Condo Submetering Labeling Code - New York

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  #1  
Old 06-05-13, 10:30 PM
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Question Condo Submetering Labeling Code - New York

I moved into a condo last fall where electrical is submetered. I have no clue where our meters actually are. I recently got a note from a board member saying they need me to give them my meter number (off my bill) because the fire inspector said all the meters need to be labeled or they'll get fined.

This complex is decades old, they have fire inspections at least annually and also whenever someone requests they come in to check on things, I don't recall them mentioning replacing meters (I don't know how that works), and I've had the same meter number on my bill since day one.

So I don't understand how they don't already know which meters go to which units, how this request from the fire inspector would only be coming up now even though he's been here and only a few months ago (is this a new rule?), why they wouldn't have been labeled already in all the decades this place has been here, or why I seem to be the only one who got the note with this request.

My questions then are from your experience with submetering in condos to be sure nothing more is going on that I should be asking about. Does this sound normal to you and can you think of any other reasons why they'd want to know my meter number? Also, can meters be "tampered with" like in a way that would cause you to be charged more/less than you're supposed to be?

This isn't really DIY but this is the only active forum I've been on where people seem to know about this sort of thing. Thanks!
 
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Old 06-05-13, 11:04 PM
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It does seem strange with what you have told us. Perhaps you could attend a meeting of your condominium board and ask the full board.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 06:02 AM
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In a submetering situation, the meters are owned by the property owner/landlord/association, not the utility. Therefore they are not sealed, and from what you have said they are not accessible to the tenants.. This means you can not verify that the readings you are being billed for are actually what the meter is reading.

That is why submetering is not allowed in most areas. In my town, submetering is only allowed in a house on an R-2 or R-3 property where a separate rental space has been added or converted, and in that case the submeter is required to be accessible to the tenant. In a condo or multi-unit, each unit is required to have its own utility-provided meter and the tenant is then billed directly by the utility.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 06:06 AM
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Thanks Luana. Our next meeting isn't until fall and I hesitate to personally ask someone else on the board since I'm still not sure who I trust on it. It could be nothing at all, just legitimate routine but I'd rather err on the side of caution. He said he'd like me to get it to him as quickly as possible but I held off to come ask about it and get some insight.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 06:12 AM
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Thanks Jersey. I get billed by my utility separately for my own individual usage so I guess the meter was provided by them and not owned by the association but I don't know where it is. I just know it wasn't put in for me or anything and if it was changed out, no one notified me. The service was just moved over to my name from the sellers who lived there for years after I bought it.

All of the utility rooms and such are locked and off limits. Someone is only allowed if you're having work done where the contractor needs access to those areas, they have to submit the request and the property manager gives them access directly, not to you.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 07:36 AM
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Yeah if you are getting a bill directly from the utility company, then you are not submetered. Submetering means that there is a main meter owned by the utility for the building/property and then secondary meters owned by the landlord for each unit. The landlord would receive the main bill, and would in turn bill you for your part of the usage based on the reading from your meter. The main meter would include 'common area' loads that are not the responsibility of the tenants, such as parking lot lighting, central furnaces/boilers, etc, therefore it will register more than the sum of the secondary meters - and it would not be out of the question for a crooked landlord to 'pad' the secondary meter readings to reduce the cost of his usage responsibility.

Not to say that there can't be power diversion/overbilling in a setup such as yours, but it is very unlikely, since it is the utility reading the meters and not someone associated with the property. Increasingly they are changing out the old analog meters for Smart Meters, where they communicate usage directly to the utility over a mesh network, and don't even require someone to physically read the meter. More than likely that's what happened. I would guess it was done when you moved in, and it may have simply been overlooked on the last inspection.

If you suspect power diversion, you should contact your utility and have them set up an audit. Basically it involves them coming out to the property, unplugging/disconnecting all known loads, and checking for usage registering on the meter. Any recorded usage indicates diversion is occurring, and you are allowed to force the property owner to fix it on his dime and credit you for back usage.

Common, yet frequently overlooked sources of diversion, whether intentional or not, include parking lot lights, porch/vestibule/hallway lights, storage/utility room lights, crossed circuits between units (ie: a receptacle on a common wall wired to the breaker box in the opposite unit), washer/dryer in a common laundry room, etc.
 

Last edited by JerseyMatt; 06-06-13 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 06-06-13, 08:12 AM
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Do you at least have access to the breaker panel for your condo?
 
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Old 06-06-13, 11:31 AM
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I would assume if it is like most multi units I've ever seen, there is a bank of meters and service disconnects in the utility room, and then a panel (with or without a main breaker) in the unit itself.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 11:53 AM
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Thanks everyone, that was helpful. I was confused, thought submetered referred to any situation where the individual units have their own meters no matter who owned them. I thought it was only not submetered when there's one main meter but none to track individual unit usage so the expense gets divvied up between everyone and included in the association fees you pay. Thanks for clearing that up!

Yes, I have a break in my unit on the wall when you first come in. I double checked with the fire inspector as well and he said yes, for some reason some of the meters weren't labeled so not to worry, the board's request was legitimate.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 09:49 PM
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I ran into the same problem recently. Since the meters weren't labeled with the unit or condo number on it...... the main breaker attached to that meter was also unlabeled.
 
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