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A Tenant's Guide to Getting and Keeping Gas and Electricity Service

TenantNet note: This booklet was published by Brooklyn Legal Services in 1995. Some information contained may be out-of-date, particularly listed telephone numbers. As far as we know, there have been no updates to this publication. While much of the information may still be valid, the reader should exercise caution.

VIII. How To Deal With A "Shared Meter"

You are only required to pay for utility service provided to your apartment. If you think that your utility bill seems too high or that your service connections are suspicious, you may have a "shared meter." This means that your utility meter is measuring gas or electric service to space or machinery outside your apartment (such as to public hall lights or another apartment). You may be paying for your service and someone else's! Because a shared meter is illegal, your landlord is responsible for all the charges on a shared meter.

The landlord must either switch the shared meter account to the landlord's name, or rewire or repipe so that you are billed only for the service you receive. Generally, the necessary changes must be made within 30 days after the landlord knew or should have known a shared meter existed.

A. Shared meter investigations

If you suspect that you are paying for utility service that another person is using, ask the utility company to conduct an investigation. The utility company will inspect and perform tests to determine if a shared meter exists. Within 20 days of your complaint, the utility company must give you their written determination.

You are required to give the utility company your landlord's name and address if you have it. If you fail to allow the utility investigator into your apartment the investigation will end. The landlord is required to give the investigator access to the building. If the landlord does not provide access the utility company must conclude that there is a shared meter and bill the landlord.

If there is a shared meter, the utility company will put the account in the landlord's name and bill the landlord for all the shared meter charges. All charges to you will be cancelled. If you paid shared meter charges that the landlord owed and paid, you can get a refund from the utility company. The landlord cannot try to bill or collect shared utility charges or refunds from you.

If a utility company reinspection reveals that the meter is no longer shared, the account will be switched back into your name, on 15 days notice to you.

B. Termination of service to a shared meter account

A utility company may not terminate service to a shared meter account for nonpayment unless the utility company gives 15 days advance written notice (by mail) to you and the landlord. For common areas of the building affected by a termination, the utility company must post a notice at the building. The additional termination notice requirements in winter and for protected households (described at pages 22-23) also apply.

You can prevent termination even if your landlord does not pay by paying current charges (meaning the unpaid amount for the two months prior to the termination date) and deducting these payments from your rent. By paying current charges you will not be responsible for future bills. Be sure to keep receipts of all payments.

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