Home Heating, Energy Tips
The Energy section is new and will undergo gradual development. Energy has become a larger issue for tenants afer the winter of 2000 - 2001 saw a dramatic rise in energy pricing. General links for energy assistance will be provided, followed by Colorado links. If you wish to find local or state energy links on the Internet, try using a phrase search such as "low income energy assistance".Other energy issues will be discussed in this section.
Read about tenant energy issues and potential fraudulent billing by landlords. (below)
General Energy Resources:
Colorado Energy Resources:
- Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation <CEAF.org> - provides assistance with home heating for low income people (since 1989). They are one of the funders of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) that is run by the US Govt. through local governments. (They can send you a LEAP application.) They also provide referrals to nonprofit groups who are providing monetary assistance to low income people for heating expenses. CEAF sends out a quarterly newsletter titled "Energy Source" via email if you sign up for it via their web site.
518 17TH St., Suite 1390, Denver, CO 80202
- The Energy Office
nonprofit org. offering counseling on home ownership, sweat equity program and weatherization assistance.
128 S. 5th St., Grand Junction, CO 81501
- Colorado Public Utilities Commission <www.dora.state.co.us/PUC> -
|Tenant Energy Issues
Energy prices during the winter of 2000 - 2001 were approximately double the prices in the prior winter Many landlords who once provided so-called "free" heat (priced into the rent) have more recntly started billing for heat separately from rent while not lowering rent prices to account for the change. Thus essentially, energy has raised overall rents. TenantRights.Net will be dredging up some energy tips and wisdom little by little.
One immediate issue will be energy billing practices where the heat bill.is split up by the landlord. Such practice is prone to virtually no accountability. In some cases, landlords use several tricks to manifest monthly billings that are neither honest nor fully verifiable. TenantRights.Net will explore the problem and will suggest remedies and prescribe changes in law
Specific Split-Bill Accounting Problems:
- Landlord fails to specify starting and ending date for period billed. Tenant mistakenly assumes this is not a problem since bill is received monthly;
- Landlord provides first heat billing to tenant, failing to pro-rate for date tenant actually moved in. Tenant fails to realize billing is based in part on the billing period applied by the energy utility in their bill to the landlord;
- Landlord fails to provide copy of billing he receives from the energy utility. This in itself should be a red alert that the landlord is avoiding accountability and may be doing so as a means of theft from tenant funds;
- Landlord does not account for the number of tenants paying into the monthly billing. This should serve as another red alert. Vacancies will change from month to month and are exceedingly difficult for tenants to account for. Tenant may assume that the landlord simply divides the total bill by the number of tenants being billed. However, in a building of say 18 tenants, a landlord may dishonestly skim a monthly booty by dividing the billing by only 17 or 16 even though all 18 units are filled and being billed;
- Heating flow meters may be used to quanitify the hot water recirculation from a central boiler to each tenant's unit. Tenants might assume this provides a very fair method to calculate each tenant's energy share. But there are several problems with this system. First, these flow meters are usually irrelevent since units that are more distant from central boiler will inherently require much more flow to return cooled water to boiler while sending hot water to radiators. Secondly, the landlord might not even bother to provide a log of specific changes in a specific tenant's flow meter and even if he did it would most likely not match the dates of the overall billing from he gets from the energy utility. Even if, such flow meters were reflective of actual heat usage and landlord provided each tenant with his/her flow change, it could not be rendered into a forthright accounting unless the overall flow of heating water were disclosed to each tenant. And finally, such flow meters are often hidden away in areas where tenants are not allowed to read them. Essentially flow meters have no scientific basis and offer cheating landlords another means to distort shared energy billings.
Recommendations for Split-Bill Heating Tenants:
- Before signing a lease or as soon as possible thereafter, ask landlord to provide a copy of monthly billing from energy utility and to disclose number of tenants paying into each billing. Request open disclosure in all accounting practices, not only to know the formula, but to know the changing data used in monthly calculations;
- Take your own monthly readings of the gas meter for the building. Make an effort to determine the gas rate for the building and do some math to see if the landlord's billings may or may not show a reasonable probability of being honest. In order to do this you may need to assemble a math worksheet;
- See if the energy utility will provide copies of the landlord's billings or at least provide specific verbal data over the phone. Tell them that you are required to pay a share of the these billings and that you feel you have a right to see them. (We have not tried this yet but plan to do so soon.)
In older buildings it is not uncommon to be metered for electrical usage unfairly even if each tenant has his own meter. You should be wary of this possibility especially in old apartment houses, lofts or buildings that may have been redivided or oddly remodelled. We have known buildings where a tenant meter and breaker box was the source for electricity used in other units or in lighting hallway lights of high wattage backyard security lamps. In the worst cases you may not even be able to access the meter for reading it.
We recommend that you never move into an old building without first inquiring about electrical metering being exclusive to your domain. You might also want to test who's draining your power. When you first move in you should turn off your private breaker for a period of time. Then see if you get any complaints of adjacent tenant power outages and see if common hall lights all work. Keep in mind that it can take hours or a whole day before some other tenant might notice that a particular outlet does not work when he turns on his 1,200 watt space heater at your expense. Therefore it may be ideal for you to black out your breaker right after you sign the lease and not turn it on until you are moving in a day or two later.