Centennial Apartment tenants overcharged for electricity

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    By ROB ROGERS

    Tenants at a Provo apartment complex are no longer paying high electricity bills. In fact, the electric company is paying them.

    Relms, a company that puts electricity reading meters into individual apartments and then sends out the bills, billed tenants at the Centennial apartment complex about twice the normal amount, said Centennial tenant Jose Burgos.

    While updating their computer systems last year to make them Y2K compliant, a Relms employee entered the wrong billing rate for Provo into their billing code. Relms is now in the process of refunding all the tenants overcharged, said Tom Holiday, a Relm manager.

    “It’s going to be a large process,” Holiday said.

    Centennial Apartments is in the process of tracking down all the tenants who have lived there in the past year. Officials will be sent the list of names to Relm so that Relm can mail out refunds from the overpriced electricity bills.

    “The biggest concerns are those who were there just two or three days,” Holiday said. With those tenants it becomes a matter of refunding 25 or 30 cents.

    Centennial Apartments, like a number of apartment complexes in Provo, contracts out to an electricity meter company to do their electricity billing.

    Buildings in Provo constructed before 1989 worked on a master meter system, which billed the entire amount of electricity used to that building as a whole. With the numerous apartment buildings in Provo, it became apparent that the city would have to pursue another course of action to correctly bill renters for the electricity they used, said Provo Utilities customer operations manager Ron Rydman.

    Buildings which had been around longer than 10 years still had a master meter reading their kilowatt hours of electricity. So they turned to companies like Relm who come in and sub-meter the individual apartments and bill the tenants according to how many hours of electricity they used, said Rydman.

    “All of our buildings are master metered,” said Centennial Apartments manager Gaylun Smith.

    However, a company like Relm cannot bill more than what Provo would bill for electricity usage.

    “It would be unfair to those who would pay more,” Rydman said.

    The billing discrepancy was first noticed by Smith at the beginning of the summer.

    “We initially picked up on it in our office,” he said. He noticed that numbers on the accounts were too high and called Relm.

    Some tenants have questioned the innocence of the mistake.

    “Is management gaining money?” Burgos said.

    However, Rydman, who deals with sub-metering companies, said he’s never had problems with Relm before. If the problem occurs again, “It would become a legal issue,” he said. “The city would do full audit of their operations.”

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