INDIANAPOLIS — New developments have come out for residents at four Indianapolis apartment complexes at risk of having their utilities disconnected once again.
More than 1,400 housing units with around 2,000 residents at Berkley Commons, Captial Place, Covington Square and Woods at Oak Crossing apartments are all at risk.
In July, Citizen's Energy notified residents the utilities would be shut off on September 30, if the property owners, JPC Affordable Housing and Berkley Commons LLC doesn't pay the bills, exceeding $1.8 million.
Now, the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County has filed an emergency complaint with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The complaint states, "Citizens Water is using thousands of innocent residents as pawns in its economic dispute with the landlords. The impending mass-scale water disconnection of 2,000+ individuals and innocent residents is unsafe, unreasonable and unjustly discriminatory and is an abuse of citizens position as a public charitable trust."
Water is included with rent but the landlords haven't paid the bills for 18 months. Citizens Energy says the debt shouldn't fall on customers. HHC says disconnection isn't the right answer.
"The purpose of this emergency complaint is to redress Citizen Water’s unsafe, unreasonable, and unjustly discriminatory water disconnection practices with respect to single-metered multifamily affordable housing complexes whose landlords have failed to pay Citizens Water at no fault of the end-user tenants."
Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County states mass disconnection would harm residents.
"Disconnecting water service to the Affected Properties will directly harm the health and wellbeing of the residents, leaving them without clean water, functioning toilets and adequate sanitation facilities and lead directly to a public health crisis.
Public health and the well-being of many individuals will be adversely affected. Children will be harmed and potentially have their education disrupted. Parents will find it more difficult to make it to work and face a significant impact on their family budget."
When water was shut off in February, causing a public health crisis, HHC stepped in and provided portable toilets and handwashing stations to residents.
HHC says if that happens again, estimated costs for emergency portable toilets and handwashing facilities are $7,000 per week, per complex, or $28,000 per week in total.
"In February 2022, after providing only five days’ notice, Citizens disconnected water from two of the apartment complexes, leaving the more than 1,000 residents who occupy the 850+ units without running water."
No solution: HHC states Citizens’ proposed plan to disconnect water to potentially thousands will not secure payment from the property owners.
"Disconnection will not result in an effective resolution of Citizens’ dispute with Landlords who have already shown a willingness to ignore not only the threat of disconnection but actual disconnection."
Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County says Citizens Energy has other remedies.
"Citizens can obtain a monetary judgment against the Landlords, which it is already pursuing in 49D01-2204-PL-011246, obtain a judicial lien against the Affected Properties, praecipe for a Sheriff’s Sale of the Affected Properties, or ask a Marion County Court to appoint a Receiver – all of which would be effective remedies resulting in the Affected Properties being transferred to the management of a responsible party other than the Landlords."
Citizens Energy states it's working with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and is focused on reaching an agreement with the property owners.
"Citizens Energy Group is actively negotiating with JPC Affordable Housing to reach a settlement agreement on their more than $1.8 million of past due utility debt that has been accumulated over the past 18 months. Our goal throughout this period has been to secure an agreement with JPC that ensures continued utility service to their four apartment properties while protecting Citizens’ customer base from the full cost of JPC’s past due utility debt. Citizens recognize the hardship utility disconnections cause and that’s why the utility is a leader in ensuring financial assistance to customers, especially over the past two years as many customers have struggled with the hardships of high inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation (MCHHC) filed complaints with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) seeking to prevent utility disconnections at JPC Affordable Housing’s four apartment properties in Indianapolis. MCHHC also is asking the IURC to suspend Citizens’ Terms and Conditions of service to prevent utility disconnections at other single-metered apartment properties. Citizens has fully informed the IURC about our actions related to the billing dispute with JPC over the past 18 months. In the days ahead, we will continue to keep our focus on completing an agreement with JPC."