Suite Meters and Conserving Energy--Maybe

As of January 1, 2011 the suite meter provisions came into effect under the Residential Tenancies Act.

What is a suite meter?

A suite meter uses smart meter technology that measures and records the specific amount of electricity used within a rental unit. Landlords can install suite meters in each residential rental unit.

Why Suite Meters

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, tenants can:

  1. “…pay their own electricity based on actual consumption,
  2. …manage their energy consumption and
  3. better participate in Ontario’s conservation efforts.”

The Ministry further suggests that tenants can “reduce their energy consumption by 12 to 23 per cent.”

Offset of Rent: If a tenant agrees to pay for a unit’s electrical cost, then the landlord must reduce the rental cost by an offsetting amount.

The Catch: The landlord cannot terminate their obligation to supply heat if electricity is the primary heat source. The smart meter can only be used for the tenant to pay for electrical uses other than heat.

There are prescribed forms and a number of rules a landlord must follow for existing and prospective tenants.

Comment and Questions

The choice and cost to install suite meters in rental units belongs to the landlord. The choice of whether to take on the cost rests with the tenant, who may disagree, in spite of an equal reduction in rent and having an opportunity to control and reduce the cost.

Without the tenant’s agreement, the goal of tenants further contributing to Ontario’s efforts at conservation may be lost.

Conserving energy in cases where landlords pay the electricity cost in rental units may not be a primary goal for some tenants. Otherwise this plan would not have been devised. It applies, however, only to electricity uses other than heat, such as lighting and appliances.

So let’s say a tenant agrees to the suite meter proposal and pays the electricity cost for alternate uses. A Landlord must continue to pay for heating the unit as mentioned. What happens if a tenant misses paying the bill and the supplier threatens to discontinue supply? Can the supplier only turn off the electrical portion delivered for uses other than heat? If not, won’t the landlord have to pay and find another way of collecting from the tenant, more than likely through the Landlord and Tenant Board?    

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