California Senate Bill 7
In the 2015 California Legislative Session, Senate Bill 7 (SB7) passed the Senate and made it through all but one of the Assembly Committees before it stalled and was made a two-year bill. This bill will create a mandate for the installation of meters (by the owner or the providing utility) in every multifamily unit.
It also regulates amounts to allocate, fees, bill content, and other consumer protection issues. The bill, as last amended, contains a safe harbor for properties using an allocated (RUBS) methodology prior to the effective date of the legislation.
The Appropriations Committee could not resolve a small number of issues and did not allow the bill to proceed to a floor vote in the Assembly. The primary issue was a new requirement that all meters must be installed by a licensed plumbing contractor.
Current law allows only Certified Service Agents to perform installations. These Certified Service Agents are tested on Weights and Measures regulations regarding installation of meters and electronics.
The Appropriations Committee did not agree with the sponsor of the bill that licensed plumbers were a necessity or bring specialized knowledge to the installation.
NWP anticipates that the parties will be able to resolve the remaining issues during the 2016 Legislative Session. The bill’s sponsor has been working with the plumbers’ union to come to a compromise position on installation.
In September of 2013, the Columbus Post Dispatch ran a series of articles highlighting multifamily owners that were “marking up” rates that they charged their residents for electric service and allocating more than their expense to residents. The Ohio Legislature responded with the introduction of three bills in 2014. One was by the “over-allocators,” one by a tenant-friendly legislator, and one “middle path” bill. For various reasons, none of these bills made it out of committee. In 2015, legislators approached the Ohio Office of Consumer Counsel and utility billing industry groups and encouraged them to meet and draft compromise legislation that achieves limiting the amounts allocated to residents to the properties’ expense and includes sensible consumer protection language. During 2015 the groups met many times and exchanged draft language. These efforts continue with a goal of introducing the language in the fall of 2016.
On February 3, 2016, Delegate Stephen Lafferty introduced House Bill 545 (HB 545). The bill, as introduced, prohibited allocated (RUBS) methodologies for water and sewer, created high-dollar penalty amounts for owners, and limited the amount of administrative fees that submetered properties could charge residents to two dollars ($2.00). The bill was amended significantly in the Environment and Transportation Committee after significant opposition by multifamily owners and operators in Maryland. The amendments included removing the prohibition on RUBS, the $2.00 cap on administrative fees, and the onerous penalty provisions. The engrossed bill, as currently drafted, obligates owners to disclose the RUBS method used to bill residents in leasing documents and provide information to residents about bill calculation.
In October of 2015, the Florida Assembly introduced House Bill 491 (“HB 491”). The introduced bill sought to deal with several issues relating to water and sewer services. Importantly, it sought to amend the Public Service Code section which provides an exemption to owners (in states regulated by the Public Service Commission) from regulation as a public utility provided that the owner does not allocate more costs to residents than it is charged by the providing utilities.
After amendments, the bill passed the House and the Senate and is now engrossed and ready to be signed by the Governor. HB 491 removes the distinction between counties regulated by the PSC and those that are not. Now owners and operators in all counties will be exempted from regulation as a public utility provided that they do not charge residents more (in the aggregate) than they are charged by the utility.
Owners and operators can include an administrative fee equal to nine percent (9 percent) of current charges for water and sewer. The administrative fee is in addition to the amounts charged to residents for water and sewer service.
If signed into law by the Governor, the bill will affect owners and operators differently, depending on whether they were previously in a PSC jurisdictional county or a non-PSC jurisdictional county.
Owners in previously jurisdictional counties will be able to recover a larger percentage of their expense (up to 100 percent) but may have to revise the amount of administrative fees for water and sewer billing. Owners in previously non-jurisdictional counties will likely have to modify fee amounts for water and sewer billing. See a link to a map of counties: www. psc.state.fl.us/Files/PDF/Utilities/WaterAndWastewater/wawmap.pdf