Relates to the collection of charges for heat-related residential utility service.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the multiple dwelling law and the multiple residence law, in relation to the collection of charges for heat-related residential utility service
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill would amend section 79 of the Multiple Dwelling Law to eliminate the practice of building owners charging residential rental tenants for electricity, natural gas, and other fuel used for space heating in the dwelling unit.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Subdivision 1 of section 79 of the multiple dwelling law is amended to prohibit an owner or agent of any owner from separately charging tenants or occupants for any electricity, electric service, natural gas or natural gas service or other fuel utilized to heat living quarters. Section 173 of the multiple residence law is amended to do the same.
JUSTIFICATION: Shifting heating costs to tenants reduces economic incentives for landlords to improve the thermal efficiency of their structures, through measures such as insulation, window replacement with high efficiency glass, and provide more efficient heating systems, fixtures, and smart controls. This is contrary to state policy to promote energy efficiency and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As utility costs rise, some building owners have begun to shift their costs for fuel and electricity onto their tenants, by requiring tenants to pay heating surcharges, separate and apart from rent, for fuel or electricity used to heat their dwelling units. These surcharges are based on consumption measured by either landlord-owned meters, or based on apartment square footage allocations. These surcharges, typically for natural gas or electricity, are inherently unpredictable, are not quantified in tenant leases, and are not knowable in advance. As such, they cause great hardship to tenants living on fixed incomes from social security, disability and pensions, who lack significant savings. Frequently, heating surcharges imposed by owners are not subject to outside audit or verification by the tenant and are therefore inherently prone to abuse.
Shifting building owners' heating costs to tenants through unpredictable and continually varying surcharges renders these costs not transparent to tenants, because owners are not obligated to reveal the energy inefficiencies of their buildings or the amount of energy wasted by the heating equipment they operate. In contrast, if building owners retain direct responsibility for heating costs, they will recover those costs in the rent they charge and they will have the incentive to adopt cost effective efficiency measures. The charge for rent is fixed and
transparent, and can be understood by existing and prospective tenants. The Multiple Dwelling Law already imposes upon landlords the obligation to provide heat or heating fixtures to tenants.
This bill prevents owners of multiple dwellings from imposing charges for natural gas, electricity, or other fuel used for space heating separate from the stated rent. It does not affect situations where a tenant has directly metered gas or electric service from a franchised gas corporation or electric corporation.
Requiring tenants to pay surcharges to building owners for fuel and electricity for heating denies them the protections of programs designed by the legislature to protect low income utility customers from abuse, such as the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA), and the legislatively-created safety nets for the needy including the emergency utility assistance program under Social Services Law § 131-s and the energy crisis provisions of the home energy assistance program under Social Services Law § 97 (HEAP). Customer remedies and assistance in these programs is triggered by a notice of termination of utility service, and is not available when surcharges for heating costs are deemed to be "added rent," allowing landlords to evict tenants for nonpayment. Tenants who encounter temporary difficulty in meeting their obligations to pay for fluctuating charges heat-related utility service are in a far worse position than direct utility company over unpaid or disputed charges; they are given the opportunity to pay arrears over time in affordable installments through deferred payment plans, which must be offered as an alternative to termination of utility service, and they have the opportunity to obtain emergency HEAP or Social Services Law section 131-s assistance. Such assistance is not available when the landlord imposes a rent surcharge for a utility service it provides through its own meters or for the cost of utility service which the landlord uses to heat the premises and allocates based on square footage or other factors.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009-10: Referred to Housing, Construction & Community Development (S.5063)
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None is anticipated.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1383 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 7, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. PERKINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development AN ACT to amend the multiple dwelling law and the multiple residence law, in relation to the collection of charges for heat-related resi- dential utility service THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Legislative findings and intent. The legislature hereby finds that assessment and collection by multiple dwelling owners of separate charges for electricity, electric service, natural gas, and natural gas service or other fuel used to heat living quarters is not in the public interest and should be prohibited. S 2. Subdivision 1 of section 79 of the multiple dwelling law, as amended by chapter 225 of the laws of 1982, is amended to read as follows: 1. Every multiple dwelling exceeding two stories in height and erected after April eighteenth, nineteen hundred twenty-nine, and every garden- type maisonette dwelling project erected after April eighteenth, nine- teen hundred fifty-four, shall be provided with heat. On and after November first, nineteen hundred fifty-nine, every multiple dwelling shall be provided with heat or the equipment or facilities therefor. During the months between October first and May thirty-first, such heat and the equipment or facilities shall be sufficient to maintain the minimum temperatures required by local law, ordinance, rule or regu- lation, in all portions of the dwelling used or occupied for living purposes provided, however, that such minimum temperatures shall be as follows: (a) sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit during the hours between six o'clock in the morning and ten o'clock in the evening, whenever the outdoor temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit, notwith- standing the provisions of paragraph a of subdivision four of sectionEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00500-01-1 S. 1383 2
three of this chapter, and (b) at least fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit during the hours between ten o'clock in the evening and six o'clock in the morning, whenever the outdoor temperature falls below forty degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to relieve any owner of the duty of providing centrally supplied or other approved source of heat prior to November first, nineteen hundred fifty-nine in any case where such heat is required by this chapter or any other law, ordinance, rule or regulation to be supplied in a dwelling prior to said date. The heating system in dwellings used for single room occupancy shall be in conformity with the requirements of section two hundred forty-eight OF THIS CHAPTER. NO OWNER OR AGENT OF ANY OWNER SHALL SEPARATELY CHARGE TENANTS OR OCCUPANTS FOR ANY ELECTRICITY, ELECTRIC SERVICE, NATURAL GAS OR NATURAL GAS SERVICE OR OTHER FUEL UTILIZED TO HEAT LIVING QUARTERS. S 3. Section 173 of the multiple residence law, as amended by chapter 225 of the laws of 1982, is amended to read as follows: S 173. Heating. Every new dwelling shall be provided with heat in all living rooms sufficient to maintain the minimum temperatures required by local law, ordinances, rules or regulation, or by the local public health officer, provided, however, that such minimum temperature shall, notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of section three hundred twenty-nine of this chapter, be sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit during the hours between six o'clock in the morning and ten o'clock in the evening during the months between October first and May thirty- first, whenever the outdoor temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. NO OWNER OR AGENT OF ANY OWNER SHALL SEPARATELY CHARGE TENANTS OR OCCUPANTS FOR ANY ELECTRICITY, ELECTRIC SERVICE, NATURAL GAS OR NATURAL GAS SERVICE OR OTHER FUEL UTILIZED TO HEAT LIVING QUARTERS. S 4. This act shall take effect immediately.