The UMCA is committed to providing updates to its members, friends, and colleagues with regard to legislative news and industry practices. It is important to stay informed, and we trust you will do the same for the UMCA as you engage in your daily business affairs. We encourage all of you to join in our efforts in raising awareness of the industry through education, public relations, and publications.
At the October 26 and 27, 2016 Board of Directors Meeting and Fall Meeting respectively, new officer roles were selected and a board member selection was voted on by all present members.
As of October 27, 2016, the new officer positions of the UMCA Board of Directors are as follows:
The UMCA Board of Directors are as follows:
• Jim Nehl, Principle, Utility Management Solutions
• Ben Truehart, SVP Strategy and Product Management, PayLease
• Jerry Baker, Owner, National Exemption Services
• Arthur Blankenship, President/CEO, Argen Billing & Conservation
• Jeff Bening, Operations Manager, OnePoint
• Don Millstein, President, H20 Degree
• Mark Jarman, President, Inovonics
The UMCA Board of Directors will be attending their annual Spring Meeting on March 15, 2017 in Safety Harbor, FL.
The UMCA Board would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s meeting in Addison, TX. The event was a huge success! If you were unable to attend, we hope to see you at the 2017 Annual Fall Meeting.
The UMCA Board was excited to showcase the progression of our marketing initiatives, regulatory updates on California, New Jersey, and Ohio as well as the state of the association.
In addition, we had three fantastic guest speakers at this year's meeting:
• Jeff Duerstock of nrg presented information on Smart Meters and the advantages they bring to end-consumers and utilities.
• Terry Lyden of Utility Revenue Services, presented his insights and findings from audits of third party billing companies and the bill back programs of apartment operators to further promote best practices for our members.
• Gabriel Cardenas and Richard Saldana from the Texas Public Utilities Commission presented an overview of Texas rules and regulations for submetering and billing, PUC forms and efficiencies for meter installation and billing, as well as provide a review of resident complaints received by the Public Utilities Commission related to us and conduct an open discussion on what can be done to mitigate/reduce them.
If any members would like more details or any follow up information from the meeting, please contact the Executive Director.
The Board would also like to express their sincere gratitude to Minol, Andrian Basson and Kimberly Godsey for all of their help in arranging the logistics for the meeting and for hosting UMCA this year.Thank you!
The UMCA is proud to announce that it will have a booth at the NAA Tradeshow, June 21 – 24, 2017. The show will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, we have booth number 2310 and anticipate excellent traffic flow. The goal of having the booth is to support our member companies and provide educational material related to utility allocation & conservation and the association in general to the attendees, such as owners, property managers, service providers, vendors, etc. The exposure at the show to the entire multi-family community including the local NAA chapters and the media will be an excellent tool to increase the UMCA visibility and be used to recruit new members.
To staff the booth we would encourage current members to volunteer their time throughout the show. Typically over 20 member companies have their own booth. As we get closer to the show an email sign-up list will be distributed requesting assistance to man the booth. This is an exciting next step in the growth of the UMCA. Please contact the Executive Director if you have any questions or are interested in helping out at the booth.
In a December 7, 2016 decision the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) asserted its regulatory authority over submetering (or similar) companies that charge high rates for the resale and redistribution of utility service. If a submetering company charges more than an approved threshold above a similar default service customer, then it is presumed the company is acting as a public utility and therefore is subject to PUCO jurisdiction. PUCO will apply the test on a case-by-case basis resulting from complaints brought forth by customers of the submetering company. The regulations and its impact on the ongoing legislative process are being reviewed; it is felt this will put pressure on the parties to get a bill passed. Stakeholders should submit comments to PUCO by January 13, 2017; the UMCA will be submitting comments. Anyone who would like to assist in this cause should contact the Executive Director or Arthur Blankenship.
In 2016 Maryland saw legislative movement to ban RUBS statewide, which was successfully turned back. We have learned the delegate intends to reintroduce the legislation during the 2017 session. We do not know in what posture it will be introduced or if it will include language addressing the RUBS issue. A lobbying firm has been retained to monitor the session and engage in activity if threats materialize. If you have business in this state you should consider participating in the effort; contact the Keith Omsberg or the Executive Director for details.
