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Restrictions on charging tenants for solar power

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JE
 JE
(@je)
Advanced Member

Is anyone aware of any restrictions on charging tenants for electricity generated by solar power? For example, lets say a homeowner installs a solar power system at his house that covers the bulk of the electrical usage at the house and the system has a meter that indicates how much power has been generated, which can be read like a WAPA meter. The tenant who rents the entire property has a verbal agreement directly with the owner to pay the WAPA bill plus pay the owner a reduced price per kilowatt (37 cents per kw) for the power generated by the system that month. From a common sense standpoint it seems like a win/win situation as the tenant saves on his monthly electrical bill and the owner is able to recover some of the upfront costs of installing the system. The problem is that the owner now no longer wishes to have direct communication with the tenant and the owner wishes to raise the amount the tenant pays from 37 cents to 40 cents per kw. The tenant is balking, saying that the rental company, who is working on behalf of the owner, has no right to charge for electricity anyway as its not in the electrical generation business.

I know that there are a number of people on this forum involved in solar power and they might be aware of any obscure restrictions the VI government might have in place that would be applicable to this situation. So, any ideas?

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Topic starter Posted : November 13, 2013 6:10 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

Really whatever is specified in the current lease agreement is the best place to start resolving this issue - if it is a new lease then it is a negotiating point.
Recouping the owners solar power initial investment by having the tenant pay a reduced Kw cost is an interesting twist - if the tenant has agreed to it in the lease contract I don't think it would be deemed illegal though - the owner is supplying a service at an agreed upon cost.

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Posted : November 13, 2013 6:34 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

I would say that no landlord would or should be expected to provide FREE power, solar or not.
Homeowners have to pay substantial upfront amounts to install and maintain these solar systems, at their expense and it is only right they be able to recoupe them.

The terms of the written and signed lease will dictate the outcome of this issue.
I would imagine that the owner would have to give a min. 30 day written notice of any increase or change in the utility usage amount presently being charged and have tenant either agree to increase or be allowed to relocate to another rental. Just my prespective.
Even at 40 cents per Kwh, the tenant is getting a good deal. However all these issues need to be addressed in writing so be aware.
I fully realize that there will be some tenants and owners that will take advantage of this type of situation which is why it is important to address in a written lease.

Curious as to how this will turn out.

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Posted : November 13, 2013 7:12 pm
JE
 JE
(@je)
Advanced Member

The tenant has been in the house for several years. The lease only specifies that the tenant will pay the electric bill and has not been modified since the solar system was put in. The owner and tenant verbally agreed to the solar power charge when it was put in about a year ago, the issue is that now the owner wants 3 cents a kilowatt more. The issue is outside of the written lease and the tenant can move if they want - I believe after the first year the lease became month to month. The owner can just turn off the solar system if he wants, since he gets no direct benefit, and the tenant will just continue to pay the WAPA bill, which will obviously increase. The question is does the VI government have any legal restrictions specific to solar power systems applicable to this situation. I can't imagine that they do, but then again it is our VI government we are talking about, so anything is pretty much possible.

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Topic starter Posted : November 13, 2013 9:22 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Maybe Yearasta can answer this but I do not believe that if a tenant is up to date on paying their rent that the landlord can deprive them of electricity especially if included in the rent or the tenant is paying the amount specified by written or verbal agreement.
30 day (min.) Notices must be given, in writing, if any changes are being made and verbal commitments have no value unless specified in a lease agreement Addendum to such or e-mails between Landlord or tenants indicate this or that event may not be legal or acknowledged in court even if that a tenant uses more than a certain monetary amount or KWh.

It is very difficult for a landlord to remove a tenant in the VI so great leases are imperative.

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Posted : November 13, 2013 9:49 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

Has anyone considered whether or not the landlord can be assessed additional taxes for charging for electric generation?

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Posted : November 13, 2013 10:45 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

No, that's not going to happen and if it does, everyone will be out of here.
Not to mention that people would fight that tooth and nail despite the general apathy displayed here.

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Posted : November 13, 2013 11:38 pm
JE
 JE
(@je)
Advanced Member

The owner would not be depriving the tenant of electricity if he disconnected the solar power system as it is a net metering system - WAPA power would still be available and is what provides power to the house at night or whenever the household usage is greater than the system can provide. The tenant's electrical availability would not be affected other than he would be paying more per kilowatt for whatever he used. I don't see how this would escalate into an eviction process since the disputed amount is only $30 or so per month, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the monthly rent. Its more of a pissing contest between two fairly stubborn individuals.

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Topic starter Posted : November 13, 2013 11:42 pm
Bruno
(@Bruno)
Advanced Member

I believe it would oped up a can of worms if evicted. WAPA is to remain a monopoly in the electricity business according to the three hundred and some page documents about their business model. No other power providers can sell electricity in the USVI to anyone other then WAPA.

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Posted : November 14, 2013 2:22 am
rmb2830
(@rmb2830)
Advanced Member

seems to me this is the same thing as condos charging their residents for water...some from wapa, some from cistern, some from ro or other system...if they can do this, and add a markup, don't see why homeowner can't do the same for a tenant...

