data supplied by the owner was incomplete and inaccurate, underestimated usage and costs, and was not normalized to account for price, weather, and usage variations,
  • Deeming of charges for electricity to be "added rent" and threatening termination of tenancies for nonpayment of electric charges,
  • Unilateral promulgation by the owner of rates, terms and conditions of service not approved by the PSC and in conflict with the submetering order,
  • Defective notice to tenants of their right to comment on the submetering proposal before the PSC acted on it, and
  • Failure to obtain necessary individual tenant agreement to lease riders containing reduced rents and rates, terms and conditions of electric service to be provided by the landlord prior to initiating service.There are no valid new lease riders signed by the tenants containing revised rent amounts and rates, terms and conditions of electric service approved by the Commission and required by its Order.
For more information see PULP's web page on submetering.

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