• Submetering allowed for new construction for electric & water
• New Jersey Board of Public Utilities does not allow for retrofits
• NJ Apartment Association (NJAA) is working to seek authorization for retrofits
• NJAA decided to go for regulatory change rather than legislation
• Hoping to file Petition within the Christie Administration. NJAA goal is to file in 2016 and finalize in 2017
• UMCA has supported the NJAA with white papers, case studies & datasets
• Rubs Legislation case - Crossman v Resource MS Stonybrook
• UMCA members also supporting the case
• Appears legality of RUBS is being upheld
California Legislation SB 7 Mandates Water Submetering in Multi-Family Facilities
Landmark SB 7 bill aims to improve water conservation and leak mitigation in new construction, multi-family dwellings in California starting in 2018
California State Senate Bill SB 7, passed in September of this year, requires water submetering in all new-construction multi-family dwellings in California after Jan. 1, 2018. The goal of SB 7 is to hold tenants accountable for water usage and encourage conservation while providing consumer protection. The bill also addresses the prevalent problem of water leaks – a major source of unnecessary water consumption. Tenants are incentivized to conserve water since they are held accountable for their individual usage, and property managers are able to take proactive water-saving maintenance measures since they receive daily leak-detection reports.
Many UMCA members supported the four-year effort to pass SB 7. Other organizations and agencies behind the bill’s passage include: the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), the California Association of Realtors, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the Sierra Club, and the California League of Conservation Voters.
Below are some of the key highlights from the bill that UMCA members will be interested in understanding.
Sec. 1954.203 – Hardware Requirements
Comply with all California laws including CA plumbing code & Business & Profession Code
Sec. 1954.205 - Billing Fees
Billing and administrative fees at the lesser of $4.75 or 25% of the amount billed
Sec. 1954.210 - Leaks
Leaks must be repaired within 21 days of notification from tenants or landlord becomes aware based on usage or reports. After 21 days and no repair, billing limited to lesser of $15 or actual usage After 180 days without repair, no charges can be charged until fixed
Sec. 1954.216 – Ratio Utility Billing Systems
“(c) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to apply or create a public policy or requirement that favors or disfavors the use of a ratio utility billing system.”
The general consensus interpreting the RUBS language is as submeters are required for new construction beginning 1-1-18, RUBS programs for new properties will not be allowed passed that point. New RUBS programs for properties built prior to 1-1-18 will be allowed.
Sec. 1954.219 – Exemptions
• Long-term health care facilities
• Low-Income Housing
• Residential care facilities for the elderly
• Housing at a place of education
• Time share properties
Amendment to Chapter 8 of Division 1 Water Code
Sec. 537.1 – Installation by one of the following:
• Contractor licensed by the State employing at least 1 journey person who graduated from CA State approved apprentice program
• Registered Service Agency approved by CDFA
Sec. 537.2 – Permits cannot be denied if:
• Submeter manufacturer delay
• County sealer delay
• Meters must be installed within 120 days after sealing
Board elections will be held during the UMCA's Fall Meeting for the open Board seats. In order to be eligible, you must be a current member and in good standing.
For those interested in becoming a UMCA Board member, please email a brief biography including qualifications and a short paragraph on why you are interested in the Board seat to the firstname.lastname@example.org
All bios should be submitted no later than October 6, 2016.
When: October 27, 2016 from 8:00AM-4:00PM
Where: Event hosted at the Minol Center in Addison, TX
15280 Addison Road, Suite 150, Addison, TX 75001
Hotel Accommodations: Springhill Suites
15255 Quorum Dr., Addison, TX 75001.
To RSVP to the Annual Fall Meeting please email email@example.com
Agenda to follow.
UMCA board members Jim Nehl and Ben Truehart have been invited to lead a presentation on Utility Reduction and Cost Recoup Programs at this year’s NMHC OPTECH Conference in Dallas, TX (November 14-16). The session will provide an overview of utility cost recoup and reduction programs, best practices for implementation, and recent trends. Topics will include billing back utilities, in-rent versus bill-back numbers, state and local regulatory considerations, and customer service implications including communication throughout the changeover, lease changes and disclosures and responding to resident inquiries.
If you are planning to attend the conference, please be sure to stop by. To see the full conference agenda, please check out the OPTECH Agenda on the NMHC website. Early bird registration ends Oct 14.
The Government Affairs Committee is up and running to advocate and protect the interests of our industry. We cannot do this alone, and need everyone’s eyes and ears fully open. It is critical if you know of any legislative or regulatory issue at hand, on the horizon or even already implemented, that you contact us immediately via the Executive Director. Only through you can we act.
The GAC’s mission is spelled out in our By-laws (in part): “to articulate and advocate the needs and interests of the Submetering and Utility Allocation Industry before legislative, administrative and judicial branches of local, state and national governments and to otherwise promote the public policy interests of the Submetering and Utility Allocation Industry”.