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Posted : November 14, 2013 2:26 am
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

We have internal electric and water meters in some of our rental properties and issue our own monthly invoices to those tenants. I know of a few other landlords who do this as well. Even though our solar system provides much cheaper electricity, we sell it at the same rate as WAPA. Why give it away?

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Posted : November 14, 2013 12:27 pm
Ronnie
(@ronnie)
Trusted Member

Sunshinefun says "Even though our solar system provides much cheaper electricity, we sell it at the same rate as WAPA. Why give it away?"
Wow, that opens another can of worms!! I guess it's your right to do that, but isn't getting the solar panels to lower costs of living and working in the VI? Seems like the reason people are leaving is the higher costs and you may lose you tenant because of it. Maybe I am skewed in understanding what you are doing. Again no one else other than WAPA can sell electricity. This is why the debacle at Tutu Park happened. They got an outside company to set up and sell them power without involving WAPA. Ended with frozen valuable wind turbines which could have made a difference if done the right way.

I would be in a quandry as well. Let the tenant decide if they want to pay what you ask, or let them stay on WAPA is what I would do as far as the OP is concerned. How do you determine what it's costing you to produce. Wouldn't that remain constant? Maybe they miscalculated? Doubt I would try to make money off of it as then it will make what you're doing illegal.

I don't know what the answer is. We have been forced into this position by an overpriced inefficient power company. Don't think the powers to be are ready for this. Just look at the small disputes already with charging tenants for electricity.
I am disgruntled as to how it is affecting the historic district which we are so hard trying to preserve, and now they are putting panels willy nilly on roof tops spoiling historic streetscapes.

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Posted : November 14, 2013 1:13 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Yep, the above opens a whole new can or worms. As if we aren't already faced with enough issues.
I have to agree with Ronnie.....but doesn't the historic district have different rules and regs to protect them?

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Posted : November 14, 2013 3:24 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

No, that's not going to happen and if it does, everyone will be out of here.
Not to mention that people would fight that tooth and nail despite the general apathy displayed here.

Really? Ya mean like how we all BEND OVER for WAPA now? Paaaaaleeeeese!

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Posted : November 14, 2013 7:01 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

We have internal electric and water meters in some of our rental properties and issue our own monthly invoices to those tenants. I know of a few other landlords who do this as well. Even though our solar system provides much cheaper electricity, we sell it at the same rate as WAPA. Why give it away?

And if someone were to make enough noise about your electrical profits, you'll probably be assessed taxes for additional income.
Probably not a good idea to brag about it here. Oops. Too late.

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Posted : November 14, 2013 7:11 pm
Ronnie
(@ronnie)
Trusted Member

Alana, when the solar installers get their permits the folks at permits don't tell them to go to the Historic Preservation Commission. Copying the nest rules for an historic town Williamsburg, you can put panels in as long as there are not seen from the street. Here is is a problem because of the hills. They also want to put panels facing south as their is 'more' sun. I think any side will do. So what if you miss a few percentage points, it won't be unsightly like the Federal Building and Tunick Building here in STT.

Going to hate to see what will happen in case of a good sized hurricane!

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Posted : November 14, 2013 8:37 pm
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

And if someone were to make enough noise about your electrical profits, you'll probably be assessed taxes for additional income.
Probably not a good idea to brag about it here. Oops. Too late.

Oooo...I'm really worried.

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Posted : November 15, 2013 12:20 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

And if someone were to make enough noise about your electrical profits, you'll probably be assessed taxes for additional income.
Probably not a good idea to brag about it here. Oops. Too late.

Oooo...I'm really worried.

I like the cocky attitude. It will make the "I told you so" that much more rewarding.

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Posted : November 15, 2013 2:12 pm
loucypher
(@loucypher)
Advanced Member

Since everyone pisses and moans about damage caused by WAPA brown outs and surges, I'm just wondering if you all are willing to accept responsibility for damage your solar system may do to your tenants electronics. After all, you are making a profit from your little "electric" company.

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Posted : November 16, 2013 4:12 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Make sure you include what you need to in a lease document.

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Posted : November 16, 2013 4:35 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

Even if you put it in the lease I'll bet if your solar system blows up some ones flat screen you're going to pay for it.

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Posted : November 17, 2013 2:51 pm
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

As if that ever going to happen.

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Posted : November 18, 2013 12:13 pm
vicanuck
(@vicanuck)
Expert

IMO, the power from solar systems is much more stable and clean than the variable crap WAPA puts out. Its highly unlikely a solar system would be able to make a power surge unless hit by lightening.

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Posted : November 18, 2013 12:19 pm
Tiberius
(@Tiberius)
Advanced Member

As if that ever going to happen.

Why? Because it's solar it's some sort of magic? It's completely infallible? Right!

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Posted : November 18, 2013 2:51 pm
caribstx
(@caribstx)
Trusted Member

Internal meters are becoming pretty common I think. I'm a contractor and I've seen a few in just the past few months in homes with solar installations. Seems like a great revenue generator if you're a landlord.

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Posted : November 20, 2013 12:27 pm
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