Are You Two Related?

Authority BC Hydro and Power Authority

Kyle decided to rent a small home from his mother. It had been left vacant with the power off for over a year and he was going to make it his. Kyle asked BC Hydro to turn on the power and open an account in his name.

It was not so easy. Kyle’s mother owed BC Hydro almost $1000 from when the power was cut off. This bill was not paid. Noting that Kyle’s landlord also was his mother, BC Hydro was worried that Kyle and his mother were name swapping to avoid paying the bill. BC Hydro asked Kyle to provide proof of his residency.

Kyle complied, sending a residential tenancy agreement and other documents that established his residency and lawful entitlement to be in the home. Unfortunately for Kyle, BC Hydro decided to deny service until his mother’s old account was paid off. Kyle understood that the reason BC Hydro refused to provide him with power was because he was related to his landlord and his landlord owed BC Hydro money for the home. Kyle contacted us, believing it was unfair for BC Hydro to make requests of him only to refuse him service because he was related to his landlord.

We agreed to investigate, looking to the provisions of the Electric Tariff which BC Hydro must follow. The Tariff sets out circumstances that must be met for BC Hydro to refuse service. BC Hydro could refuse service on the basis that the landlord’s account is not settled and require that the account be put into the landlord’s name, yet instead it focused on the familial relationship. A family relationship between the landlord and tenant is not an approved reason for denial in the Electric Tariff.

That said, BC Hydro could also refuse service if it knew Kyle had lived with his mother at the time the bills were issued. However, this was also not the reason BC Hydro gave to Kyle for refusing service. Even if it had, BC Hydro did not ask Kyle to provide any proof of his residency during that time. If BC Hydro relied on this provision of the Tariff it would be acting on mere suspicion.

We noted that BC Hydro had the authority to refuse service to Kyle, but hadn’t given him an explanation that was consistent with the Tariff. It also asked for documents that were unnecessary in the circumstances. We asked BC Hydro to take steps to prevent Kyle’s frustration from happening to other potential customers.

BC Hydro agreed to review and amend its written procedures to better reflect the rules of the Tariff and avoid unnecessary or useless preconditions for service. BC Hydro also sent Kyle a letter with an explanation of what should have happened with his application for service and an apology for the frustration and inconvenience the lack of proper information from BC Hydro had caused him.

When we followed up with Kyle, he had paid his mother’s bill. She had paid him back. BC Hydro connected the power and Kyle’s home was warm for the arrival of winter.

Names in our case summaries have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This case study can also be found in the 2016-2017 Annual Report.

Category Environment and Natural Resources, Housing and Property
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2016
Location The North