TMHA has received a few calls recently on water and wastewater submetering questions. There have also been recent changes in regulatory jurisdiction for submetereing in MH communities. During the 2013 Texas Legislative Session the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) went through the sunset review process. Within the 140-page PUC sunset bill, HB 1600, the law changed the regulatory entity over water and wastewater for MH communities (apartments and condos as well) from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to the PUC.
Recently the transfer of regulatory authority from TCEQ to PUC was completed. The previous TCEQ rules regulating submetering transferred to the PUC with few substantive changes. However, with the agency name change, web links, and form updates, TMHA believes this is a good time to provide a refresher on compliance related to submetering and allocated billing for water and waste water in Texas for MH communities.
For all owners with prior registrations and operations of a submetering program under TCEQ the transition is seamless. All previous registrations with TCEQ transfer automatically to PUC. TMHA has confirmed from PUC that owners are not required to re-register. However, if an owner changes the manner of billing, say from submetering to allocated billing, then they do need to re-register.
One practical change now in place under the PUC jurisdiction is a requirement to provide a copy of the administrative rules to residents at the time of entering into a lease. Again, like the registration provisions this requirement only applies to new leases entered into after September 1, 2014. There appears to be some confusion as to if the consolidated Tenant Guide now provided by PUC, previously from TCEQ, can be provided in lieu of the entire subchapter H of the administrative rules. The PUC’s Tenant Guide says either the rules or the guide must be provided. However, the rules require the entire subchapter be provided. For conciseness and the convenience of our members TMHA has consolidated the rules in Subchapter H into a single document for the use of our community members.
As a result of the regulatory change along with some clarifying language, TMHA has updated our four water and wastewater submetering and allocated billing lease addendum forms. Again, this can be used by TMHA members entering into new lease agreements with residents. The updated forms along with links to the Tenant Guides, and the four page PUC rules can be found on our community forms page.
A good practice tip for community owners would be to distribute to your tenants the rules and applicable tenant guides even if they are existing residents. TMHA also suggests owners read the consolidated guides and rules as well to make sure they are operating their submetering programs properly.
We have also compiled a Best Practice Guide on Submetering Water and Wastewater that is available to our community members.