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Administrative Appeal Supreme Court Opinion

by Dowd, Jeffrey


SC20769 - Northland Investment Corp. v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (Administrative appeal; Declaratory ruling; "This case resolves the question of whether a landlord of a multiunit residential building may recoup from its tenants the costs for utility services that it is liable to pay to a utility provider when the building does not have individual meters for each unit but, rather, has only a master meter. The plaintiff, Northland Investment Corporation, manages and owns multiunit residential buildings throughout the United States, including Connecticut. In its buildings that have only a master meter for the entire building, the plaintiff employs, or seeks to employ, a recoupment method it refers to as "ratio utility billing" (RUB). Under the RUB method, as developed by the plaintiff, it pays the utility company directly for the building's entire utility bill and then recoups the cost from the tenants in the form of a variable utility payment each month. Under this form of billing, the plaintiff bills each tenant directly for what the plaintiff contends is the tenant's "proportionate share" of utilities based on factors it has chosen (which it can modify in its sole discretion), such as a unit's square footage, number of occupants, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, or a combination of these. This method of utility billing is included in a provision of the plaintiff's lease agreements.

The plaintiff sought a declaratory ruling from the defendant, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), that it may use RUB in recouping its costs for utility services from tenants. PURA concluded that the plaintiff was not authorized to do so. In the administrative appeal that followed, the trial court upheld PURA's decision. Both of the parties rely on General Statutes § 16-262e (c) in support of their respective arguments. Section 16-262e (c) governs the liability for payment of utility services provided to residential dwellings. The plaintiff argues that the plain meaning of § 16-262e (c) does not expressly prohibit the use of RUB. Because RUB is not expressly prohibited by law, the plaintiff argues, the method qualifies as a payment of "rent" under General Statutes (Supp. 2024) § 47a-1 (h). PURA disagrees and instead argues that RUB violates the plain meaning of § 16-262e (c) because the provision allows a tenant to be liable for utility costs only if the tenant's unit is individually metered and he or she has exclusively used the utilities so provided. We agree with PURA and conclude that § 16-262e (c) precludes a landlord's use of RUB to recoup utility service charges from tenants.")

  • SC20769 Dissent - Northland Investment Corp. v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority