HOUSE BILL NO. 233
AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENT NO. 1
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTERS 51 AND 55 OF TITLE 25 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO METERING AND CHARGES FOR UTILITY SERVICES BY LANDLORDS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Chapter 51, Title 25 of the Delaware Code by adding thereto a new section to be designated as §5114 to read as follows:
§5114. Metering and Charges for Utility Services
(a) A landlord who is the customer of a public utility which provides variable utility services in bulk to the landlord may install, operate and maintain meters or other appliances for measurement to determine the consumption of such utility services by each rental unit. Only if the rental agreement so provides, and in compliance with the provisions of this section, may a landlord charge a tenant separately for the utility services as measured by such meter or other appliance.
(b) A landlord who charges a tenant separately for utility services shall not charge or receive from tenants an amount for such utilities which exceeds the lesser of (1) the charge which would be paid if the tenant were a direct customer of the public utility, or (ii) the proportionate share of the bulk billing payable by the landlord, based upon the measurement in accordance with subsection (e) of this section.
(c) Any tenant who is charged and who pays for utility services separately to the landlord shall be entitled to inspect the bills and records upon which such charges were calculated, during landlord's regular business hours at landlord's regular business office. A landlord shall retain such bills and records for one year from the date upon which tenants were billed.
(d) Charges for utility services made by a landlord to a tenant shall be considered rent for all purposes under this Code, including with respect to security deposits, and unless the rental agreement otherwise provides, the rights and obligations of the parties as to payment and nonpayment of such charges shall be the same as the rights and obligations of the parties as to payment and nonpayment of rent. A landlord shall not discontinue or terminate utility service for nonpayment of rent, utility charges, or other breach.
(e) A landlord who charges separately for utilities in accordance with this section shall bill the tenant for such charges not less frequently than monthly, and shall use reasonable efforts to obtain actual readings of meters or appliances for measurements, which readings shall reasonably conincide with the landlord's bulk billing period. If despite reasonable efforts a landlord is unable to obtain an actual reading, the landlord may estimate the tenant's utility consumption and bill the tenant such estimated amount; provided, however, that a landlord may not send more than two consecutive estimated billings. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an actual reading shall be made upon the commencement of the lease and the expiration or termination of the lease.
(a) (l) A landlord, upon request by a tenant, shall cause to be examined or tested the meter or appliance for measurement. If the meter or appliance so tested or examined shall be found to be accurate within commercially reasonably limits, the costs and expenses of such test or examination shall be paid by the tenant as additional rent; but if the meter or appliance is not accurate as aforesaid, then the costs and expenses shall be borne by landlord who shall forthwith replace the inaccurate meter or other appliance;
(2) In addition to those rights, and powers vested by law in the Division of Consumer Affairs of the State or its successor agency, the Division may enter, by and through its agents, experts or examiners, upon any premises for the purpose of making the examination and tests provided for in this section and may set up and use on such premises any apparatus and appliances necessary therefor.
(b) A landlord who installs, operates and maintains meters or other appliances for measurement and who bills tenants separately for utilities shall not be deemed a public utility; nor shall the Public Service Commission have any authority, power or Jurisdiction over such landlords or their practices in connection with the installation, operation and maintenance of meters or other appliances for measurement, the reading of meters, calculation and determination of charges for utility services or otherwise.
Section 2. Amend §5513, Title 25 of the Delaware Code by adding a new subsection (c) thereto which shall read as follows:
"(c) The tenant shall permit the landlord to enter the rental unit at reasonable times in order to obtain readings of meters or appliances for measurement of utility consumption in accordance with Section 5114 of this Title."
Approved July 9, 1981.