Law calls halt to landlords cranking up bills
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Law calls halt to landlords cranking up bills

A new law prohibiting apartment owners from overcharging tenants for electricity and water took effect Tuesday in a move to ensure lease contracts are fair.

PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said strict controls on utility charges were needed after the authorities received growing complaints of unusually high monthly electricity and water bills from many apartment lessees.

In some cases the bills were three times the normal rates, he said.

Some landlords have reportedly lowered the charges to avoid getting in trouble with the law only to mark up the monthly central maintenance fee paid by tenants to make up for the shortfall.

Mr Suwaphan, who chairs the Consumer Protection Board (CPB), said he will send officials to inspect apartments to keep owners in line with the law.

The law requires landlords to charge electricity and water fees at the standard rates set by utility authorities. For electricity, it is 3.90 baht a unit and tap water 7 baht a unit.

One tenant in Khon Kaen, who asked not to be named, welcomed the move, saying it will stop tenants from being taken advantage of. He said paying the standard rate would cut his bills in half.

He called on the authorities to deal with irregularities in calculating the maintenance fee, a problem the CPB may not have the power to straighten out.

However, some tenants said they did not mind paying "extra" for the maintenance fee as long as the amount was not too high, he added.

The utility fee regulation is governed by the Consumer Protection Act passed in February.

Landlords are not allowed to collect rent deposits of more than one month in advance, according to Mr Suwaphan.

Also, if tenants are behind on their rent, the landlords cannot resort to punitive action by locking the tenants' rooms without their consent.

Long-term leaseholders can also benefit from the law when they terminate their contracts.

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