We do this through maintaining an accurate legislative database, lobbying efforts aimed at acceptable standards and practices, creating alliances with like-minded organizations, building relationships with key influence persons, and attracting funding and talent.
NEW JERSEY: The NJ Apartment Association (NJAA) is petitioning the PUC to allow submeter retrofits, heretofore not allowed in the state. The NJAA believes the timing is critical to get this done with the Christie administration. The NJAA is submitting the proper paper work in September and has hired a lobbyist to pursue this petition. The UMCA has supported the NJAA efforts with white papers, case studies and datasets in and out of the state of NJ showing the conservation benefits of submetering in reducing water consumption. The NJAA has used this supporting documentation as part of their package delivered to the PUC. The UMCA will continue to monitor this petition and provide support where applicable.
The NJAA also noted they are monitoring activity in New Jersey related to an active legal case regarding the legality of RUBS. The case is called CROSSMAN v. RESOURCE MS STONYBROOK NJ MFP, LLC. The UMCA will monitor this case and report any updates to its membership.
OHIO: UMCA continues to be concerned about the developments in the Ohio legislature; strong interests would like to eliminate the submetering industry. Our livelihood in Ohio is at risk.
The Columbus Dispatch continues to run articles on submetering and the legislative efforts to control our industry. Their latest article is here: Columbus Dispatch
Surprisingly, legislation was introduced during this lull of the national elections, and the working group and lobbyist are engaged in the process. We do not expect any further action on the bill until after the election though a watchful eye is being kept open. The working group has a conference call scheduled for September 8 to plan the steps ahead. At this time it is unsure if this will come to a head and be completed by the year’s end, or if this might spill into next year. If this does go into another session then a re-set of the working group may be necessary. The UMCA will remain engaged for the long-haul.
CALIFORNIA: While the UMCA made the decision last year to discontinue formal lobbying efforts in California, there are some recent developments regarding California Senate Bill 7 in which the Association will continue to monitor and report any updates to the membership.
UMCA Fall Meeting
DATE: October 27, 2016
TIME: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Dallas, TX
More information to follow.......
As you know, there was a recent Board seat vacancy. We thank everyone who participated and voted through our email ballot election. We would like to announce that Jeff Bening is joining the UMCA Board of Directors.
The UMCA Board of Directors:
Jim Nehl, Principle, Chairman
Jerry Baker, Owner, Treasurer
Don Millstein, President, Director
Mark Jarman, President, Director
Arthur Blankenship, Director
Ben Truehart, Director
Jeff Bening, Operations Manager, Director
The UMCA’s Government Affairs Committee has formed with the mission of advocating the interests of the submetering and allocation industry through pro-active relationship building and legislative and regulatory initiatives, and reactive lobbying efforts as issues arise. The five person committee seeks interested members as candidates for involvement in this exciting work. Also, anyone who knows of issues at hand or on the horizon needs to let the committee know so actions can be planned and implemented. If you are interested in more information please contact Arthur Blankenship at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ruby Beatty at email@example.com.
As you may know, the Association has been working with UMCA representatives to introduce a bill that would allow owners to recover their utility costs and billing fees while still protecting residents from unreasonable or inflated utility charges. Significant and serious efforts are under way by the group fighting for our industry within the state. We hope to soon report a positive outcome.
A bill was proposed in the Maryland General Assembly that would prohibit RUBS allocation for water/sewer across the state for all properties as of January 1, 2017. House Bill 545 planned to limit any resident submetering fees to $2.00 and any landlords found in violation of the statue would be liable for damages of at least $1,000 per violation and attorney’s fees. Any counties that regulate water/sewer allocation as of July 1, 2016 would be exempt from the bill requirements.
UMCA formed a coalition of companies that were committed to a lobbying engagement in Maryland with the goal of amending the bill prior to the end of the legislative session on April 11, 2016. Prior to the end of the session House Bill 545 was withdrawn by the sponsor in the Senate and given an unfavorable report. With the close of the legislative session the bill was not resurrected.
CALIFORNIA: While the UMCA made the decision last year to discontinue formal lobbying efforts in California, there are some recent developments which may warrant the UMCA being re-engaged on that front. Stay tuned as the Association continues to monitor the activity.
FLORIDA: Earlier this month, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee passed HB 491 which would exempt certain persons from regulation as a utility. Specifically, any person charging his or her tenants for water would be exempt from regulation as long as the charge doesn’t exceed the purchase price plus the actual cost of meter reading and billing up to 9% of the cost of service. House Bill 491 passed in both the House and the Senate then signed by the Governor on April 14, 2016. The law will go into effect July 1, 2016.
