Residents of Berkeley apartment buildings face rising utility bills

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Josh Kahen/Staff

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Individuals living in Allston and Stadium Place apartments have experienced significant increases in their utility bills this past year.

Rising campus senior Richard Chen, a resident of Allston Place, located at 2312 Fulton St., and a former member of The Daily Californian, originally outlined complaints about the increase in utility bills despite his apartment being vacant in a Reddit post May 27.

“I kind of started noticing this when my bank account was getting overdrawn because I put exactly the amount of money that I would need for rent in there and then I put like $100 for utilities, just in case,” said Eric Herrmann, a Stadium Place resident and campus alumnus. When that started getting overdrawn, I was like, ‘Wait, how can that be? I’m putting a lot of extra money in here for utilities.’ ”

Shashank Dholakia, an Allston Place resident and rising campus senior, alleged that in the lease agreement, residents are charged by a multiplier of 1.9 for a triple-occupancy apartment, but after checking the utility bill statement, allegedly found that they are charged by a multiplier of three.

Allston and Stadium Place management was contacted for comment but did not respond as of press time.

In addition to the rise in utility bills, Herrmann alleged that he and his roommate were charged $1,900 each for an early termination of lease even though they did not request one and $250 for the past three months for a canceled parking spot.

Herrmann noted that they are both receiving refunds for these charges.

Chen added that he experienced a 30% increase in his utility bill since fall 2019 and that he was charged the same amount in utilities after he and his roommates moved out March 15.

According to Chen, property management said prices remained consistent because each tenant’s utility bill is determined by the bill for the entire building and not who is currently living there.

Kerry Shannon, a visiting UC Berkeley history lecturer and a Stadium Place resident for five years, said there was a change in property management in late 2019, which meant residents were not charged utilities for three months and then were back charged.

Herrmann and Suchir Joshi, an Allston Place resident and rising campus senior, also noted that their utility bills began to increase in fall 2019.

“One day you open your email and you see a bill for what’s almost nearly twice your monthly rental agreement, and then there’s a bunch of back charge utility charges; you’re pretty taken aback,” Shannon alleged. “There was no heads-up on behalf of the property management company in the first place.”

PG&E spokesperson Ariana Vanrenen said a variety of things can influence the cost of utility, including usage, weather, statewide public policy programs and credits, regulatory decisions and customer rate options.

Additionally, Vanrenen said if PG&E needs to make significant rate changes, it submits a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission. The proposal is then reviewed in a public hearing process, and the commission decides what the best decision is.

“PG&E makes money on the cost of building the infrastructure to deliver energy as well as by how efficiently we run our businesses and how effectively we help lower our customers’ energy use.” Vanrenen said in an email. “Helping our customers use less electricity and gas is in everyone’s best interest.”

Matthew Brown, acting executive director of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, said the board has not received any complaints of increases in utility bills. Brown noted, however, that if the increase in utility bills is in part due to landlords and the unit is rent-controlled, then the rent board would be able to hear that case.

Contact Mela Seyoum at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.