Student surprised by higher utilities bill

Kingston Utilities introduced new security deposit fee last July

Thor van Walsum was surprised by his higher utilities bills this summer.
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When Thor van Walsum, Sci ’21, received his first utilities bill this summer, he was shocked.

At the beginning of the summer, van Walsum moved into a new house in the University District with a roommate and said their first bill seemed at least $70 above where it should have been.

“It was crazy considering there were only two people,” van Walsum told The Journal in an interview.

He and his roommate decided to cut back on their water and electricity use, but when they received their second bill in July, it was still high.             

After speaking to a few friends, van Walsum noticed his wasn’t the only household facing seemingly increased charges. One friend, living alone, had a bill that was more than $190.

Van Walsum called Utilities Kingston on Aug. 27 to ask why the charges were so high. He was told that, beginning in July 2018, a new service fee of $100 was being applied to all houses in Kingston. That $100 would be an addition to the $800 deposit fee required for new accounts.

The Journal reached out to Utilities Kingston for comment.

“It’s difficult to give a precise response without looking into the individual’s specific account,” Sarah Withrow, the communications officer at the City of Kingston, wrote in a statement to The Journal.

Withrow said the only change Utilities Kingston made in July 2018 was “related to consistently applying security deposits across all services.”

“Your inquiry makes reference to a service fee that was introduced in July 2018, however the monthly service charges for gas, water, and electricity have remained the same for the past several years.”

In accordance with the Utilities Kingston Terms of Service and Kingston Hydro Conditions of Service, residential accounts are required to provide a security deposit, which is calculated based on 2.5 times the average monthly bill during the most recent 12 months of the past two years.

According to the Utilities Kingston website, this is paid in six equal installments over six bills.

Withrow said that out of all the variables that can impact a customer’s bill, the biggest factor is how much water or electricity the customer uses. She also pointed to the existence of on- and off-peak times, in which costs for electricity use vary, as a possible reason for higher bills.

Van Walsum said Utilities Kingston told him the fee was disseminated among the currently existing billing sections. A typical Utilities Kingston bill includes sections for electricity, water, sewage, and miscellaneous charges.  Miscellaneous includes things such as the paying of deposits for opening an account.

Nowhete is there an explicit section for service fees.

“This charge hurts,” van Walsum said. “Especially because no one was told. This is a weird thing to hide from the public.”

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