The UMCA has begun some initiatives to increase its brand awareness along with membership. Significant improvements to the website have been made for ease of navigation for members along with attracting interested stakeholders. As part of the initiative to bring more value to our member, the UMCA would like to list members on the website so they get recognition as members and sales inquiries could be referred to this list. An opt-in form will be sent to members if they would like to be listed or you can reach out directly to the Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding your interest on being listed on the website.
A new membership recognition tradeshow easel plaque has been developed and will be distributed at the NAA Show to over 15 exhibiting members. As an industry association, it is wonderful to show that our members are active in the market and demonstrates to customers that member companies are investing in the industry and are on top of regulatory affairs in the marketplace. Over the next 6 months, the UMCA will continue to invest in marketing efforts to expand the brand as well as create more value for the members. Please keep a look out for additional marketing opportunities in your local markets.
Jim Nehl, Principle, Utility Management Solutions
Jerry Baker, Owner, National Exemption Services (NES)
Ashley Velasquez, Compliance Analyst, Minol
Don Millstein, President, H20 Degree
Mark Jarman, President, Inovonics
Arthur Blankenship, President/CEO, Argen Billing & Conservation
Ben Truehart, SVP Strategy and Product Management, PayLease
The UMCA Board of Directors will be attending their annual Spring Meeting on March 8th-9th in Safety Harbor, FL
As anticipated, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio opened an investigation in Mid-December 2015 into the scope of the Commission’s jurisdiction over submetering in Ohio. After reviewing the Columbus Dispatch article about the investigation as well as the initial public comments that were filed, the UMCA became concerned about the increasingly inaccurate portrayal of submetering in Ohio. In order to mitigate the potential impact of the investigation, the UMCA formed a coalition of 15 companies to fund representation in the case with the goal of protecting UMCA members from unreasonable regulation by the Commission. Initial comments and reply comments were filed on behalf of the UMCA emphasizing the distinction between UMCA members’ business practices and those of divergent companies and urging the Commission to avoid asserting jurisdiction over the vast majority of submetering companies. The UMCA is eagerly awaiting the Commission’s determination in the investigation and will continue to monitor the case.
On the legislative side, the UMCA representatives recently met with interested parties to discuss the potential introduction of a bill that the UMCA has been actively working to finalize. The bill would allow owners to recover their utility costs and billing fees while still protecting residents from unreasonable or inflated utility charges. The UMCA continues to work on finalizing the bill language with the goal to have the legislation introduced this spring. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the UMCA will adjust its strategy moving forward as needed.
As you may know, a bill was recently proposed in the Maryland General Assembly that would prohibit RUBS allocation for water/sewer across the state for all properties as of January 1, 2017. House Bill 545 would also limit any resident submetering fees to $2.00 and any landlords found in violation of the statue would be liable for damages of at least $1,000 per violation and attorney’s fees. Any counties that regulate water/sewer allocation as of July 1, 2016 would be exempt from the bill requirements.
A coalition of companies have committed to a lobbying engagement in Maryland with the goal of amending the bill prior to the end of the legislative session on April 11, 2016. Accordingly, UMCA representatives testified at the Committee hearing in opposition of the bill and have been meeting with key stakeholders to discuss industry concerns and potential compromises to the bill language. If any members would like more details or would like to be involved in the Maryland efforts, please contact the UMCA’s executive director.
CALIFORNIA: While the UMCA made the decision last year to discontinue formal lobbying efforts in California, the Association continues to monitor legislative activity to determine if additional involvement is needed. Currently, interested parties are attempting to reach a compromise regarding divisive plumbing and installation requirements. If a compromise is reached, the Association will need to make a decision on whether to engage in formal lobbying efforts in California.
FLORIDA: Earlier this month, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee passed HB 491 which would exempt certain persons from regulation as a utility. Specifically, any person charging his or her tenants for water would be exempt from regulation as long as the charge doesn’t exceed the purchase price plus the actual cost of meter reading and billing up to 9% of the cost of service. If the bill passes, it would go into effect on July 1, 2016. The bill seems to be a positive step for the industry and the UMCA will continue monitoring the bill as it progresses.
The 2015 Fall Meeting will be held in Santa Barbara, CA on October 14-16. More information about the event will be sent out and we look forward to seeing you there.
