July 19th 2017
By Aaron Weinstein
A case for Sponsor Energy: Why we have had enough of the big utility companies.
Part 1: Goodbye Direct Energy - Hello Sponsor Energy. Enmax, you're part 2.
Sponsor Energy, for some background, is a Calgary start-up that provides 50% of all energy proceeds to a charity of your choice. Learn more here, now to the story:
As a preamble: This is the 2nd time this exact story has happened to Rentch this year.
It's autumn 2016 and I have a 4 bedroom townhome for rent in Calgary’s inner city. With close proximity to downtown and Mount Royal University, this home is notoriously rented by groups of students. This particular fall, much like last, 4 students walk up and decide this townhome is for them. They complete the application, send in the security deposit and plan on moving in Sept 1st. Great! We meet, sign the lease on Sept 1st and I explain to them that they are responsible for the utilities.
These are first time renters and they are not sure what utilities they have to pay.
I explain that they have a few choices. They can pick various utility retailers that operate in Calgary for electricity and natural gas, but must sign up with Enmax for water, sewage and garbage collection. I tell them that the previous tenants were using Enmax for electricity and Direct Energy for natural gas, which is a typical setup for the majority of people. They look a little confused but decide that it's easier to just use one utility provider, so they'll call Enmax.
They agree to switch over the utilities, call Enmax and off we go.
The next 9 and ½ months go by uneventfully. They pay their rent on time each month. They had one furnace maintenance issue when it was very cold and otherwise seemed like ideal tenants. As their property manager I was quite happy with their tenancy and hoped it would continue.
Without warning Direct Energy cuts off their natural gas for what will be 14 long days of cold showers.
It's now the middle of July 2017, and out of nowhere I get a text from one of the tenants saying that a notice was left at their door that their gas had been disconnected. They could not understand why and were irate. Upon calling Direct Energy, they were told that only their landlord could discuss the bill because it was in the landlord's name. My tenants explained that they;
Thought they were paying all the utilities with Enmax and had not received any prior notice from Direct Energy.
Here's what happened. When the previous tenants moved out, they called Direct Energy and transferred their natural gas service to their next address, as well as their electricity with Enmax. My new tenants signed up with Enmax assuming they had both electricity and natural gas covered, and never heard otherwise. They paid their Enmax bill every month and never received any mail or notices from Direct Energy. Although in fact, Enmax only switched over the existing utilities; in this case, only electricity, water, sewage and garbage collection, leaving natural gas under Direct Energy who instead...
Direct Energy mailed the bills to an unclaimed P.O. Box and did not drop one bill into the mailbox of the property in question.
Rather than using common sense and sending natural gas bills for a property to the property, Direct Energy pulled title on the property to find the owner's address and started mailing the natural gas bills to an old P.O. Box belonging to an investment group. Yup. Instead of telling the people who actually live in the home that their gas was about to be shut off, they went out of their way to find a third party P.O. Box to chase after.
Direct Energy was expected to show common sense and use its powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen.
I explain the situation to Direct Energy. Zero care. I ask for a manager, who informed me they could do nothing. Zero budge.
Zero notice given to the property, and zero F***s given when I called.
Direct Energy refused to acknowledge their lack of sensibility for mailing the bills who knows where, and refused to restore natural gas service immediately nor without a reconnection fee. They explained that this is common practice for them. Zero f***s given and we have to pay for it.
Direct Energy then demands full payment personally from the landlord, in this case myself, before they restore natural gas service.
Since the tenants' lease expires Sept 1st and they are obviously moving on after this terrible experience, I will use their security deposit to pay for Direct Energy's careless and non-sensible policies. We all lose.
This is all without mentioning the 14 day process of getting the gas turned back on.
Alright, we pay and we all move on… to Sponsor Energy. Hopefully their small business start-up mentality will make communication between landlord, tenant and energy provider much more transparent. All of this is besides the fact that:
Sponsor Energy charges ~10% less and gives 50% of profits to a charity of your choice.
Sponsor Energy has offered anyone who uses Rentch's portal 10% off their already low natural gas and electrical prices: click here