Prison, fines mulled for overcharging landlords


A new Senate bill will not only make it illegal to overcharge power rates for apartments and other rented units, but also regulate the practice of operating with a master meter and submeter.

Noting that the NMI Administrative Code 50-10-340 allows commercial customers to allocate the cost of power among tenants while also prohibiting the reselling of power, Sen. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota) is seeking to clarify and regulate via an unnumbered bill what can and can’t be done through master metering and submetering.

Santos’ bill would still allow landlords, owners, operators, or managers of an apartment building or complex, residential multi-unit dwelling, commercial or office building, or shopping center to install submetering equipment for each dwelling unit or commercial rental unit that is not individually or directly metered for power or water.

However, landlords, owners, operators, or managers of the units cannot impose charges different from what the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. already charges.

For power, that is 2 cents per kWh for the first 350 kWh of the month, then 9 cents for readings from 351 kWh to 1,200 kWh, and then 15 cents per kWh for readings over 1,201 kWh.

The bill imposes a “civil penalty” of not less than $500 and not more than $5,000 per violation, and/or imprisonment of not more than 30 days.

Santos chairs the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communication.

In a previous interview with Saipan Tribune, Santos noted that she wants to impose a fine and some jail time for overcharging landlords, similar to what Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) said in a separate statement to Saipan Tribune.

“CUC policy is very clear that no landlord can increase or add additional charges to what CUC bills the customer. That is the regulation and I stand by that,” Santos earlier said.

This came about after Santos and Propst learned that landlords are charging some tenants on Saipan nearly 60 cents per kWh—a huge difference from what CUC typically charges.

The Office of the Attorney General had already noted that reselling power is illegal.

“We have tenants paying 42 cents to 60 cents a kilowatt hour. If this is not criminal, then it should be,” Propst said in a previous social media post.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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