On January 1, 2015, California Assembly Bill 2451 came into effect. Due in large to the efforts of the UMCA and other industry stakeholders, increased flexibility has been introduced to the state’s testing protocols to ensure that apartment developers will have a ready supply of water submeters. The new law does the following:
• Allows water submeters to be tested in one county and used in other counties where demand is greater
• Allows approved water submeters to be stockpiled for a period of 12 months, so that they are ready to be installed when needed
• Requires fees in the county where the water submeter is tested and installed
• Clarifies that submeters are “placed in service” when they are installed and operating, easing liability concerns related to the mere submission of a failed submeter
• Requires sealers to return failed meters instead of seizing and destroying them, subject to certain exceptions (e.g. intentional tampering)
The full text of the bill may be found here. The UMCA is building on its success and pursuing more comprehensive submetering legislation in 2015. Please contact email@example.com if would like to be involved with California lobbying efforts. .
A new legislative session is well underway in Ohio, and the UMCA has been busy aligning strategic support in anticipation that representatives may introduce new submetering legislation. The issue of submetering has been gaining traction in the media, and the UMCA plans to stay involved with the Ohio lobbying engagement by proactively pushing for legislation that is favorable to the submetering industry should the call or regulation resurface.
Recently, a complaint was filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”) asking that the PUCO assert jurisdiction over submetering companies. While it is unknown how the case may impact the efforts to regulate the submetering industry, it is becoming clear the spotlight on the industry is not going away anytime soon which reiterates the importance of UMCA member involvement.
In a recent ruling, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that Minn. Stat. 504B.215 “does not prohibit a landlord from billing tenants for fees charged in connection with tenants’ utility bills and does not impose a requirement that those fees be equitable in comparison to the costs of the utilities services apportioned among tenants” Persigehl v. Ridgebrook Investments Ltd. P’ship, No. A14-0027, 2015 WL 404486 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 2, 2015).
The plaintiffs in the class action case alleged that the defendant landlord was in violation of state law because Minn. Stat. 504B.215 requires that use of “an equitable method of apportionment” which precludes charging tenants any administrative fee not related to the apportionment of an actual charge from the servicing utility company. Plaintiffs also argued that in the alternative, even if administrative fees are allowed under state law, the landlord charge excessive fees (sometimes more than the costs of utilities for a given unit) in violation of the section’s “equitable” requirement. The Court declined to accept either interpretation, explaining that the legislature did not intend the portion of the law requiring an equitable method of apportionment to govern the issue of add-on fees.
The decision is appealable and the UMCA will continue monitoring the case.
The UMCA continues its work on Senate Bill 7 . The bill requires the installation of a meter or submeter at the unit level in multi-family buildings after January 1, 2017. Among other things, the bill would also require landlords to make certain lease disclosures, calculate bills in a prescribed manner, and limit administrative fees charged to residents.
While the bill is a good step towards encouraging water conservation in the state, some of its provisions create an undue burden on billers and/or place current billing programs in jeopardy. The UMCA is meeting with several stakeholders in hopes of amending the bill prior to the end of the legislative session on September 11, 2015.
If any members would like more details or would like to be involved, please contact the UCMA’s Executive Director.
The UMCA continues to align strategic support in Ohio. Most recently, UMCA representatives in Ohio met with key stakeholders to discuss industry concerns and potential compromises on future bill language. Specifically, the discussions focused on a way to allow owners to recover their utility costs and billing fees while still protecting residents from unreasonable or inflated utility charges. The UMCA plans to draft sample legislative language based on these discussions with the goal of seeing a bill introduced in the fall. The UMCA also continues to monitor the PUCO complaint case, however at this time no further action is needed. The case documents are available on the PUCO website.
The Oregon Legislature recently enacted important changes to the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act which will go into effect on January 1, 2016. There are numerous provisions that pertain to landlord/resident utility billing, including but not limited to:
• Express provisions for damages when fees are assessed in violation of the rules (ORS §90.302)
• Expanding the definition of ‘Utility or Service’ to include public services (i.e. street maintenance, transportation improvements, public transit, public safety, and parks and open space) and regulations on how such charges can be passed back to residents (ORS §90.315)
• Landlord must bill the tenant in writing for utilities within 30 days of receiving the provider bill
• Specific lease language disclosures related to utility billing and allocation method
• Bill must include a copy of the provider bill or a statement that the resident can inspect the provider bill upon request
• Clarification that tenant utility payments must be considered timely if paid within 30 days of bill delivery date (such due date must be listed on the bill)
• Electronic billing allowed as long as the rental agreement allows for such
The full text of the bill may be found here. The UMCA encourages all members to review any current billing programs in Oregon to ensure compliance with the current and upcoming new requirements and to avoid any unwanted penalties associated with noncompliance.
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