Where can residents get help if they suspect they are being overcharged on utility bills?
Most parks are “master-meter” operators that own, operate and maintain the electric, gas and water distribution system within the park and bill their residents with the monthly rent statement. Under the state Public Utilities Code, master-meter customers (parks) shall charge no more than the local serving utility would charge a resident, including passing through any low-income rebates or discounts, such as “CARE.” Residents can call County Weights and Measures (W&M) to have them check the accuracy of their meters and assure they have been correctly calibrated. Some W&M offices are willing to look into billing complaints, such as failure to provide proper billings or post rates, but most only check the accuracy of the meters. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is required to take informal complaints (800-649-7570) from residents in master-meter parks. The CPUC often refers these complaints to the serving utility to work out with the park management. If a third party billing agent prepares the utility billings for the park, the management shall disclose the contact information of the billing agent on residents’ billings. (Civil Code §798.40(b))
Can the park start billing residents for utilities that were previously included in the rent?
If the residents’ rental agreement provides that sewer, water and garbage are included in the rent, the park management may elect to itemize or charge separately for these utilities. (Civil Code §798.41) In this case, the average monthly amount of the utility charges shall be deducted from the rent. If the rental agreement does not specifically indicate that utility charges are included in the rent, then the park owner could charge for them after complying with the 60-day written notice requirement. (Civil Code §798.32)